Soothing drawing

Soothing drawing DEFAULT
by Silvia Bastos|Last Updated: December 12, 2019

After years of drawing and meditating regularly and seeing incredible benefits from both practices, I discovered that I could make them even more powerful by bringing them together into a single powerful practice: meditative drawing.

What is meditative drawing?

Meditative drawing (or drawing meditation) is a visual technique for training attention and awareness, putting the mind in a calm and stable state, and exercising your creative muscle.

This article is for you if you are:

  • a beginner meditator exploring fun, creative ways to develop mindfulness,
  • an experienced meditator wanting to expand your practice into other areas of your life,
  • a creative person wanting to relax your mind and soothe your anxiety,
  • someone who wants to expand their journaling practice into new areas,
  • someone with no artistic skills (or so you think!) who wants to create beautiful drawings in an easy way.

Meditative Drawing for Anxiety: Does It Really Work?

In case you had any doubts, it’s true: drawing and creating art have been proven to have a positive effect in reducing anxiety and bad mood.

But here is the truth: deep relaxation can only last and anxiety can only truly disappear when you practice mindfulness.

So now imagine—what if we combined both the power of mindful meditation and drawing to achieve peace and relaxation?

Mindful drawing is the answer. Its benefits go way beyond reducing anxiety: it can help you improve your focus, make you a kinder person, deeply change how you see the world, and even be your first step towards Enlightenment.

Art Meets Mindfulness: What Is Mindful Drawing?

meditative drawing

If I could have access to everyone in the world and recommend one single book to them, it would be The Mind Illuminated.

Culadasa (aka John Yates Ph.D., neuroscientist, buddhist meditator, and the author of this incredibly down-to-earth guide to spiritual Awakening) explains that the conscious mind has two ways of processing knowledge: attention and awareness.

Attention is where your focus is. If you would compare it with your eyesight, that would be the words you’re reading in this article right now.

Awareness is what’s being processed in the background. For example, as you read this, you might be aware of the sounds outside, a subtle pain in your upper back, or a growing urge to use the bathroom.

Mindfulness is the optimal relationship between attention and awareness. They are both very important: your awareness scans the environment (both inside and outside your mind) and identifies important things so your attention can focus on them. When the two are balanced, your mind becomes stronger, more stable, and consequently more relaxed.

Mindful drawing uses pen, paper, your breath, and a series of muscles in your body to achieve that state.

As a bonus, you will end up with beautiful drawings and patterns that you can use to embellish your bullet journal or create art—but remember: it’s the process that matters, and the end results are secondary.

Meditative Drawing for Mindfulness: The Basics

The historical Buddha, Siddhãrta Gautama, taught a simple mindfulness practice:

“When walking, walk; when standing, stand; when sitting, sit; when lying down, lie down”.

He could as well have said “when drawing, draw”.

Mindful drawing is an embodied practice. In other words: bring yourself (your mind and your body) to the present moment and get immersed in the act of drawing without doing anything else simultaneously.

Materials for Drawing Meditation:

You can use your journal if the pages open wide enough so your hand won’t be blocked by the crease in the middle (I recommend Leuchtturm1917). If not, just grab a piece of paper and place it on a flat surface.

meditative drawing

I recommend using a technical pen such as Staedtler Pigment 0.1 because it requires no pressure on the paper like ball-point pens. However, if you don’t have one, it’s better to just use the one you have instead of postponing until you have the “perfect pen”.

meditative drawing

How To Start a Drawing Meditation Session

meditative drawing

Sit comfortably and relax your body. That includes your drawing hand: notice how the pen feels in your fingers. Are you holding too tight? If so, relax your grip.

Let the pen gently glide on the paper to create a line and give yourself a moment to explore.

How does the pen interact with the paper?

What is the texture like?

What thoughts are going through your mind as you draw?

How do your body and mind feel?

Whenever you’re ready, let’s move on to the exercises.

6 Powerfully Relaxing Meditative Drawing Exercises

The following mindful drawing exercises will help you to:

  • Improve your attention and ability to focus;
  • Cultivate strong mindfulness;
  • Calm your mind and reduce anxiety;
  • Express yourself and unlock your creativity;
  • Create beautiful doodles and patterns even if you have zero drawing skills.

