At Catalyst Ranch, Chicago’s creative meeting venue, our meeting rooms are equipped with all kinds of supplies to ensure the success of your meeting. One important staple is simply a pen cup on every table. You won’t just find your everyday black and blue ink pens in these colorful cups; they are stocked with colored pencils, markers, pipe cleaners, and yes, a few pens if you prefer a classic writing implement. We offer these in case you like to doodle while you are absorbing information or if you want to take color-coordinated notes or you just want to change it up by writing in purple today. Doodling and coloring may be regarded as childhood activities, but research shows there are plenty of reasons for us to continue these practices in adulthood!

Doodling to Prevent Daydreaming

Doodling during a meeting or listening to a presentation may be perceived as a distraction, but studies show that this type of multi-tasking improves concentration and recall. When your mind starts to wander, having that physical connection to sketching can keep you engaged and focused on the information being presented. In a study conducted by Jackie Andrade at the University of Plymouth School of Psychology in the UK, two groups of participants listened to a long telephone message of information; one group doodled as they listened and the other did not. The results? “The doodling group performed better on the monitoring task and recalled 29% more information on a surprise memory test.” Doodling advocate Sunni Brown, who strives to incorporate visual language into the business world, identifies “Microsoft founder Bill Gates, author and professor Clayton Christensen, and Frank Gehry, architect and creator of the Guggenheim Museum, as examples of prolific doodlers who use doodling to think and to solve problems.”

A pen cup on a Meeting table at Catalyst Ranch, stocked with coloring utensils—plus pipe cleaners and Play-Doh!

The Benefits of Coloring

Studies have shown that coloring can improve concentration, decrease stress, and stimulate creativity. The practice of coloring works in the same way the Ranch environment does. Coloring transports you to a childhood place where you had less stress and an uninhibited imagination. In her Huffington Post article, Elena Santos says that coloring “generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity.

Coloring stimulates both sides of the brain as psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala explains. “The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors.” Psychologist Antoni Martínez recommends coloring as a relaxation technique and says “we can use it to enter into a more creative, freer state.”

Find some intricate coloring designs here!

Mandalas & Healing

Another option (if you feel awkward carrying your “Hello Kitty” coloring book into the office) is to print a few mandalas to color when you need to focus, relax, and unleash your creativity. A mandala is a symbol in many eastern spiritual traditions that represents wholeness, unity, or the Universe. Most mandalas are balanced geometric compositions with a circular center point. They have been used as relaxation therapies that can aid meditation and healing. Coloring mandalas in particular is relaxing because of the circular shapes which symbolize wholeness, continuity, connection, unity, and harmony.

David J. Bookbinder, LMHC , explains, “The central point of a mandala is symbolic of the center of our being, a still, calm point about which the chaotic elements of our lives revolve.” Bookbinder also says Carl Jung, the psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology, believed that creating mandalas “provides a way to get in touch with our still, central point and to symbolically bring order to our internal chaos.” To get started, here are a few sites where you can download and print mandalas for free. Happy coloring!

What techniques do you use to focus, relax, and open channels of creative thinking?  Let us know by leaving a comment!

This blog post was originally posted to our blog in 2014.

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