Art Therapy: Zen Doodles

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IMG_20160228_221415058I have been reading about the benefits of art therapy for the better part of year. Skeptically. Why would adults enjoy coloring inside the lines? And how could this activity translate into a stress reducing exercise?

My skepticism dissolved this past week when an art therapist introduced me and others attending our Memory Café to “Zen Doodles.” The concept is straightforward: take a piece of paper, and use colored markers to fill it with the doodles you typically to make in notebook margins. Add some soothing background music, and you are on your way to a stress free, colorful time.

This is an activity that is very appropriate for those with cognitive impairment because there are no wrong moves. It is an exercise in color and shape and music. You select the shapes you want to draw and the colors. Color can compensate for talent in this exercise. And the act of matching or contrasting color and shape is surprisingly relaxing.


There are some keys to success if you are doing this with anyone with cognitive issues:

  • Buy lots of colored pens to allow all participants to use a rainbow of colors.
  • If you opt to draw free hand, have everyone draw lines to divide up the paper into quarters, as it makes each space easier to fill. (The lines don’t need to be, and are more interesting if they are not straight and if they divide the quarters in an irregular fashion.)
  • Small paper makes the task easier to complete in one sitting. Our paper was 5” by 4”.
  • Use colored paper t frame the finished product.


If you are wary about relying on people to draw free hand, check out adult coloring books. For those with cognitive impairment, I would recommend coloring books of abstract patterns. Enjoy!


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