1. Draw Your Breath

meditative drawing

Gently holding your pen between your fingers and above the paper, bring your attention to your breath.

Without trying to control your breath (without purposefully making it longer or shorter, deeper or shallower), start moving the pen up and down to its natural rhythm, moving from the left to the right side of the page (if you’re left-handed, do it the other way around).

As you do this, focus your attention on the breath (the in-breath, the outbreath, and the pauses in between). Your peripheral awareness should take care of the ink being passed on to the paper, the position and feeling of your hand, and the overall act of drawing.

Remember: don’t try to modify your breath to fit the movements of your hand; instead, let the drawing be a mirror of how fast or slow, deep or shallow your breath feels.

Keep your grip relaxed, and keep your hand and forearm off the paper; this might make your trace a bit shakier at first, but it gives you more freedom (and the shakiness might end up being your personal artistic touch!)

By focusing on your breath and remaining aware of its representation on the paper, there is no space left in your mind for anxious thoughts. This exercise is a perfect warm-up at the beginning of a drawing meditation session.

2. Attention and Awareness Circles

meditative drawing

You already know the basics of meditative drawing: sit comfortably, keep your hand relaxed, yada yada yada.

Now, the time has come to increase the conscious power of your brain by increasing the intensity of your attention and the scope of your awareness.

We will do that in a very simple way: by drawing circles.

Here are the rules:

1. Always close the circle. Even if it’s imperfect (like an egg or with sharp corners), all that matters is that you close it, because this means that you pay attention to where and when you draw the beginning and the end of each line.

meditative drawing

2. Keep your eyes focused on the tip of the pen, while remaining aware of the rest of the drawing as it expands.

If you want to take it one level further, when you’re closing a circle, consciously choose the place for next circle you’re going to draw. Then, once you start it, remain aware of the place where you drew your previous circle.

You can also alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise drawing motions, and make that an intentional choice too.

meditative drawing

If these last steps are too challenging, don’t worry: keep practicing the simpler version until you feel comfortably mindful, and then increase the difficulty. The more you practice, the sharper your attention will be, and the more opportunities you will find to apply intention and mindfulness.

3. Embodied Mindfulness

Simply level-up the previous exercises by connecting the circles to your breath.

Start the circle in the beginning of the in-breath, reach halfway at the same time as you switch to the out-breath, and end the circle at the end of the out-breath.

meditative drawing

This will expand mindfulness from the confines of the paper and into your physical body—through the breath. Whenever you feel that you’ve nailed this one, you can start becoming aware of different sensations of the breath throughout your whole body (instead of just at the nose), and broaden your awareness once more while you draw the circles.

4. Anxiety In, Anxiety Out

meditative drawing

Attention can be directed to any object we choose.

In this exercise, we will use the skills gained in the previous steps and explore our emotional state.

Let’s begin with negative emotions.

If you look deep into the nature of anxiety, agitation, stress, restlessness, you will notice that these states are not real, but simply the absence of something else—calm, joy, fulfillment, certainty.

These “negative” emotions are just like darkness, which has no existence of its own, but is merely the absence of light. Therefore, the key is not to hate them and wish them to go away, but instead to replace them with that which they the absence of.

This is a two-part exercise.

Step 1

meditative drawing

With your hand and body relaxed, focus your attention on how you are feeling. Is there a specific point of resistance in your body? How would you name the emotion—is it anxiety, anger, fear?

Allow your hand to freely express that emotion. If it makes it easier, draw as if you were that emotion. Do it without lifting the pen from the paper—this will remove indecision and keep you focused on the feeling without interruptions.

Step 2

meditative drawing

Whenever you feel that you have got a good grip on whatever is bothering you, it’s time to replace it with its opposite.

First, you need to identify it: what is it that you lack that is making you feel these negative emotions? If you’re feeling anger, you might be lacking compassion. If you’re feeling stressed, you might be lacking peace. If you’re feeling agitated, you might just need some comfort, reassurance, or relaxation.

