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The pandemic came to challenge everything we knew and has been tough for all of us. Having to cope with forced isolation, being in front of screens all day, seeing a reflection of yourself in tiny Zoom squares for hours on end. Multiple studies during and after the initial outbreak show the immense psychological and social impact that the quarantine(s) had on people. That’s why learning how to use visuals to practice mindfulness can be such a major boost to your mental health.

Have you heard of Zen doodles? They’re a great way to relax, focus, and increase awareness and creativity while expanding our imagination. Similar to Zentangles, they were created as a way to make the art of drawing as pleasurable, meditative, and accessible as possible.

A Zen doodle is a work of art created by collecting small doodles or patterns into one bigger art piece. It’s typically done on a paper “tile” using a pencil or pen, then filled in with color to differentiate between doodles and patterns. The small size allows for a work of art that can be completed in a relatively short period of time, which can then be combined with other tiles to create a beautiful handmade mosaic of color.

Zen doodles are simple to learn and there are no mistakes – anybody can create something unexpected and beautiful in just 15 minutes, even if they think they can’t draw. 

There are only a few simple suggestions to follow – the rest is completely up to you!

1. A tile shouldn’t have any orientation – there’s no “up” or “down”, only shapes and patterns

A Zen doodle is just a combination of shapes – dots, lines, curves, circles – that together create non-representational and unplanned pieces of art. There shouldn’t be any real thinking involved – just do what you think will look good!

2. It doesn’t need to represent anything recognizable – abstract is key here

Doodling in general is a great way to relax, get your mind off of work, school or stressful situations, and play around creatively. There’s no need to create hyperrealistic paintings or complicated symmetrical patterns – the whole point is to let your imagination go free!

3. The drawing should be completed in ink on white paper with shading or color added for extra texture

Repetitive patterns, filling in open sections with more lines or color, and simple strokes like dots or crosshatching will be your friends here. Fill in as many sections between boundaries as you like! Don’t spend too much time planning, just focus on filling the sections in as you go.

4. A Zen doodle is meant to be portable so it can be created any time the mood strikes

Draw them on post-it notes, on the back of envelopes – even in an old notebook you’re not using anymore. If you want to make a mosaic out of them, post-it notes are a great and easy way to rearrange the tiles any way you want before framing your new masterpieces!

5. Last but not least, embrace imperfection!!

Zen doodles are all about creative focus and building your work of art stroke by stroke. It’s a celebration of the beauty of art, which means there are no ways to fail, only opportunities to build off of. If you do end up doing something you don’t want, just use it as the jumping-off point for a new pattern. Give yourself a time limit to practice being in the moment and see what you can up with when you let yourself go wild.

Zen doodles are a great way to create just because and to give yourself permission to embrace the process no matter what the final result looks like. If this is something you’re interested in, the best way to start is to pick up a pen and paper and make some scribbles!

For more ideas on how to explore your creativity, or to see the five myths about creativity, click here

For more information on visual notes, click here to schedule a consultation with a visual note expert.

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