Unlock the Cognitive Benefits of Drawing: From Stress Relief to Enhanced Focus
Undoubtedly humans were drawing before they were writing (likely all the drawing even led to writing since writing began with pictographs drawn into clay with a pointed tool.) This article will explore the many cognitive benefits of this amazing, almost magical, skillset that is our ability to draw.
So, without further ado, it turns out that drawing is really good for us. If you are thinking about starting to draw, learning to draw or just want to know about the best health benefits of drawing, you are at the right place.
Here are the top health benefits of drawing:
- 1. Drawing to improve earning skills
- 2. Drawing to aid memory
- 3. Drawing helps improve fine motor skills
- 4. Drawing to increase brain activity
- 5. Drawing to improve creativity in various ways
- 6. Drawing to add positivity to your life
- 7. Drawing to improve observational skills (this is a big one!)
- 8. Drawing as a creative outlet
- 9. If you get good, drawing can improve your self-esteem
- 10. Drawing to find your creative voice
- 11. Drawing to improve self-control
- 12. Drawing to improve emotional intelligence
- 13. Drawing as stress relief
- 14. Drawing to improve your sense of aesthetics and appreciation for the arts
- 15. Drawing to improve your attention to detail
- 16. Drawing skills can be applied to a wide range of disciplines
1. Drawing to improve learning skills
Despite the divergence between arts and sciences, a growing body of quantitative research suggests that the learning of science may be enhanced by relationships with the arts.Tyler CW, Likova LT. The role of the visual arts in the enhancing the learning process. Front Hum Neurosci. 2012 Feb 8;6:8. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00008. PMID: 22347854; PMCID: PMC3274761.
Researchers hypothesize that drawing may access the semantic system in a manner that improves cognitive access. Neuroimaging studies have revealed that visual arts engage many aspects of brain function, and involve nearly every neural subsystem identified so far.
This article from the National Library of Medicine discusses the potential benefits of incorporating the arts into scientific education, as well as the potential connections between the two fields. It suggests that art can enhance the learning process by providing a broader context for scientific concepts and making them more accessible and relevant, and therefore more memorable and inspirational for the student.
I believe, however, that drawing enhances our ability to learn science, because drawing skills enhance our ability to learn anything.
Speaking from personal experience, and witnessing other artists and students, it appears that drawing can have a positive effect on learning skills in several ways:
- Encouraging creativity: drawing can help stimulate creativity and encourage a more open-minded approach to learning. This usually leads to a deeper understanding of new concepts and ideas if they are presented visually, or are recorded visually by the student;
- Improving focus and concentration: the act of drawing requires focus and concentration. Difficult drawing requires uninterrupted focus and really being present as you draw, which can help improve these skills through repetition;
- Developing problem-solving skills: drawing often requires finding solutions to visual problems, which can help improve problem-solving skills and critical thinking.
- Facilitating communication and expression: drawing, illustration specifically, can also help improve communication skills by providing a visual way to express and share ideas.
There is no doubt that being a more creative problem solver, someone who can focus better, and someone who can communicate better, will improve one’s ability to learn new skills. If you can solve creatively, you can better get over plateaus in certain knowledge areas, if you can focus you can study for longer periods, better communication can help communicate with peers or teachers to understand the topic.
- for improving communication: try illustrating complex ideas with your own drawings designed to be as simple as possible
- for improved focus and concentration: try drawing for a set period of time without breaking concentration. Start with 5 minutes, then 10 then 20-30 minute periods.
2. Drawing to improve memory
Enhancing memory: certain type of drawing can also help improve memory and retention, as it involves creating mental images and linking them to written or verbal information. Drawing can also improve visual-spatial skills.
As you draw, you will find that you need to remember specific details or reference previous parts of the drawing in order to keep your work accurate and consistent. This process of memory recall and visualization leads to increased brain activity as you access and use these skills.
Drawing can be a helpful tool for improving memory in several ways, but a lot depends on how you practice drawing. Here are some examples where drawing can help with your recollection:
- Drawing helps practice visual memory, which is the ability to remember and recall images and details. When you draw, you have to remember and reproduce the shapes, colors, and details of what you are drawing.
- Drawing improves spatial memory, which is the ability to remember and understand the relationships between objects in space. Whether you draw from reference or not, you have to consider the spatial relationships between different elements in your drawing. Proportions have to be considered as well as positioning on the canvas. All of this forced the brain to go through decisions related to special memory.
- Drawing can help you improve your memory of events and experiences in a very direct way. When you draw, you can practice depicting specific events or experiences that are important to you. This will help improve your understanding of these events and serve as a time for self-reflection.
Overall, drawing can be a helpful and enjoyable way to practice and improve your memory.
- for memory: observe an object for a specific time period (as an example: 60 seconds), then attempt to draw the object without looking at it.
3. Drawing helps improve fine motor skills
Fine motor skills refer to the ability to control and coordinate small muscle movements, typically in the hands, fingers, and wrists.
Drawing can improve fine motor skills in several ways. When you draw, you use small muscles in your hands and fingers to control the movement of the pencil or pen. Your brain tells these muscles to make marks in very precise locations on paper. This helps to improve the strength and dexterity of these muscles, which can in turn improve your ability to perform tasks that require fine motor control, such as writing, playing a musical instrument or using small tools.
In my personal experience, it seems that my ability to draw has translated to being more precise when I cook.-Gvaat
In addition to developing the precision muscles of your hands and fingers, drawing can also improve your hand-eye coordination. This is because you need to coordinate the movement of your hand with what you see in order to create accurate lines and shapes on the paper.
As you practice drawing, your brain becomes better at coordinating these movements, which can lead to improvements in your overall fine motor skills.
- for motor skills: try being very precise with your lines. Develop a line-art drawing, that is neat and not sketchy.
- Practice drawing perfect squares, or perfect circles, with swift and precise movements of the hand.
4. Drawing increases brain activity
Being engaged in drawing increases your brain’s activity in several ways. First, the act of drawing itself requires the use of several different brain functions, including visual processing, spatial awareness, and fine motor control.
These functions are all associated with different areas of the brain, and engaging them simultaneously can lead to increased brain activity.
As you plan and execute a drawing, you are considering different options and making decisions about what lines and shapes to use, how to create specific effects, or how to achieve a desired look. This process of creative problem-solving engages your brain and ups brain activity as you consider different possibilities and make decisions.
In drawing, when done at a high level, it is certain that one must be fully present, and focused on the act of placing marks on paper – since many design choices have to be made for with each pen stroke such as location, line shape and size, color, value, pressure, speed of movement and so on. This ability to make quick decisions and execute on multiple levels of complexity all at once likely stimulates the brain to adapt to processing and acting intuitively towards a certain goal.
Drawing problems can often start as complex and abstract concepts, by the time they are represented on canvas, visuals become very concrete (even if still abstract in style). This funneling of ideas, and distillation of that which must be put down on canvas from that which is the less relevant is a laborious cognitive task that is bound to improve problem-solving skills as you level up your drawing skills.
5. Drawing improves creativity in various ways
Drawing improves creativity in a multitude of ways.
The act of drawing requires the use of creativity as you plan and execute your artwork. This may involve coming up with new ideas, trying out different techniques, or experimenting with different materials.
In creation of art there are no obvious and easy answers at the outset, and the creator must follow the path of separating the relevant from the irrelevant for each piece of art they create. This act of focusing on things that matter for your art can be a deeply creative journey in itself.
Sparking your creativity becomes habitual as you continue to draw, almost as if an exercised muscle with muscle memory, your brain will be able to “turn on” on demand to come up with creative solutions. Often, this requires a lot of practice.
Drawing can also help to improve your ability to think outside the box and see things from a different perspective. As you create a drawing, you may find that you need to consider different viewpoints or angles in order to achieve the desired effect. As you push your drawings, you will certainly have to find new ways to learn to improve.
This search for and acquisition of new skills for drawing pushes the brain to think in new and different ways.
6. Drawing to add positivity to your life
There are many different ways that drawing can be fun. Some people enjoy the process of creating something new and expressive through their art. They may find that drawing is a relaxing and therapeutic activity that allows them to express themselves and let their creativity flow.
I find drawing to be meditative. And when things are going well in a drawing, it is an incredible feeling.-Gvaat
Others may find that drawing is a fun challenge, as they work to improve their skills and create more complex and detailed pieces of art. They may enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from creating something that they are proud of.
Still others may find that drawing is a fun way to connect with others, whether through participating in art groups or classes, sharing their work with friends and family, or simply enjoying the process of creating something together.
Ultimately, the fun of drawing may be different for each person, but it can easily become a fulfilling and enjoyable activity for people of all ages and skill levels.
According to one study, simply looking at art one enjoys can cause people to experience joy, akin to the sensation of falling in love. Neurobiologist Semir Zeki scanned 28 volunteers’ brains as they looked at art and noticed an immediate release of dopamine, the chemical related to love and pleasure. See generally: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/394088
7. Drawing improves observational skills
Drawing can improve observation skills in several ways. In fact, drawing will improve your observation skills if you are interested in drawing from life. First, when you draw from life or from photographs, you need to pay attention to the details of what you are drawing in order to create an accurate representation.
This requires careful observation and attention to detail, as you look for the specific lines, shapes, and values that make up the subject you are drawing. As you practice this process of observing and recording details, your observation skills will improve over time.
Drawing can also help you to see things from different angles as well. The process of considering different angles and perspectives can help to improve your ability to see and understand the subject in a more comprehensive way.
