Zentangle is an art therapy practice that may help you relax and focus. In addition to the mental health benefits, you also get a fun-looking tile at the end.
Zentangle combines simple drawing techniques with meditative, relaxing therapy. The basic principle is for you to relax and engage in a practice using easy-to-master strokes, known as tangles, to make a beautiful piece of artwork.
Although Zentangle is a relatively new approach, starting in the early 2000, it draws on methods used for centuries. It involves ritual combined with the creation of patterns, symbols, and designs.
Similar to doodling, you don’t start off with an image in mind. Instead, you let the image flow from your pencil or pen with no preconceived notion of what you were going to draw in the first place.
When done with the proper mindset, you may achieve a zen-like state of meditation, which can help with relaxation, stress reduction, and other health benefits.
Zentangle is a simple form of meditative drawing or art therapy. It requires no previous art knowledge or skill. As one teacher describes it, you only need the ability to write the alphabet to be able to make tangles, which are the basic lines that make up the foundation of the art you’ll create.
Zentangle involves an eight step process. According to the creators of Zentangle, the steps to the zentangle method include:
- Gratitude and appreciation: set your mind to relax and appreciate what you are about to do.
- Corner Dots: create a dot at the four corners of a square piece of paper.
- Border: use a pencil to connect the dots with a curvy or straight line, making a square.
- String: separate out the square into sections using strings or lines you make on the paper.
- Tangle: use predefined sequence of simple strokes to make a pattern in pen with no worries about making mistakes or what the image you create will look like.
- Shade: add dimension to the work by shading in different areas of the drawing.
- Initial and sign: place your initials on the front and sign the back.
- Appreciate: hold out your picture and appreciating what you created.
With each session, you create a new, unique zentangle drawing. While you tangle, the goal is to let your mind focus only on the process of creating the lines.
In doing so, the theory is that you will be able to fully relax while making tangles, which creates the potential therapeutic effects.
In the end, you create a small tile (a square piece of paper about 3 inches across) of art work. While you tangle, you do not need to worry about mistakes or what the finished product will look like.
Meditative drawing methods, like the Zentangle method, are meant to help you relax your mind. The main goal is to help you relax, reduce stress, and achieve a meditative state. Secondary to this is the creation of a unique piece of artwork.
There are several potential applications of Zentangle. For instance, you can make tangles at home as a personal way to reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, companies may encourage their employees to take Zentangle workshops to help boost morale and reduce stress at work.
Therapists may also recommend you try meditative drawing, like Zentangle, if you see them for anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions.
Although Zentangle can be a great way to help reduce stress and refocus the mind, it likely will not replace traditional therapy. Instead, Zentangle may act as an adjunct therapy to help improve your results.
There is some scientific evidence to suggest Zentangle can provide therapeutic mental health benefits.
In a 2021 preliminary study using 40 healthcare workers, researchers noted that Zentangle had a positive effect on:
- stress relief
- reducing workplace stress and frustration
- enhancing self-efficacy
- increasing commitment to work
The net result was that the healthcare workers saw improvements in their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
A study published in 2022 found similar results. They used 38 participants from the general public in their research. They noted that Zentangle may help improve affective well-being. They also noted that with enough practice, Zentangle may help with anxiety and improve self-compassion.
Other reviews looking at the benefits of art therapy
Though additional studies are needed to fully test the therapeutic effects of Zentangle on larger populations, these smaller studies indicate the art form may help you with anxiety, stress, and feeling overall better about yourself.
Zentangle is a simple form of art therapy that nearly anyone can do. It requires no previous art experience, does not require you to make realistic drawings, and welcomes all mistakes and experiments.
You can meditate while doing Zentangle, which helps provide you with the intended therapeutic effects. And when you are done, you get a neat-looking piece of art that you can display and feel proud of.
Zentangle may be a good way for people with limited artistic skills to try art therapy. You can get started by trying an online class and buying a simple set of art materials.