Dr. Aris Karagiorgakis, associate professor of psychology at Black Hills State University, presented his research on the effects of drawing on stress reduction at the Experts Meeting on Neurocognitive Disorders & Stress Management conference in Barcelona, Spain.
Are coloring books for adults just a passing fad or is there science behind their success? Black Hills State University associate professor of psychology, Dr. Aris Karagiorgakis, may have the answer.
Karagiorgakis recently presented research at the Experts Meeting on Neurocognitive Disorders & Stress Management conference in Barcelona, Spain, on the health benefits of drawing.
Humans experience stress on a daily basis, says Karagiorgakis.
“If only we could find something that could help us reduce stress on an affordable, efficient, and accessible level, wouldn’t that be great? Well, it exists, and that’s the reason behind the increase in adult coloring books on the market,” says Karagiorgakis.
Karagiorgakis’ current research began as a student project in a psychology research methods course at BHSU. Kaitlin Schneider, who has since graduated from BHSU and is serving as an international admissions coordinator, did a project as an undergraduate psychology major focusing on mandalas, the circular, labyrinthine-type shapes used for meditation.
“When I was younger I used to draw a circle and then draw or doodle within that circle,” said Schneider. “Through my psychology studies at BHSU I began to wonder why that was, and how drawing might influence wellbeing.”
Schneider developed a pilot project in Karagiorgakis’ research methods class. Karagiorgakis thought the project had psychology merit and the two decided to turn the pilot into a larger, full-fledged research project. But this time Karagiorgakis added a new variable into the research – measuring blood glucose levels.
“We wanted to find out if the benefits of drawing were just in our heads, psychological, or if there were also physical reductions in stress from drawing, that’s why we added the blood glucose measurement,” says Karagiorgakis.
Techniques in art therapy such as drawing are a viable method to reduce acute stress, says Karagiorgakis, but current research findings on the benefits for the artists are limited to self-reported decreases in stress. Karagiorgakis measured research participant’s blood glucose levels before and after viewing stressful images, and then again after drawing. He found that drawing does impact both psychological and physiological levels of stress.
Karagiorgakis is now looking forward to the next stages of his research. He plans to look at drawing as a preventive, rather than a reactionary impulse to stress, with subjects drawing before a job interview, visiting the dentist, or flying on a plane for example. Karagiorgakis says he’ll continue to include motivated BHSU students in his research endeavors.
“This is an example of how our teaching and learning in the classroom translates to the real world,” said Karagiorgakis. “It’s inspiring for students to see the outcomes and purposes of the theories and processes we’re learning in the classroom as they come to life through research.”