Why Zentangle is great for mental health

6 December 2022
Neha Jain Written by Neha Jain
Neha Jain

Neha Jain

Neha is a freelance writer passionate about providing well-researched and empathetic mental...

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Ankita Magdani Reviewed by Ankita Magdani
Ankita Magdani

Ankita Magdani

Ankita Magdani is a Mental Health Therapist, Career, and Mindset Coach based in Dubai. She...

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A boring lecture? A long-winded speech? A never-ending meeting? 

Most of us have attended at least one of these things. And most of us have randomly doodled to pass the time. But doodling is not only good for passing the time. It can also have a positive impact on your mental health. Doodling can help you manage stress and anxiety. 

The Zentangle method of art is quite similar to doodling. Taken from the Japanese word ‘Zen,’ which means meditation, and the English word ‘tangle,’ Zentangle is a form of meditative drawing that helps the artist relax and focus.

Just like doodling, there are no mistakes in Zentangle, and you draw without any conscious thought. However, the difference is that while doodling may be done out of boredom, Zentangle is done with a purpose. 

US couple Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas created the Zentangle method in the early 2000s, and it is used in art therapy now. The official Zentangle website says that Zentangle can help you achieve the following.

  • Relax
  • Focus
  • Expand your imagination
  • Increase awareness
  • Discover fun and healing in creative expression
  • Trust your creativity
  • Respond confidently to unexpected situations
  • Feel gratitude and appreciation
  • Have fun

In India, Zentangle was made popular by Malathi Karpur and Dilip Patel, a couple from Bengaluru who learned from the founders of Zentangle and became India’s first certified Zentangle teachers. “By filling up blank spaces using pen strokes, anybody can experience a sense of freedom, timelessness, and well-being. That in itself can arrest negative thoughts and help people snap out of stress, depression, and loneliness,” said Dilip in a report by The Quint while describing the impact of Zentangle.

Zentangle helps in destressing

Vikas Dogra

Zentangle has therapeutic qualities. You draw without any conscious thought process and that is incredibly helpful in releasing stress,” says Vikas Dogra, who has been an artist for more than 25 years and has worked in different states around India. 

While Zentangle officially became an art form in the early 2000s, Vikas says it has been around before that. “In my college days, we started learning by drawing lines. We created art with straight lines, curvy lines, and zigzag lines. At that time, there was no such thing as Zentangle. Now, if I feel low or upset, I scribble randomly. Sometimes, before starting an artwork, I use the Zentangle art to get my thoughts in order.” 

Since it is relatively new, the science backing its therapeutic effect is limited. However, a research study has found it effective in reducing stress.

In an experimental research study, Zentangle workshops were conducted between Nov 2019 – Jul 2020 with 40 healthcare workers as participant to study its impact in the workplace. The results showed that using the Zentangle method of drawing in the workplace improved the mental and physical health of the employees. It effectively relieved stress and reduced frustration while also increasing their commitment to work (Hsu, Wang, Tzou, Pan, and Tang, 2021). 

Another research study observed the impact of 2 weeks of Zentangle on the affective wellness of 38 participants taken from the general population. The study found that it is, indeed, capable of improving affective well-being, reducing anxiety, and improving self-compassion among participants (Chung, Yan-Yee, and Chan, 2022).

How to start Zentangle

To do Zentangle art, you only need a pen/pencil and paper. The paper you will draw on is called a tile. Zentangle doesn’t need an eraser as it is believed that there are no mistakes in it. The founders of Zentangle describe the following 8 steps.

Step 1: Gratitude and appreciation 

Be grateful for what you have now. Appreciate the pen, the paper, and the tools you will use to create.

Step 2: Four corner dots

Make a dot in the four corners of the paper a little away from the edges.

Step 3: Border

Create a square by joining the four dots with a straight or curvy line.

Step 4: String

Draw strings (curvy/straight) across your tile. The strings separate your tile into sections.

Step 5: Tangle

Draw tangles (predefined sequence of simple strokes) inside the strings and borders of your tile. Draw whatever comes to your mind without worrying about how it will look. 

Step 6: Shading

Use a graphite pencil to shade your drawing.

Step 7: Initial and sign

Put your initials and sign your drawing.

Step 8: Appreciation

You created something that belongs to you. Take a moment to appreciate the art and its beauty.

You can use this video to understand and follow the process better. 

The good thing about Zentangle is that someone with no experience in art can also draw Zentangle designs.

Ultimately, the idea is to draw without any conscious thoughts and without worrying about making mistakes.

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