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Continuous Line Drawing for Mindfulness

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

It has been found that mindfulness, or the practice of purposely directing your attention to the present moment, can be beneficial for emotional well-being. Engaging in mindfulness has been shown to increase positive affect, reduce rumination and worry, and promote greater clarity of thought. Often, the expressive arts can be an effective modality to enhance mindfulness through the active use of the art materials and promote relaxation as one becomes connected through engagement and flow.

There are many different types of art therapy directives that can be used to facilitate mindfulness and emotional exploration. The continuous line drawing directive is one such example that can be used to bring attention to one’s present experience by focusing on a drawing goal to create a continuous line using a drawing tool on a surface, such as paper, cardboard or canvas. A continuous line drawing is a simple directive in which you are asked to draw a line without lifting the pen or pencil from the paper. This can be done for a set amount of time (such as 5 or 10 minutes), or until the image is finished.

In order to achieve the goal of creating a continuous line on the page, one is tasked with not only maintaining steady attention ensuring the drawing tool maintains contact with the surface/paper, but also continuous decision-making regarding the line’s direction, shape and pattern. In real time, one is making spontaneous and unplanned decisions, which can generate a spectrum of emotions. When utilized in a mindful and intentional manner, the continuous line drawing exercise can promote increased focus, concentration, coordination, motor skills, and emotional attunement.

The directive can be used to not only identify emotions, but also explore them through additional development of the initial drawing. For instance, you may choose to identify emotions in your line drawing, create a story as you go or use the completed drawing as a map that you can add labels and additional details to. Consider retracing your ‘line-steps’ and projecting feelings onto different areas of the line drawing- what the line reflects or what the feeling was in real time when having to make a decision as far as going left, right, inward or outward. One can also decide to create a story, narrating along the way how the line dances across the page- going ‘up stairs’, ‘along stepping stones’, ‘spiraling downwards’, ‘zooming up’, etc.

As you create your line drawing, allow yourself to experience the emotions as you go- frustration, anxiousness, excitement, joy- and acknowledge these feelings through your process. Note moments where you felt stuck, free, playful, nervous, confused, energetic, unsure, or any other emotional experience throughout the drawing process. Remember to breathe while you are drawing and know that there is no right or wrong way to do this exercise. It is your choice as to where the line goes or does not, how much space is taken up by the line and how much space is left empty. Consider completing a journal entry about your experience and noting how you feel after completing the exercise and the level of ease or difficulty you had in staying present and focused on the drawing task.

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