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Mindful Mandalas: How to Draw Your Way to Mindfulness

Life can be overwhelming, but mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help us get grounded and gather the courage to face whatever comes. Drawing mandalas is one physical way to practice mindfulness that works especially well for people (like me!) who get distracted during mindfulness practices.

In this article, you will learn what mindfulness is, discover how mindfulness is different from meditation, and find instructions on how to draw mandalas for mindfulness in your bullet journal.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of being highly aware of your sensory experience in the present moment. More than just acting observant, being mindful is the ability to take in the present as it is, without judgment. Through mindfulness, you get the chance to acknowledge where you are and how you feel in your body in the present moment.   

In a nutshell, mindfulness lets us  tune in to the present and tune out  the past and the future.

Download my Printable Mandala Guide

Begin making mandalas with this printable PDF designed for visual planners:

A mandala in a bullet journal being used to track moods.
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Meditation vs. Mindfulness

I’ve noticed that some people are tossing around “mindfulness” and meditation” like they’re interchangeable terms. In reality, they are two sides of the same coin. What’s the difference? Mindfulness is a state of mind while meditation is an intentional practice.

Meditation helps clear your mind through intentional exercises such as breathing, yoga, and rhythmic walking. On the other hand, mindfulness helps boost your awareness of the present up to the tiniest detail. Mindfulness might focus on noticing the way your fingers run through strands of your hair, the wind blowing against your skin, or rays of sunlight warming your body.

Mindfulness can work without meditation. All you have to do is choose to practice awareness of what you’re doing in the present and the environment you’re currently in. 

Sounds simple, right? Not quite. Our brains are designed to be vigalent, 1 so mindfulnes can be a huge challenge. That’s why drawing mindful mandalas can really help people who get distracted trying to practice mindfulness. 

How Mindfulness Helps Students

A pen drawing a mandala as part of a mindfulness practice.

Juggling school, work, and other responsibilities   can give students a lot of. Toss in some scary  deadlines and it can create panic. Even in these situations mindfulness can help by promoting better focus.

In a study conducted by a Boston charter school, researchers discovered that students who were asked to concentrate on a rock for one minute and then on their lessons demonstrated better learning focus 2. This shows how being aware of the present helps in increasing your focus and limiting the mind from wandering while in class.

If you find yourself always unable to focus on your studies, it’s likely that you’ve got a lot on your plate. Try concentrating on one particular experieince at a time- even something as simple as opening your notebook to draw a single ring of a mandala. Before you know it, you’ll be clear minded and ready to head on to the next task. Learn 3 other mindfulness benefits of bullet journaling.

Why Working Adults Need Mindfulness

Anxiety and regrets creep in more often during our adulthood than when we’re younger. Bringing your mind back to the present, can help  free you from the frustrating emotional loop of negative thoughts. 

Mindfulness helps you focus on what you can do NOW that can positively impact how you feel about the past and the future. It’s choosing to concentrate on the present moment instead of recalling past negative feedback or worrying about possible rejection next week. 

How to Draw Mandalas as a Mindfulness Practice

Drawing mandalas in your bullet journal is a simple exercise that you can try for mindfulness. Much like meditation, you can set a schedule for drawing mindful mandalas if you want to make it a habit.

Alternatively, you can draw mandalas anytime you feel like you are losing focus and need a mindful moment to get grounded. Remember that we get better at mindfulness the more we practice. 3

Here’s how to set up your bullet journal and draw mindful mandalas:

A pen drawing a mandala as part of a mindfulness practice.

How to Draw Mandalas as a Mindfulness Practice

Time daily: 5 minutes

Dedicate a page in your journal to a mandala

A circle grid in a bullet journal centerfold

Plan two blank pages over a centerfold- often mandalas get giant as you begin to expand the mandala rings!

Lightly pencil a guide on the page.

A circle grid in a bullet journal centerfold

Use your trusty pencil to make pale, traceable patterns. For a perfect circle, you’ll need a compass (the one you use in your math/drafting class) to draw rings of increasing diameters on the paper. 
Start off with a small circle in the middle of the page. Adjust the compass so the diameter of the succeeding rings is about 2mm wider than the last.

Draw concentric circles until the outer circle almost touches the edge of the page. 

Add a pattern to the smallest circle.

A pen drawing a mandala as part of a mindfulness practice.

Now, draw a pattern on the smallest circle. Use dots, dashes, lines, or loops. 
It doesn’t matter if the details aren’t  completely symmetrical. The point is to train your mind to focus on the drawing process until you soon discover a pattern that works best for your concentration skills.

Add a ring to the mandala (in ink) each day.

A pen drawing a mandala as part of a mindfulness practice.

If you want to practice mindful mandala drawing for one week, you should have seven rings. Each day while doing your meditation or mindfulness exercise, trace the pattern—one layer for each day.

Use ink so you can erase the penciled guide. This will make the mandala permanent, which may help motivate you to finish the whole pattern until it looks like a tapestry.

If your bullet journal dimensions allow it, you can draw traceable ring patterns equivalent to 31 days. This will require you to trace a ring in ink each day until you complete the mandala for the whole month.

Embellish Each Layer

A pen drawing a mandala as part of a mindfulness practice.

Take time to fill in each ring with dots, dashes, color-fill, or other patterns. Spending a little longe can help grow your mindfuness muscles.

As each ring grows larger and takes longer to fill, your ability to remain in mindfulness practice longer will also grow.

Practice mindfulness as you draw each ring

A pen drawing a mandala as part of a mindfulness practice.

This may sound counter-intuitive to my earlier statement, but you should not draw a mandala just for the sake of drawing a mandala. Rather, immerse yourself in the process and stay in the moment. Focus on the tiniest details of the mandala pattern, from the weight of the ink to the different strokes each shape requires. 

When negative intrusive thoughts pop up, dismiss them. Resist entertaining thoughts of perfection (future-oriented concern) and stressing over negligible mistakes (past-oriented concern). Stay true to your current pattern until you’re ready for the next day’s practice. 

Supply:

  • Pencil
  • Bullet Journal
  • Pen
  • Markers (optional)

How to Practice Mindfulness with Mandalas

Consider the following tips while making mandalas. 

  • 🎨 Color the gaps between mandala rings. For a “more mindful” experience, use one color at a time to fill in different sections of the mandala. You may even pick one color per day.
  • 😤 Breathe in deeply before starting one small part of the entire pattern. Slowly breathe out and repeat the sequence as you color your way through each nook and cranny.
  • 🧠 Think of the intricate details as representations of your present thoughts. No thinking about past or future; just the sensations that you notice while focusing on each shape. 

Practice Mindful Mandalas on a Long-term Basis

Drawing mandalas to improve mindfulness is still a popular practice among bullet journalers in 2022. Not only are these mandalas nice to look at, but they also bring a sense of calm as a result of intentional focus and increased awareness. 

This article has highlighted the benefits of practicing mindfulness and the impact mindful mandalas can create in focusing our minds back to the present and helping us thrive.  

Sources

  1. Bracha, H. S., & Maser, J. D. (2008). Anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder in the context of human brain evolution: A role for theory in DSM-V?. []
  2. Tatter, G. (2019). Making time for mindfulness. Harvard Graduate Education. Retrieved June 29, 2022. []
  3. Wingert, J. R., Jones, J. C., Swoap, R. A., & Wingert, H. M. (2022). Mindfulness-based strengths practice improves well-being and retention in undergraduates: a preliminary randomized controlled trial. Journal of American College Health70(3), 783-790. []