Creating mandalas reduces social anxiety in college students
Yufang Bi and Yongfang Liu (East China Normal University), 2019, 47(10), e8410. 

I found this study particularly interesting as I find mandalas beautiful to look at and relaxing to draw or color in, and I love creating them in the glass art that I make.

The authors found that when individuals drew mandalas, their electrodermal activity (an indicator of activity in the autonomic nervous system) decreased, which in turn reduced social anxiety and promoted calm, peaceful feelings, and aided in identity formation and self-awareness after experiencing trauma. Overall, mandala creation and drawing had a greater impact than did free drawing or drawing within a square.

I was interested to read that mandala drawing has been increasingly used by art therapists.

In terms of why mandala drawing could have such positive effects, the authors state, “The benefits of creating a mandala over free drawing in reducing anxiety could be a result of its circular form. The mandala is a sacred space, often a circle, which reveals an inner truth about an individual and the world (Watts, 2000). Mandalas also offer individuals the opportunity to create something meaningful and integrate their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors (Jung, 1972; Mulcahy, 2013). The circular boundaries of the mandala have been reported to support, protect, and integrate an individual’s psyche (Babouchkina & Robbins, 2015).”

Mandala drawing fits into a long history of interest in circles and other image symbolism, as Bi and Liu note: “Since ancient times, the circle has been an important part of human culture; almost all ethnic groups believe that circles are a satisfactory and profound expression (Lusebrink, 1998). Simon (1997) used symbolic images in art therapy and stated that a circle is a symbol of the self as an entity, whereas a square surrounding it denotes all that is nonself (see also Lusebrink, 1998).”

The authors suggest that creating mandalas could be an effective new approach for treating social anxiety. I look forward to further studies on this topic to see whether these results are reflected in other populations, and what the long-term impact is of such art activities on both social anxiety and trauma care.

Suzi Brown | IT Manager
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal