Why Zen Doodling Makes You Happy

I was lying in bed researching a feature this morning (being freelance rocks!) and I came across a study I’d neverĀ noticed before that I had to share. ItĀ  informed me that drawing/doodling happy pictures like flowers or smiley faces immediately lifts your mood. I normally doodle flower pots – the only thing I can draw without looking like I’m aged three – strangely shaped cats, or whales (no clue why on that one) – but may, from now on attempt the odd smiley face.

Now, I originally wrote this post as a super short tip back in 2011 and it seems I might have been ahead of the curve – as, as I update this post in 2017 – Zen Doodling has now become a thing. The idea is simple, you start with a small piece of paper and think of a pattern that you can repeat over an over again – a rainbow, a circle or some happy faces. Just draw those on the page until you decide to stop. Then think of another pattern and draw a section of those – keep repeating until your paper is full.

Note: what you’re not trying to do here is create anything with a specific look. That takes away the Zen part of it. Instead, you’re just aiming to let your hand and mind wander. This is important as when our mind wanders it takes a little mini-break. It’s like sending it off on a vacation from stress, worries and organised thinking and during this point it gets to tackle some of the more mundane tasks it needs to do which in turn makes it run a bit faster – as such, Zen Doodling is a brilliant way to recharge for a few minutes. And in our busy, busy, always online, always trying to achieve world, these breaks are becoming few and far between and so anything that gives your brain a chance to switch off for a few seconds is a very, very good thing.

Now, the only problem I can see with this is the same problem I encountered when I was trying to join the adult colouring trend. I’m far too Type A. I’d start my colouring in an attempt to be all mindful and destressy and then end up getting frustrated because I went over the lines or decided I didn’t like a colour I’d used. And yes, while I’m aware that the whole point of Zen Doodling is that results don’t matter, that it’s the process that counts but still – what if you get frustrated that your doodles aren’t overly arty. The answer is Zentangle (TM).

Zentangle are, arguably, the founders of Zen Doodling – they have actually devised a method of doodling that they claim is easy to learn but also creates beautiful pictures. Some of the images on their site really are lovely. The idea of Zentangle is that you have a small tile upon which you doodle – but you doodle via a series of specific steps and strokes that create a random image, but one that looks fabulous. Again, the idea isn’t that you’re trying to create a finished product that looks in a certain way, but that you are just aiming to put strokes on paper in a way that creates something magical. It’s a huge trend in the US and on Pinterest.

Of course, Zen Doodling (or tangle art as it’s also known) isn’t the only way you can destress using a pen. You can do adult colouring, draw mandalas or try a Bullet Journal which allows you to order your life in a more creative way that a normal to do list. Click on the covers below check out some of the books below to get started or buy them via amazon.
*NYNHB is a member of Amazon Associates so I get a small (much appreciated) commission if you click on any amazon links and buy anything.



  1. Angela Dowden

    I doodle flower pots too, but mine ARE childish, with round-petalled flowers atop long stalks poking out. And butterflies and, yes, happy faces too…Sweet

    1. healthehelen

      My flower pots are probably very similar – but it was the only time I ever got an A in art class rather than a ‘Helen tries hard but doesn’t get very far’ kind of comment so now I figure I’m like the flowerpot Monet.


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