- Draw a tree from life, first spend 10 minutes observing the whole and all details
- Set up a still life with lots of shapes and small and big objects, draw from life, or memorize the composition and draw it from memory. Then compare your drawing to real life.
8. Drawing as a great creative outlet
Drawing is a great creative outlet because it allows you to express yourself and your ideas through a visual medium. Once you start, and you have a blank piece of paper – it is an incredible feeling of possibilities.
When you draw, you have the freedom to create whatever you can imagine, whether it is a realistic depiction of a subject or a more abstract or symbolic one.
Drawing can also be a great way to relax and unwind after a busy or stressful day. The focus and concentration required for drawing can help you to clear your mind and let go of any negative or distracting thoughts. The process of creating something is meditative and therapeutic if you do not put too much pressure on yourself as you draw.
Creating a series of drawings, can help you discover more about your creativity. Further, creating drawings you leave a creative trail behind, a trail you can always look back to and pick up again.
Take it easy and find down the day with a cup of tea/coffee (if you drink it at night before bed?!), and do a bit of drawing in your sketchbook. Do not set big goals for the night’s drawing. Use some good reference that inspires you to create. Put on your favorite show and let your mind guide you through the process. Don’t overthink it.
9. If you get good, drawing can improve your self-esteem
If you get good, the act of creating something can help you to feel proud of your achievements. As you create a drawing and see it take shape, you may find that you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in your work, which will boost your self-esteem.
In addition, drawing can also be a therapeutic and relaxing activity that helps you to de-stress and feel more centered. As you focus on creating a specific image or design, you may find that you become more attuned to your own thoughts and feelings, and that you feel more at peace and in control. As you are indeed in control of your creation, this feeling can often transition to other parts of your life. This sense of inner peace and balance can help to improve your self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.
Drawing can also be a great way to connect with others who share your passion for art. If drawing is a social activity for you, such as attending a drawing class, it can help you to feel more connected and supported by others. This sense of connection and support can also contribute to improved self-esteem.
10. Drawing to find your creative voice
Drawing is a very effective way to explore and express your thoughts, feelings, and ideas. When you draw, you have the opportunity to create something unique and personal, which can help you discover and develop your own thoughts/thesis/style also known as your own personal artistic voice!
One way that drawing can help you find your own voice is by providing a creative outlet for self-expression. When you draw, you have the freedom to explore different subjects, styles, and techniques. The habit of drawing in this way can help you discover what you enjoy and what you’re good at.
Creating a series of works that are interrelated, will certainly force you to direct them with a singular creative voice. This can be particularly helpful if you’re feeling stuck or uncertain about your creative direction. If you are wondering what it takes to create a series of works, check out my thoughts on creating a Big Art Project. As daunting as it may feel, it is one of the best ways for artists to explore project-based learning and portfolio building at the same time.
Drawing is a powerful and rewarding way to explore your creativity, find your own voice, and express yourself in a meaningful way.
Drawing can also encourage you to think more deeply about your ideas and emotions. When you draw, often you are able to communicate complex or abstract concepts in a way that you cannot capture in words. This process of visual thinking can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings, and may even help you discover new insights about yourself and the world around you. It is an incredible and deeply rewarding process!
11. Drawing helps improve self-control
Expressive arts therapies can enhance self-regulation in individuals of all ages who are experiencing distress or reactions from psychological trauma.
In particular, the kinesthetic-sensory qualities of art, music and movement that include rhythm, movement, touch, and sound potentially mediate lower brain functions such as heart rate and respiration through specific approaches.Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/arts-and-health/201603/expressive-arts-therapy-and-self-regulation
Self-regulation or self-control is the ability to manage one’s impulses, emotions, and behaviors to achieve long-term goals as defined by psychologytoday.com
Drawing can be a helpful tool for improving self-control in several ways. Here are a few examples:
- Drawing can be a calming activity that helps you relax and focus. When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, taking a few minutes to draw can help you slow down and regain your composure through regulation of heart rate and respiration.
- Drawing can help you practice patience and persistence. This is definitely true if you attempt to draw anything substantial. It may take time and effort to complete a drawing. These skills can be helpful in other areas of your life where you need to stay focused and persist in the face of challenges.
- Drawing can help you develop self-control by encouraging you to think before you act. When you draw, you may need to carefully consider your choices and plan your actions in order to achieve the desired result.
12. Drawing can improve emotional intelligence
Drawing can be a helpful tool for improving emotional intelligence. Check out these examples:
- Drawing is a creative outlet for expressing and exploring your emotions. When you draw, you have the opportunity to visually represent your feelings in a way that you may be unable to in words. This process can help you better understand and manage your emotions.
