Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Creating Mandalas Reduces Social Anxiety in College Students

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Creating Mandalas Reduces Social Anxiety in College Students

Article excerpt

Social anxiety is characterized by an intense, enduring anxiety or fear of social situations in which individuals could potentially be rejected or judged negatively, and it can have a serious negative impact on daily life and well-being (Orme-Johnson, & Barnes, 2014). Social anxiety is evident from behavioral patterns and can also be measured using physiological signals, such as electrodermal activity (EDA), which is an indicator of activity in the autonomic nervous system. When an individual is nervous and anxious, their sweat glands secrete more, which increases EDA, and when a person is calm and peaceful, EDA decreases (Blechert & Wilhelm, 2014; Kreibig, 2010). Many researchers have shown that EDA is significantly higher among people with (vs. without) social anxiety (Asbrand, Blechert, Nitschke, Tuschen-Caffier, & Schmitz, 2017; Deiters, Stevens, Hermann, & Gerlach, 2013; Panayiotou, Karekla, Georgiou, Constantinou, & Paraskeva-Siamata, 2017).

Mandala drawing has been increasingly favored by art therapists (Ashlock, Miller-Perrin, & KrumreiMancuso, 2017; Babouchkina & Robbins, 2015; Drake, Searight, & Olson-Pupek, 2014; Muthard & Gilbertson, 2016; Schrade, Tronsky, & Kaiser, 2011). Mandala is a Sanskrit word and concept that refers to a sacred circle or axial center, of which there are two types: predrawn (structural) and created (nonstructural). In art therapy, a predefined template of a structural mandala is colored in, whereas creating a mandala involves free drawing of a mandala within a circle. Creating mandalas can provide a connection between the conscious and unconscious (Palmer, Dowrick, & Gunn, 2014). Drawing activities depend on the interaction between multiple brain systems (Schnetz, 2003), and have also been found to aid in identity formation and self-awareness after experiencing trauma (Gantt & Tripp, 2016; Van der Kolk, 2014; Walker, Kaimal, Gonzaga, Myers-Coffman, & DeGraba, 2017).

Although many scholars have shown that mandala drawing can reduce anxiety, their results have been inconsistent. Some have shown that coloring in a predrawn mandala is more effective than free drawing in reducing anxiety (Ashlock, Miller-Perrin, & Krumrei-Mancuso, 2017; Muthard & Gilbertson, 2016; Van der Vennet & Serice, 2012), whereas others have reported no difference between the two activities (Drake, Searight, & Olson-Pupek, 2014; Duong, Stargell, & Mauk, 2018; Flett et al., 2017). Furthermore, in most of the above studies the researchers explored the effectiveness of predrawn (structural) mandalas in reducing anxiety. By contrast, few scholars have investigated the effectiveness of creating nonstructural mandalas in this context (Babouchkina & Robbins, 2015; Potash et al., 2013; Schrade, Tronsky, & Kaiser, 2011). However, Jung (1972), who used the mandala as a tool for psychoanalysis and treatment, believed that free creation of mandalas is the active element that produces psychological changes; therefore, creating nonstructural mandalas is more in line with the organization of the individual mind. However, Jung's ideas are largely clinical and have not been supported by sufficient experimental evidence.

To address this issue, we explored the effectiveness of creating nonstructural mandalas in reducing social anxiety by conducting two experiments. In Experiment 1 we compared social anxiety changes, as measured using the Interaction Anxiety Scale (IAS; Leary, 1983), between creating a mandala and free drawing. To further explore the specific effect of the circular form of the mandala, in Experiment 2 we compared social anxiety changes between creating a mandala and drawing within a square, as assessed using the IAS and EDA. We proposed the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Creating a mandala will result in a more significant reduction in social anxiety than will free drawing.

Hypothesis 2: Creating a mandala will result in a more significant reduction in electrodermal activity and social anxiety than will drawing within a square. …

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