TAMPA, Fla. - When your mind wanders, you may be prone to doodling, drawing whatever moves you in the moment.
"People doodle when they are trying to divide some of their attention,” said Dr. Brenton Wiernik, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. “So if you're in a meeting and you're not finding it particularly engaging or it's going on a long time, doodling can help to distract you just enough so you can keep focus on your mind wandering or other problems interfering with your ability to understand.”
"It's a great way to start being creative," offered artist and author Jenipher Lyn.
Lyn said doodling became a needed distraction from her depression a few years ago.
"A lot of times when you're struggling with mental wellness or sadness or feelings in general, it's hard to verbally express it or understand how you're feeling,” she said.
"Doodling and drawing is used in a lot of different types of therapies to either help people to reflect upon their emotions, or especially with small children to help to foster a conversation between a counselor or a therapist to try to help better express what they're going through," agreed Dr. Wiernik.
Lyn likes to doodle positive words in a creative way.
“’Be still, you got this, you are enough’ was a huge one," said Lyn.
And there's another bright spot to this art.
"If you look at research for students with attention deficit disorders or things like that, we can find that providing those small distractions can help to give enough focus or focus on the main event that people are actually trying to focus on," said Dr. Wiernik.
But what about doodling shapes or objects? Does it mean anything? Dr. Wiernick says maybe not.
"Women are more likely to draw flowers or stars than men are, so if we look at typical types of doodling patterns and does that mean women are more loyal? No, not really.
“People are usually choosing what they're doodling kind of mindlessly and just doing things that they have practice at or are good at or they just kind of find that particular motion satisfying," said Dr. Wiernik.
Doodling didn't just help Lyn emotionally. It put her on a path to becoming an artist and author.
"A gallery owner called me and said, 'I saw your doodles online I want to sell them.' And I'm like, OK. I would just draw one thing every day and that kind of led to a career," said Lyn.
So if your attention draws you elsewhere, it's not a bad thing.
"The act of doodling can be a really useful way to help you focus and to relax and calm yourself," Dr. Wiernik offered.
"Being creative is awesome. Doodling is a great way to do that," added Lyn.