Once you’ve identified the opposite of your resistance, let it take over the drawing. Without stopping the pen, let your new emotion take control of your hand, and see the line transform itself as fills in the “darkness” from your previous emotion.

Does this sound like too much woo-woo for you?

That’s okay—you can skip it. But you’ll be missing out: the reason why most of us are so stressed and tense in the first place is because we are out of touch with our emotions, because we see them as weaknesses to be hidden and controlled.

By making us focus on how we feel, this exercise helps us create self-awareness, and voice parts of us that have been hidden for who knows how long. So let go of self-judgement: express your long-repressed parts by unleashing them onto the paper. The visual results can be surprising and extremely rich!

5. Drawing Mandalas

meditative drawing

What is a mandala?

The word “mandala” comes from the Sanskrit for circle, and it also encompasses the ideas of wholeness and unity. Carl Jung is credited with using the mandala in therapy sessions—drawing mandalas can be a wonderful tool for emotional expression, self-soothing, and connection to inner calm.

meditative drawing

According to art therapist Joan Kellog’s research, our attraction to certain shapes and configurations during the drawing process of mandalas makes them have a strong impact on our physical, emotional, and spiritual condition in that moment.

How To Draw a Mandala

There are plenty of mandala tutorials out there telling you that you need rulers and compasses and all sorts of complex materials for drawing mandalas, but here’s the truth:

Drawing mandalas is the most fun when you do it free hand.

The purpose of these exercises is to cultivate mindfulness, so we don’t care about perfection—all we care about is the process.

Here’s how to draw a mandala free hand:

  • Start with the center. I recommend starting with a small circle or two.

meditative drawing

  • Start adding elements from the inside out. It’s easier to keep symmetry on a small scale, so by drawing layer by layer, you can keep your mandala balanced even without using a ruler or a compass.
  • While you draw, try to focus your attention on the tip of the pen and the small part you’re currently drawing.
  • Simultaneously, keep your awareness open to encompass the whole mandala—this will train you to draw more proportionately, as well as keep your attention to drift to unwanted thoughts.

meditative drawing

  • Add any elements of your choice. You can use the mandala to express your emotions, your creativity, to draw patterns that soothe you, or simply for the pleasure of creating aesthetic beauty. Here are a few examples of patterns you can use:

In Tibetan Buddhism, drawing mandalas is a form of prayer. In the end, whether it’s with mandalas, with drawing, or with any other activity in life, the results often matter less than the process: your state of mind, what you feel while you’re drawing, your intention, and the quality of your presence.

6. Zentangles: Easy Patterns for Drawing Meditation

Image source.

The Zentangle method is an “easy to learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns” called tangles. Some of its benefits include areas such as phobias, addictions, conflict resolution and workplace burnout.

The method has become extremely popular due to how easy and relaxed it makes it to be creative.

How to make a Zentangle? The steps include starting with gratitude and appreciation, then drawing four corner dots on a small square paper, connecting the dots to draw the borders, then drawing shapes and finally filling in the shapes with whatever patterns or shapes you wish.

Zentangles are a great way to apply mindful drawing to a more complex and creative structure. There are countless patterns you can inspiration from, and if you want to learn more about the methodology, click here.

Meditative Drawing Is Awesome

Whether you want to become more mindful, calmer, more focused, or simply find new ways to develop your spiritual practice, meditative drawing will surely rock your world.

Start simple to learn the basics, and then progress onto the more complex forms such as mandalas. Once you get your mind and body in the right space, the beauty of your drawings will surface as a consequence, and you’ll enjoy your practice more and more.

Recommended Reading


The colors of the strawberries, peach slices, and fresh-flower flourishes on top of the cakes — themselves imperfect circles, and slightly off-kilter — are bright, but also kind of faded, and definitely smudgy. These are not Instagram-perfect bakery shots. Instead, they’re all drawings, done by hand, of what might be a cake but is maybe a flan — or a pie.

Natasha Pickowicz’s artistic handiwork has pivoted these days from pastry to paper. As the pastry chef at Café Altro Paradiso and Flora Bar in NYC, Pickowicz was put on furlough in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus; the hardest transition, she said, “was not being able to make things with my hands anymore.”

