Art Journaling for Healing: Doodle and De-Stress

Doodle and De-Stress

At the end of the day, you’re tired, you’re stressed, and it’s too easy to reach for a glass of wine, watch tv, or get caught up for hours on social media. While brainless activity is sometimes important for letting go, when it’s your only go-to for winding down, it can make you feel more empty and bored than when you started. This is where creative self-care comes in.

Whether you consider yourself creative or not, humans are creative by nature. Because we are all creative, when we feel out of balance, creative acts can help. Even if you don’t see yourself as “artsy,” art has been shown to have a calming effect on the brain. If you just can’t believe that you are creative, check out this amazing talk with neuroscientist Rex Jung, a specialist in creativity, for the scientific low-down.

Careful, repetitive drawing is one of the main ways I use art to slow down my mind and body when I feel anxious or upset. Of course I also do it when I’m feeling calm, simply for the enjoyment of making something.

Doodling is an easy and fun way to relax . No art talent needed!

Doodle and Destress

Try this: Put on some relaxing music, grab some paper or your art journal, a gel pen, Sharpie, or ball point pen, and try one of the doodle ideas below.

  • Trace a cup or a bowl to create a large circle in the middle of your page – this will be your drawing space. 
  • Experiment with keeping your lines close together so that you have to work carefully. As I often tell my art mentoring clients, part of the key is to give yourself the gift of time and permission to create. You deserve to enjoy both the process and the product.

Remember that anything repeated  looks much more interesting, even if the lines aren’t “perfect.” Look closely, you’ll find imperfections in my art here.

I find that stepping back  gives me a better perspective and helps me stop perseverating on small imperfections. I do this often as I work. (Funny how that’s like life, huh?)

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    Easy patterns that anyone can do for stress relief. This was SO MUCH FUN!

    Here’s some shapes you might try doodling with: 

    1. Bubbles

    2. Triangles

    3. Waves (drawn really close together – this looks cool)

    4. Tiny leaf shapes – you can turn these into leaves, or make a small dot for a fish eye

    5. Horizontal lines, overlapped with vertical lines

    6. Simple flowers with 3 – 5 petals

    7. Spirals

    8. Squares

    9. Short lines, long lines, curvy lines, wavy lines

    10. Dots – SO MANY DOTS!

    11. Overlapping ovals to create a “chain”

    12. Repeated “V” shapes, “C” shapes, “L” shapes, “U” shapes

    13. Skinny ovals or fat ovals

    14. “Checkerboard” patterns – make a grid and color in every other square

    Create repetitive pattern and work slowly to calm your mind and your body.

    For this page, I drew half circles that overlapped. Then I drew lines from the midpoint of the half-circle, radiating out to the edge. It took me a long time to do this accurately, but again, that’s the point!

    [bctt tweet=”Use art as medicine: Doodle to destress #artheals #happycreativelife”]

    I like doodling over painted pages with my gel pens to give a fun pop of color. It’s very satisfying to watch the patterns appear.

    You don't need any art talent to doodle away stress! Great ideas here!

    So, what do you think? Drop into the comments and let us know. How about posting your doodle in our private Facebook community, Creative Self-Care?

    If you are excited about these techniques and want to learn more about how art journaling can help you with your feelings, check out my free class: The Guide to Creative Self-Care.

    Creatively Yours,


    *The product links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you choose to click and purchase something, at no extra cost to you, you’ll support the work of Mindful Art Studio. I only share products I truly love and believe in. Happy creating!


    1. Sally

      Thank you, Amy.
      I feel freshened up, just reading your ideas for doodle shapes.
      A sweet reminder to not just blob in front of the teev. Blob in a book instead.

      • Amy Johnson Maricle

        HI Sally!

        I’m so glad this was a good reminder for you. Actually, blob is a great term, making patterns with blobs shapes is super fun. Thank YOU for the reminder!


      • Neha

        Thank u. This works well for me. I feel recharged.

        • Amy Maricle

          Oh this is great, Neha, I’m so glad! xo

    2. Gerda

      Hi! I started doodling about 2 years ago and I am totally hooked! We moved house a month ago but I made sure my pens and books traveled with me in the car in stead of being packed into a box .. It is , as you say, very good therapy . Thank you for lovely ideas.

      • Amy Johnson Maricle

        Hi Gerda! Welcome to Mindful Art Studio! I’m so happy to hear how effective the doodling is for helping you along! If you haven’t already, you might like our private FB group, Creative Self-Care. It’s full of wonderful folks like you doing the same inner work through art.


      • Mrunalini

        Thanks a ton Amy. I joined this group just after I started learning about Zentangle. Your slow drawing parties encouraged me to let go the inhibitions I had about drawing and painting, it has opened new doors of creativity and relaxation for me. Thank you once again

        • Amy Maricle

          Hi Gerda: I’m so happy that I could help! We will see you this week for a new pattern! xo

    3. Shriya

      Hello. I just found this page now and I saying that I am EXCITED is an understatement. This gives me a new kind of hope even before I have begun.

    4. Esra A H

      I’ve always been using most of the doodles above, so relieving so refreshing, It makes me feel peaceful each time I accomplish a project thats as expressive as so

      • Amy Johnson Maricle

        HI Esra: Yes, it IS a relief to be able to sit down and doodle repetitive patterns. I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment here. Many happy creations to you! XO Amy

    5. Claire

      Thanks very much for these doodling prompts – I am feeling positive that I am going to learn a lot here. I am going to try out some of your suggestions ASAP 😊
      I have just started a blog #threadstogether and , if it’s ok with you, I would like to include links to this page and your website in a future post?
      happy doodling

      • Amy Johnson Maricle

        HI Clare:

        I’m so happy you liked it and of course you can include some links. I’ll be sure to check you out – sounds like fun!


    6. Lila Bartel

      How could I have been painting, drawing for soooo long and not have thought of this.
      This is so freeing. I love it. Thank you for conitinuing the suggestions and the leads that help me doodle with a purpose.

      • Amy Maricle

        Lila – I’m so happy that this helps you. We all have different things to offer each other; I’m so happy I had this! xo

    7. Mary

      Found a few of your posts on Pinterest tonight. I’ve been feeling a bit helpless and lost, maybe sad? My daughter is almost 5 months old and I haven’t been able to put my finger on what was missing since she was born. Reading your posts have given me an ah-ha moment. I’ve been craving and needing a creative outlet but have put it off because I didn’t know what to do. I’ll start tomorrow morning with my coffee. Thank you <3

      • Amy Maricle

        Hey Mary! Oh, I’m thrilled that this speaks to you!

        Cheers, Amy

    8. Amelia Bautista

      Hi Amy! My real name is Amelia, but my friends call me Amy. I am 62 yrs. old from the Philippines. Love doing art projects (except doddle) even before i got sick. I am a cancer survivor, and doing art projects relaxes and remove all my stresses. I know this will add to my art projects, especially now that we are in a lockdown due to the pandemic (corona virus).
      Thanks you.

      • Amy Maricle

        HI Amelia: I used to sometimes wish my full name was Amelia – so pretty! I’m so happy you can create in this time! xo

    9. Cynthia

      This doddling has helped me with the mental illness I have. Thank you so much.

      • Amy Maricle

        Cynthia: I’m so so happy to hear that art has been a balm for you. Me too. xo



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