Why do we doodle?

You’re on the phone. There’s a pad to hand, along with a pen or pencil.

As you chat, you may scrawl a few squiggles on the page at the same time, shapes that take form as perfect patterns, images of animals, random faces or any other outline you can think of. If you are doing that, then you’re doodling.

Although a doodle can look like the most simple of drawings, they also allow us to get creative, and some believe they can shine a light on the doodlers’ thoughts and feelings.

Tracey Trussell is a consultant graphologist - graphology is the study of handwriting - who specialises in analysing doodles. She told BBC Bitesize there is a real value to doodling and it can even help us be more expressive.

To doodle is to daydream

“Doodling is a type of proactive daydreaming,” Tracey explained. “They are produced subliminally, on autopilot, whilst the doodler is busy concentrating on something else.

Doodles show our unconscious thoughts in a way our handwriting cannot

“They are the outward expression of our unconscious thoughts, coming ‘live and direct’ from the subconscious."

This makes doodles different to our handwriting, which is usually created consciously for other people to understand, where the message comes through loud and clear.

Tracey said it should be noted that analysing and interpreting doodles is not an exact science, but she believes "if you can get a handle on understanding the menu of meanings, it’s like getting inside someone’s head.”

When we do doodle, it’s for a variety of reasons.

Benefits of squiggling

Doodles begin with basic shapes, most often a circle, square or triangle, then evolve into something more recognisable. It could be something completely abstract or more like a drawing, perhaps even a mini scene, or a complex pattern. They can be intricate in their precision or the polar opposite but it is rare to find a doodle that’s so good it’s fit for framing.

Doodles tend to begin with basic shapes then take on a life of their own

“It’s a way of finding space for mindfulness, de-stressing and helping to process difficult emotions,” Tracey said. “Doodles are like safety valves for releasing negative emotions and feelings, so it’s good for helping you to unwind and relax, and for mental health generally. Doodling is therapeutic.” It’s even suggested that a short doodling session can help alleviate some of life’s little niggles.

Tracey added: “Highly creative types often doodle to let their mind act as a conduit for ideas and enhanced creativity. It’s a way of thinking out of the box. Doodling is great for problem solving generally.”

Comparing different doodles

When looking at doodles, "it's hard to be too prescriptive, because doodles often have more than one meaning,” Tracey said. She will look at, for example, the size of a shape, how strongly they are formed and their location on the page. Some features, such as "heavy pressure imprints on the page, or the retracing, going over and over your doodle in the same spot" could signify anxiety or worry.

Intrigued? We asked three BBC faces to doodle for us, and Tracey told us what some commonly doodled doodles could mean.

Faces ‘reveal a people’s person’

The first one comes from CBBC Newsround presenter Martin Dougan.

Tracey said: “Martin has drawn a face in his doodle. This is something that many people commonly draw, and research shows that it reveals a people's person.

Martin from CBBC Newsround's doodle includes a face, something many people draw

“The open mouth reflects someone who is chatty. Oval shapes are generally connected with mindfulness.”

'Rings of petals relate to social circles'

The second comes from BBC Radio 1’s medical expert Dr Radha.

"Trees are symbolically associated with an individual's inner emotional state," Tracey explained.

Shading on an image, as Dr Radha has done here, is an example of de-stressing with doodling

“Rings of petals relate to social circles." As the Doctor drew an abundance of petals, Tracey concluded she has a wide circle of friends.

“The overall shading uncovers how the doodler de-stresses by allowing the pen to flow unconsciously across the page, helping them to unwind and relax, whilst simultaneously resolving any issues on their mind. It's the perfect example of mindfulness.

“Doodling is like a safety valve that allows pressure to be dispelled in a playful and creative way.“

'A highly intelligent free spirit'

And finally, we have a doodle from a genuine CBBC megastar - can you guess who it is from Tracey’s analysis?

On first examination, Tracey says the ‘patchwork’ of random shapes reveal a ‘rich, multi-faceted personality’ who is a free thinker. Doodles like this are usually a sign of stress from someone who is thinking about a lot of things as well as a ‘highly intelligent free spirit with abundant creative potential’.

Who is the mystery BBC doodler?

Which famous BBC face is responsible for this doodle? All will be revealed in the next image...

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They are also revealed as a mischievous character who is great fun, an individual and with a gentle sense of humour. The giveaways to this in his doodle are the lines coming together to form a large caricature of a face in the centre of the page, facing forward and looking to the right, showing a doodler who ‘particularly relishes being the centre of attention’.

The thick brows on the face and the diagonal, parallel lines in other parts of the doodle show a forceful nature. The doodler is also ‘very talkative and there’s a lack of social reserve’.

Tracey added: “The big eyes looking to the right hand side of the page means that they have a close beady eye on the future, and hoping all their dreams and ambitions come true!”

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