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Doodling Lowers Stress and Improves Productivity

Feeling stuck and desperately looking for a spark to flow the creative juices? Get a pen and paper to allow the birth of muses!

The contemporary business landscape is characterized by high intensity, demanding a constant flow of fresh ideas and innovative solutions. However, stimulating creative thinking within a professional setting can prove challenging. Here, a seemingly unconventional approach is supported by scientific evidence.

A Drexel University study suggests that engaging in art-making activities, such as drawing, coloring, or doodling, can activate the brain’s reward pathways. This activation is associated with enhanced mental well-being and heightened creativity.

Researchers employed functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) technology to monitor blood flow in reward-related regions of the brain during various art projects undertaken by participants.

The activities involved coloring a mandala, doodling within or around a designated circle, and free-drawing for three minutes each, interspersed with rest periods. All three activities resulted in increased blood flow within the prefrontal cortex, a key component of the brain’s reward circuitry.

“This finding suggests that the inherent act of creating art, independent of the final outcome, may be intrinsically pleasurable.”

The benefits of art creation extend beyond the immediate enjoyment of the activity itself. Surveys conducted before and after the art-making sessions revealed that participants reported feeling more creative and exhibiting improved problem-solving abilities. These results hold significant implications, underscoring the inherent power of art to foster creativity, focus, productivity, and overall well-being. Among these advantages, one stands out as the most compelling outcome of incorporating art into the workplace.

Among art-making activities, doodling emerges as a powerful tool for enhancing cognitive function and emotional well-being. When confronted with complex projects or workplace challenges, a simple solution is readily available: doodling.

This accessible activity grants individuals access to their creative potential, fostering the generation of novel ideas. Doodling allows the mind to wander freely, facilitating exploration of diverse thoughts and possibilities. Additionally, the act itself possesses a calming effect, demonstrably reducing stress and anxiety. This translates to improved overall well-being, ultimately leading to increased productivity.

Research suggests that doodling can evoke positive emotions, positioning it as a valuable therapeutic tool applicable to everyone, regardless of artistic skill. After all, doodling is an inherently judgment-free activity.

Studies have revealed that frequent doodling practices can positively influence mood. The more one doodles, the more pronounced the mood-boosting effect becomes. Furthermore, doodling has been shown to reduce stress and cultivate a focused mindset.

Beyond its stress-reduction capabilities, doodling can enhance problem-solving and communication skills within the workplace. The practice is embraced by many successful individuals as a means to augment creativity and focus. This fact directly challenges the misconception that doodling is simply a distraction.

Therefore, the next time feelings of overwhelm or the need for a break arise, dedicate a few minutes to grabbing a pen and paper. Allow the mind to wander freely – the results may be surprising.


Visual self-expression helps with attention and improves health and well-being. Few studies have examined reward pathway activation during different visual art tasks. This pilot study is the first to examine brain activation via functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) during three distinct drawing tasks—coloring, doodling, and free drawing. Participants (11 men, 15 women; 8 artists, 16 non-artists) engaged in each task separated by equal intervals of rest in a block design experimental protocol. Additional data included a pre- and post survey of self-perceptions of creativity, prior experience with drawing tasks, and reflections on study participation. Overall, the three visual arts tasks resulted in significant activation of the medial prefrontal cortex compared to the rest conditions. The doodling condition resulted in maximum activation of the medial prefrontal cortex compared to coloring and free drawing; however, differences between the drawing conditions were not statistically significant. Emergent differences were seen between artists and non-artists for coloring and doodling. All three visual self-expression tasks activated the medial prefrontal cortex, indicating potential clinical applications of reward perception through art making. Participants improved in their self-perceptions of problem solving and having good ideas. Participants found the drawing tasks relaxing but wanted more time per task. Further study with varied art media and longer time on tasks are needed to determine potential interactions between participants’ backgrounds and reward activation.

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