- Drawing can help you develop empathy by encouraging you to consider the perspective and emotions of others. For example, if you are drawing a portrait of someone, you will need to think about how they are feeling and what they are thinking in order to capture their emotional state in your drawing. Another example: getting good at drawing will require you to view artwork made by others and develop an understanding for their point of view. Questions like ‘what were they thinking’, and ‘what were they trying to communicate’ will come up and will require answers.
- Drawing well requires developing self-awareness, that is being able to step back, detach and spot your own errors in judgment.
- Drawing can help you practice mindfulness, which can be defined as the ability to be fully present and aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment. When you draw, you will need to focus on the present moment in order to accurately represent what you’re drawing. This type of focused attention can help you develop emotional intelligence.
- Drawing can help you develop social skills and emotional intelligence by encouraging you to communicate and collaborate with others.
Overall, drawing can be a helpful and enjoyable way to practice and improve your emotional intelligence.
13. Drawing can serve as stress relief
Spontaneous drawings can relieve psychological distress, making it easier to attend to things.Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-thinking-benefits-of-doodling-2016121510844
Drawing can be a very effective way to relieve stress for several reasons.
- Drawing can be a calming and meditative activity. When you draw, you can focus on the present moment and let go of other distractions, which can help you relax and de-stress.
- Drawing requires concentration and attention to detail, which can help you shift your focus away from stress and onto something more enjoyable and engaging.
- Drawing can be a creative outlet for expressing and exploring your emotions. When you draw, you have the opportunity to visually represent your feelings. This process can help you better understand and manage your emotions, which can reduce stress.
- Sharing your drawings with others or working on a drawing project with a group can be a fun and supportive way to relieve stress.
14. Drawing to improve your sense of aesthetics and appreciation for the arts
Drawing can help improve your sense of aesthetics and appreciation for art in the following ways:
- Drawing can help you develop an eye for detail. When you draw, you will need to pay close attention to the shapes, lines, and forms of what you’re drawing in order to create a realistic or expressive representation. This can help you develop a keen eye for detail and appreciate the subtle elements of art.
- Drawing can help you learn about composition and design. When you draw, you will need to consider the arrangement and placement of different elements in your drawing in order to create a harmonious or effective composition. This can help you understand and appreciate the principles of design and how they contribute to the overall impact of a work of art.
- Drawing can help you understand and appreciate different art styles and techniques, which can help you understand and appreciate the diverse ways in which artists create and express themselves.
- Drawing can help you develop your own aesthetic sense and preferences. When you draw, you create the opportunity to create something that reflects your own interests and tastes.
15. Drawing to improve your attention to detail
“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.”
– Charles R Swindoll,
Drawing can help increase attention to detail in several ways. Here are a few examples:
- Drawing requires concentration and focus, which can help you practice and improve your ability to pay attention to detail. When you draw, you will pay close attention to the shapes, lines, and forms of what you’re drawing in order to create a realistic or expressive representation. This can help you develop your ability to focus and notice subtle details.
- Drawing can help you develop your observation skills. When you draw, you will need to carefully observe the subject of your drawing in order to capture its appearance and character. This process of observation can help you develop your ability to notice and remember details.
- Drawing can help you practice patience and persistence. It may take time and effort to complete a drawing, and you will need to make revisions or try different approaches along the way. These skills can help you develop your ability to pay attention to detail and stay focused on a task.
Details matter. They create depth, and depth creates authenticity.-Neil Blumenthal
16. Drawing skills can be applied to a wide range of disciplines
Drawing skills can be applied to a wide range of disciplines because they are versatile and transferable.
In many ways, drawing skills are fundamental to all creation.-Gvaat
Here are a few examples of how drawing skills can be applied in different fields:
- Art and design: Drawing skills are essential for creating and communicating visual concepts in the fields of art and design. Whether you’re an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, or architect, drawing skills can help you create and communicate your ideas effectively.
- Science/technology: Drawing skills can be useful for creating visual representations of scientific concepts and data, such as diagrams, charts, and maps.
- Engineering: Drawing skills can be helpful for creating technical drawings and plans, such as blueprints, schematics, and prototypes.
- Education: Drawing skills can be used to create visual aids and materials for teaching and learning, such as diagrams, charts, and illustrations.
- Business / Marketing / Communication: Drawing skills can be useful for creating visual presentations, such as slideshows, posters, and marketing materials. Drawing skills can also be useful in visualizing marketing strategies for a particular brand. Drawing skills can be beneficial in communication beyond language to any demographic.
So what is drawing if not a powerful tool for improving cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity?
Drawing can also help to boost memory, increase focus and concentration, and reduce stress and anxiety. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, creator, communicator [fill in the blank profession], there are endless opportunities to learn and grow through the practice of drawing.
And that is it for ways drawing can improve cognition! Now it is time for you to pick up a pencil and give it a try – you may be surprised by the benefits it brings to your mind and overall well-being.