Drawing was something I enjoyed when I was younger but which I largely stopped doing, probably during my teenage years. A couple of years ago, I started drawing with my daughter and enjoyed creating new characters for her. During the first lockdown last year, we did some of the draw-along videos with children’s illustrators, replicating characters from stories we’ve read. We even extended it to painting rocks which we could hide for people on our local Facebook page to find.
We found it relaxing and enjoyable, and indeed drawing has been shown to have a number of wellbeing and mental health benefits. It reduces stress and anxiety and it can be a great way to help people communicate their thoughts and feelings, particularly if they are struggling to talk about an issue.
It can also improve creative thinking and imagination, as was the case when I created those characters for my daughter. I then wanted to know more about the character, so I went a stage further and started writing stories about them which led to further shared experiences.
Drawing can be beneficial in helping us achieve our goals too. We encourage drawing in our programmes, particularly relating to strategy and vision. This is partly because drawing can increase creativity, so it might help you think differently about solving a problem or about what you want to achieve. It’s partly because images connect more effectively with some people than sound or text. But it’s also because drawing starts to create new neural pathways in our brain that can aid visualisation and increase our chance of success.
Visualisation is a well-known technique, particularly in the world of sport, where people visualise themselves being successful in a specific situation. Studies have shown that visualising yourself performing a physical skill helps to stimulate the brain and build similar muscle memory to actually performing the skill. If you struggle to commit to exercise, you might visualise yourself going for a run. It could be the final, glorious moment of crossing the line in a race, or it could be the process of taking a penalty kick and seeing the ball hit the back of the net as the crowd erupts at Wembley. Ultimately, the more specific you are in the detail of your visualisation, the more you can help your brain.
By pre-playing an event, we start to create the pathways the brain can recognise when it finds itself in that situation for real. In a sense, we can trick our brains into thinking the event has already happened. This can build our confidence to tackle the situation for real because our brain is led to believe we’ve already done it before.
The act of drawing out your vision enhances the visualisation process, further stimulating the brain and helping to increase your chance of success by priming you to act in accordance with the visualisation. You can add key details and colour, but the great news is that you don’t have to be an award-winning artist – stick men, or as well as you can do, is absolutely fine!
Creating the drawing of your success anchors the concept in your brain. Plus, if you keep the drawing and look at it regularly, it is a visual reminder that can both motivate you and further strengthen those neural pathways that will help to make your vision a reality.
This article explains more about how drawing can help you achieve your goals faster: https://thesketcheffect.com/2018/07/09/one-technique-to-achieve-your-goal-faster/
Why not take five minutes today to sketch out one of your goals and see what impact it has for you?
This article was originally published on our Personal Leadership site during World Wellbeing Week 2021.