“I ached to build cakes, develop spring menus, do the early morning bake off, process fruit,” Pickowicz said in an email. “All of these physical rituals just disappeared overnight.”

She turned to drawing and sharing her work online, and she’s not the only one. In the past few weeks, chefs, cookbook authors, and other restaurant industry loyalists have been sharing their hand-drawn art on Instagram. For some, it’s a stress reliever and outlet for anxiety while stuck at home. It’s also a vehicle for doing good, using artwork to raise much-needed funds for the restaurant industry.

Liz Ryan, a professional illustrator, has always used Instagram as an outlet for her work. Last week, she started posting illustrations specifically of small food businesses, mostly restaurants she personally loves in her Boerum Hill/Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn. She’s been posting one illustration per day, along with a caption about the place and a corresponding relief fund to support it. Then someone who has made a donation or purchase to support that place or fund receives the illustration.

Ryan started by having the first person to DM her with proof of donation — say, a screenshot of a confirmation page, or a receipt for a gift card — receive the artwork; she’s now shifted to make things less of a race, whereby anyone who donates and sends a confirmation within a 24-hour window will be entered in a random drawing for the illustration. So far, each illustration has gotten multiple responses, with the most recent illustration — of East One in Brooklyn — raising $112.

“The project was motivated by the responsibility I felt to take care of and give back to my neighborhood,” Ryan said in an email. And with so many folks at home right now, bonding through screens while social distancing, Instagram has turned into a less curated, gentler vehicle for that.

“I normally feel pressure to prioritize sharing polished content but the internet feels incredibly kind right now,” said Ryan, who said response has been overwhelmingly positive. “In my feeds, social media has shifted from a curated landing page to a tool for documenting and assembling authentically. I’m here for it.”

View this post on Instagram

Filipino American, woman owned, sustainability-driven @clairesprouse quickly became a woman I admire and with her, @hunkydorybk quickly became my regular spot, a sanctuary and escape from my apartment and the chaotic, outside world. After work, I decompress with a glass of wine (or two) and cave into ordering their french fries (with extra mayo, please). I work remote there, perched at the bar, enjoying @mariebasile’s company, bartender turned dear friend, after she saved me from a terrible first date, “let me know when you want me to kick him out .” (She did, btw). I won’t find another space as special as this. Here, the @diasporaco turmeric-soaked eggs with black peppercorn, original ph: @abhishek14_. @diasporaco is also woman owned, helmed by @sanajaverikadri, who began Diaspora Co. in 2017 to share the complex cultures of India, and share regional spice varieties to the broader public. Diaspora Co. is donating $4 from the sale of every $12 jar of #PragatiTurmeric to their food communities’ employees’ @gofundme. Turmeric is also anti-inflammatory and immunity boosting — perfect to keep you healthy during this crazy time. Both @hunkydorybk and @diasporaco have @gofundme pages, please donate, or purchase this print! ✨ALL✨ proceeds will go back to the illustrated businesses. DM for details. Stay safe out there. #nkpcreate #illustration #digitalart #foodillustration #cherrybombe #bombesquad #procreate #digitalartist #fooddrawing #supportlocalbussiness #buylocal #shoplocal #newyorktimes #nyt #tumeric #eggs #indianfood #indiancuisine #spices #helpourhunkys #timelapse

A post shared by @ nkpcreate on

Nancy Pappas is also a professional illustrator. Halfway through March, she also pivoted her feeds to focus on spotlighting specific food businesses and restaurants, sometimes featuring multiple businesses within a single illustration (like the turmeric-soaked eggs from Hunky Dory, featuring Diaspora Co. turmeric).

Each illustration is for sale, with Pappas vowing the split the proceeds among the illustrated businesses. As Pappas wrote on Instagram, “While I am self isolating indoors, I’ll be illustrating some of my favorite local businesses. I’m going to try to do as many as I can while we ride this damn thing out.”

