Combine traditional mandala colouring with technology to aid mindfulness

Combine traditional mandala colouring with technology to aid mindfulness
Courtesy: Kostikova | iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Mandalas are geometric configurations of shapes with their origins in Buddhist traditions. The colouring of mandala shapes has become increasingly popular for people to attempt 'mindfulness', a way of being present in the moment. Recent research has said that combining centuries-old traditional mandala colouring with cutting-edge computing and brain-sensing technologies could lead to new ways of helping people achieve mindfulness.

The study was presented in the 'Exploring Anima: a brain-computer interface for the peripheral materialisation of mindfulness states during mandala colouring' published in the 'Taylor and Francis Human-Computer Interaction Journal'. Mandalas have always been associated with helping people to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

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Human-computer interaction researchers from Lancaster University developed a new prototype that monitored people's brain signals while they were colouring mandalas and produced real-time feedback to represent levels of mindfulness.

The prototype, called 'Anima', included a tablet device for users to colour mandala shapes, a wearable EEG headset that read the wearers' brain signals, and a second display in the shape of an artists' palette is placed in the user's periphery.

When users coloured a digital mandala using a stylus, the EEG headset monitored their brain signals and gauged levels of mindfulness. The readings were then represented on the peripheral display as new additional colours, based on four colours selected at the start by the user, but with changes to the saturation and brightness. More subtle colours represented mindfulness periods, with brighter colours representing periods where the user lost focus or became distracted.

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Professor Sas said, "Making sense of EEG data and capturing it effectively through design is not a trivial process.

"The study outcomes suggest two important and previously unrecognised roles of the mandala: capturing emotional memories and reflecting on them. Technology could support both these roles in ways paper-based mandalas are less able to do so. Participants noted they would much prefer to re-engage with their completed mandala at the reflection stage and that they longed to even recolour them, often in more cheerful colours, after they had reflected and their mental situation had shifted. Technologies would be able to make this more possible."

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Dominic Potts, PhD student of Lancaster University and co-author, added: "By understanding how Anima provides feedback and reflecting on their colouring session using the data provided by the prototype, people can use these kinds of technologies to help improve their mandala colouring as a focused attention mindfulness practice."

The study found that many people who used mandala colouring for mindfulness and to help with their mental health liked to keep their completed mandalas and looked back at them to reflect on how they felt when they coloured them. This was another area where technology could help.

(ANI)

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