Sometimes it happens that we feel blocked and overwhelmed by the events of life. Other times it happens not to know what to do to get out of a situation, or the feelings of guilt attack us leaving us no way out. Sometimes, however, anxiety takes us, suffocating us with obsessive thoughts and fears. Is there a first aid for all these situations? Yes, it exists, and it is within everyone's reach. It involves taking paper and pastels and coloring images of ancient tradition but that become, never before, so modern, mandalas, representations that start from a center and then expand outwards, with motifs, such as circles, squares, flowers or leaves, which repeat themselves. In recent years, several scientific studies have demonstrated the usefulness and effectiveness of mandalas for treating pain, anxiety and stress, even in delicate conditions such as in the case of patients hospitalized for COVID. We can cite the Korean study published in Healthcare (Choi et al, Healthcare, 2021) or the research born from the collaboration between an Iranian and an American team of the University of Maryland School of Medicine (Khademi et al, Int J Ment Health Nurs, 2021).
Mandalas, what they are
Mandalas have their roots in Buddhist culture but are common to other traditions, such as Celtic, American and Asian. Born as a symbol of the Universe in ancient rites, mandalas have become an important tool for achieving well-being thanks to the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. Jung viewed mandalas as a way of expression, to appease obsessive thoughts and as a tool to ward off anxieties. In fact, the mandala, which in Sanskrit means circles, is a representation that starts from a center and then widens, expanding outwards thus giving the idea of possibility, of infinity, but always being circumscribed by a larger geometric figure, be it a circle, a square or a triangle, which in a certain sense offers the idea of protection from danger. In recent years, mandalas have also been discovered by science which has launched several studies to verify their effectiveness for mental well-being.
Mandalas help in case of pain and stress
The first study we are talking about today was carried out on 36 people, all between 19 and 64 years of age and who complained of physical pain due to the work they did. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to sit in a natural environment, such as a garden or a park, become aware of the nature around them and then color a mandala provided by the researchers. The other volunteers had to stay in an urban environment. Before and at the end of the session, the study participants underwent medical examinations. What emerged was that the volunteers who had colored the mandala had a significant reduction in pain but also in stress levels measured through salivary cortisol. Not only that, those who had colored the mandala reported feeling calmer and less angry or depressed.
With the mandalas the most anguished anxieties of life go away
The second study was carried out on 70 patients hospitalized due to the new coronavirus infection, therefore people who were experiencing a situation of great psychological anxiety since they feared for their own health. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to color mandalas for 30 minutes a day for 6 consecutive days. The second group was used as a comparison. At the beginning of the experiment, the anxious state of the patients was almost the same in the two groups. At the end of the experiment, anxiety was significantly decreased in the group that had colored the mandala compared to the control group. And this despite the time spent on the mandala was only 30 minutes a day.
Color your mandala!
So, feeling good often does not take much. Today we have seen that a sheet of paper and some crayons can make the difference, reducing stress, distracting from obsessive thoughts and fears and also decreasing any pain. And this without having to dedicate hours and hours to this activity. In fact, 30 minutes are enough to see the benefits. We can use already traced mandalas and color them as we like or we can create our own mandala, starting from a center and gradually drawing more and more external layers, decorating them as we wish. The important thing is not to waste too much time thinking about the final result or to copy finished mandalas, we have to design our mandala. The aim is to get lost in the gesture and the results will not be long in coming, more calm and spontaneity in all moments of daily life.