Mandala photo

Mandala and Anxiety Reduction

One of the easiest ways to guide yourself into a calm state, while enjoying the process is to engage in the art of mandala. This process will offer you an way to uncover and process emotional content that is held inside you. Mandalas reflect both the outer endless cosmos, and the infinite inner cosmos within the human heart. The process can help you to resolve unconscious inner conflicts while experiencing calm pleasure. Why? Because although Mandala therapy is often used in a clinical setting, it is a spiritual art form that speaks to the core of one’s being.

So, what is Mandala? Mandala is a Sanskrit work for “circle”. The idea is that everything conscious and unconscious; internal and external, spiritual and natural is integral and is expressed in the infinity of the circle. The circle represents balance. Most mandalas are an art form that consists of a square with four “gates” that surrounds the circle. Within this circle there may be few or many layers; and at the center of each circle is the “heart” of the mandala. The art form is used within a variety of spiritual disciplines, and well known in the Buddhist disciplines. It is used to help practitioners focus their attention, gain spiritual guidance, and establishing sacred space. It is used in spiritual traditions, meditations circles and in clinical settings as therapy as a form of meditation. Mandalas have a balancing effect and we now have research to validate the use of mandala work to reduce anxiety.  A study reported in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association explains that when anxious individuals focused on coloring mandalas for 20 minutes, their anxiety was significantly reduced.[i]

The summary of the study reports, “These findings suggest that structured coloring of a reasonably complex geometric pattern may induce a meditative state that benefits individuals suffering from anxiety.”

Yes, indeed, coloring a complex geometric pattern for 20 minutes will likely result in a reduction of anxiety and induce a “meditative” state that facilities a calming effect. We do not have any research on the “balancing” effects of creating one’s own mandala. With that said, I have some clients who live with the challenges of bipolar and who have used mandala creation as therapy . I truly see potential of using this to help people with mood swings find balance. It is not uncommon to see a severe mood swing triggered by an emotional reaction to an event. We are  at the beginning stages of learning about all that underlies both emotional disturbances, and bipolar disorder. When we look at this from a holistic and integrative perspective, we might note that although bipolar appears to stem from physiological causes; it cannot be disconnected from being influenced by what lies beneath the surface of consciousness in the form or emotions.

The combination of the balancing effects and the anxiety reduction of coloring and or creating mandalas carry profound possibilities for helping individuals who struggle with bipolar to calm or prevent manic episodes. The shift of focus is much like the effects of mindfulness as indeed, the engagement with madala is a form of mindfulness.

In my next post we will look at actual Mandala Therapy- You will like this.


[i] Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? Nancy A. Curry and Tim Kasser, Galesburg, IL;Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 22(2) pp. 81-85 © AATA, Inc. 2005

Photo by omnos

Photo by omnos