As a food writer, Hugh Merwin’s Instagram feed isn’t typically filled with artwork. But last week, after posting a few black-and-white cartoon drawings, he posted a similar project: Send over a food-based drawing request — “your favorite food, your least favorite food, or your favorite imaginary food” — and proof of donation to a nonprofit like Feeding America or Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, or receipt from a local food business, and he will post a custom drawing for you. Since then, Merwin has posted 23 drawings, ranging from a rare New York strip steak to a morel riding a scooter.

View this post on Instagram

An unintentionally goth layer cake, for @zaneta316, made with mango, passion fruit, and pomegranate. (There are a few unasked-for loquats on the middle tier, too, got carried away there, sorry.) ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ _____ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I will draw your favorite food, your least favorite food, or your favorite imaginary food if you help out one of your local restaurants, food businesses, nonprofits, relief orgs, or any GoFundMe campaign your favorite restaurant may have set up in the last few days). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ DM me your request with a screenshot of your donation, in any amount, and I will post your drawing here. It may take a few days — apologies! — but I'm excited to keep this going.

A post shared by hugh merwin (@hugh.merwin) on

Like Merwin, Pickowicz isn’t an illustrator by profession, but has found drawing to be a valuable outlet while out of work. “To help combat my mounting anxiety and stress, I started doodling the layer cakes and pastries that I wished I was making,” she said.

She’s turned to Instagram to post them and sell them as both a personal stress reliever and fundraiser. Her caveats, she said: “Doodles will be mailed out at random with no subject matter requests, please be patient in receiving your drawing, and donate any amount of money you like.”

Within 24 hours, she had nearly 100 requests for illustrations and had raised $3,500, with donations ranging from $5 to $100. All of the money is being donated to a GoFundMe set up by Matter House, the hospitality group that owns Café Altro Paradiso and Flora Bar, that specifically benefits their more vulnerable and at-risk employees.

The response, said Pickowicz, “was mind-blowing and so, so moving — people overwhelmingly just wanted to express their support, and suddenly I felt like I had a purpose.

And Instagram followers — sitting at home, scrolling endlessly, wondering what good they can do right now, especially to support an ailing restaurant industry — may feel the same way.

Sign up for the Sign up for Eater's newsletter

The freshest news from the food world every day

  1. Amazon job register
  2. Midwest comfort homes
  3. Ygo orginization

Drawing, Art Therapy, and Stress Relief

Art therapy has been widely practiced for many, many years, both formally in a therapeutic context, and informally among those who simply feel better when they draw. Decades ago, psychologist Carl Jung recommended coloring mandalas (circular designs that can contain intricate patterns or symbols) as a therapeutic intervention to promote psychological health, as he perceived that drawing mandalas had a calming effect on his patients while facilitating their processing of thoughts and emotions. Since then, art therapists have long recommended this practice and have reported positive results, though these results were not demonstrated by research until later. While there is still room for many more studies on mandalas and drawing, in general, several studies have already shown us some important information about the effectiveness of using art for stress relief. Here are some of the most telling findings.

Creating Art Can Minimize Anxiety and Lift Mood

One study from researchers Chloe Bell and Steven Robbins randomly assigned 50 adults ages 30 and under to either create artwork or sort a series of art prints. Before either group was asked to do anything related to art, they were asked to engage in the mild stressor of creating a 10-item to-do list of their “most pressing concerns and worries,” which was designed to create a mildly negative mood and mild anxiety that the activities could then potentially minimize. Then, they were given assessments of their moods and anxiety levels. Finally, one group was provided paper, colored pencils, charcoal pencils, and oil pastels, as well as 20 minutes to create art. The second group was given a stack of 60 art prints and the instructions to sort them “based on their pictorial content” for the next 20 minutes. Both of these activities would expose the subjects to art, but only the first group was involved in the creative expression.

After three measures of negative mood and anxiety were collected before and after each intervention, the results showed that the group who created artwork experienced significantly greater reductions in negative mood and anxiety compared with the art-sorting group, showing that the mere act of creating art can significantly minimize negative mood and anxiety, some of the negative effects of stress. (If you’re worried about the subjects being deliberately stressed by thinking about their most pressing concerns for the sake of the study, researchers asked them all to create a list of their 10 most positive or favorite memories before they left, which can be quite helpful in itself.)

Creating Mandalas Can Minimize Symptoms of Trauma

Another study by researchers Patti Henderson and David Rosen from Texas A&M University and Nathan Mascaro from Emory University School of Medicine was conducted with those suffering from PTSD divided 36 subjects into two groups: those who drew mandalas for 20 minutes at a time for three days in a row, and those who were instructed to draw an object for the same period of time.

Those who had drawn mandalas showed a decrease in symptoms of trauma at a one-month follow-up, whereas those who drew an object did not. (It should be noted that other potential differences in the groups were studied, but this was the only difference that was statistically significant; some of these expected changes, such as differences in anxiety levels among those who drew mandalas and those who did not, have been found in similar studies with less traumatized subjects, so it is possible that more mild states of stress can be more easily affected by drawing.)

What Happens to You After a Traumatic Experience

It should be noted that, in this study, participants were asked to create their own mandalas using symbols that represented their feelings or emotions related to their trauma as part of the design rather than coloring in patterned mandalas that had been previously created. Because of this, there might be some added element of catharsis here. However, the act of coloring mandalas is similar in that the choice of colors and the calming act of coloring itself are the same.

Coloring Pictures Can Relieve Anxiety — No Drawing Skills Necessary

A final relevant study was conducted by researchers Renee van der Vennet and Susan Serice. In the study, they measured 50 subjects’ anxiety levels, induced anxiety in subjects by asking them to write about a past fearful incident for four minutes, assessed their anxiety levels again, and then divided them into three groups: one that colored mandalas, one that colored a plaid design, and one that drew freely on blank paper. Each group drew for 20 minutes using six colored pencils.

The practice of coloring mandala drawings has been shown to reduce anxiety levels significantly.

The researchers measured anxiety levels both before and after the drawing activities and found significant reductions in stress in the coloring groups. They observed that those in the free-drawing condition seemed to pause to think about what to draw, and some appeared to struggle with the open-endedness of the drawing assignment; perhaps there were too many choices with free drawing, where mandala drawing allowed for more concentration, focus, and present-mindedness. (And sometimes having too many choices can be stressful in itself, even if the choices are relatively insignificant.)

This study is particularly relevant for those who aren’t entirely comfortable with their artistic abilities, but enjoy doodling and coloring (which is a large group!), and lends support for the stress relief coloring books that have become increasingly popular among adults.

Final Thoughts

This is all great news for those wanting to relieve anxiety and stress and lift their mood. If you’ve ever wondered if taking a few minutes to draw a picture can actually help with stress, now you know that it can. (Perhaps that’s why many of us instinctively doodle on the sides of our to-do lists, or why teens often draw pictures in class.) If you’ve wondered if a stress relief coloring book is worth a try (as I had), it appears that they can indeed be helpful, as the mandalas used in the third study were very similar to those in mandala coloring books sold in popular bookstores. Simply creating something you find to be beautiful, or that expresses your emotions can be helpful, so let your inner child loose and get out those colored pencils! Try some art activities that can relieve stress.

What You Should Know About Acute Stress

Thanks for your feedback!

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Carsley D, Heath N. Effectiveness of mindfulness-based colouring for test anxiety in adolescents. Sch Psychol Int. 2018;39(3):251-272. doi:10.1177/0143034318773523

  2. Bell, Chloe E.; Robbins, Steven J. Effect of art production on negative mood: A randomized, controlled trial.Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. 2007;v24 (2), 71-75.

  3. Henderson P, Rosen D, Mascaro N. Empirical study on the healing nature of mandalas. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. 2007;1(3):148-154. doi:10.1037/1931-3896.1.3.148

  4. van der Vennet R, Serice S. Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? A replication study. Art Therapy. 2012;29(2):87-92. doi:10.1080/07421656.2012.680047

Relaxing Tik Tok Art that Will Calm Your Soul 🎨✨


Drawing soothing


Relaxing Tik Tok Art that Will Calm Your Soul 🎨✨


You will also be interested:


225 226 227 228 229