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New Research Shows Mandala Drawing Promotes Positivity

A new study shows how interactive mandala drawing can enhance positive feelings.

Source: Pixabay

A new study published in Frontiers in Psychology has found that cooperative, interactive mandala drawing nurtures positive feelings, while individual mandala drawing can help detox negative feelings.

Mandala drawing is an ancient practice with roots in Tibetan Buddhism and adopted by Carl Jung as an important of therapy. Jung believed mandala drawing helps integrate and improve psychological harmony. The practice has since been developed in various modern forms of art therapy.

Researchers examined the impact of individual and cooperative mandala drawing on different measures of positive well-being, including mindfulness, spirituality, and positive emotions. All participants completed five weekly 90-minute sessions which consisted of 20 minutes of psychoeducation on mandala drawing, 30 minutes of a drawing exercise, and a final 40 minutes discussion stage of sharing the drawing experience with others. The participants were divided into two groups: 36 completed cooperative mandala drawing sessions and 40 participants completed individual mandala drawing sessions. Participants were given a blank piece of paper and 12 colored pencils.

For individual mandalas, participants were instructed to color a blank circular outline and express thoughts and feelings related to this as well as express images in their mind.

For cooperative mandalas, four members created a mandala together in a blank circular outline and were asked to try to understand themselves and others through drawing and speaking to each other. The focus was on how to collaborate and be interactive and supportive, focusing on how individuals contribute to the group.

Both collaborative and individual mandala drawing activities provided an increased sense of spirituality. The meditative nature of individual mandala drawing reduces negative feelings — a contemplative and soothing exercise. The collaborative and social nature of a cooperative activity promoted positive feelings and likely social connectedness.

Collaborative mandala drawing had a more significant ability to enhance positive feelings and promote a positive sense of well-being in participants. The collaborative drawing sessions focused on allowing individuals to feel heard and seen and also empowered them as important and essential contributors to the group.

Individual mandala drawing sessions did better with easing negative feelings. This finding highlights the potential power of drawing — the power to release negative feelings onto the page so that one can have psychological distance from those negative emotions. Carl Jung believed that mandala drawing was a conduit to negative and unconscious emotions, bringing them to light.

This study adds to the emerging research of the art therapy potential of mandala drawing. Earlier studies have shown that mandala drawing can reduce anxiety and depression in women college students and reduce anxiety in college students.

Try this individual art therapy mandala exercise (15-30 minutes):


  • One sheet of Blank Paper
  • Colored pencils, pens, or markers
  1. Prepare. Draw a circular outline on the page. You can freehand the circle or use a plate to outline a circle on the page.
  2. Relax and breathe. Take a few minutes to relax, breathe, and close your eyes.
  3. Notice. Notice the images that appear in your mind.
  4. Be spontaneous. Take your pencils or pens and begin to fill the circle spontaneously. Fill the entire circle as you wish, perhaps using different colors to translate your feelings or to reflect the images in your mind.
  5. Observe. Take a look at the circle when you are finished and be curious about what you observe, without judging it. What do you see? What colors do you see? What shapes do you see? What patterns do you see?
  6. Be curious but non-judgmental. Are there any spots where there with lots of activity or some that are emptier? Do you see any themes? Does it tell a story?

The good news is that whether you are trying out mandala drawing on your own or in a group, it is a win-win situation. With dedicated time in front of the paper with pencil in hand, you will be able to get in touch with your feelings in a healthy and more integrated and mindful way.

Marlynn Wei, MD, PLLC © 2020

A collaborative mandala exercise can be found here.

More from Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.
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