Managing Mood with Mandalas

A mandala is a sacred circle that has been used since ancient times as a healing and meditation tool. Psychoanalysts have viewed the mandala as the utlimate symbol of the unconscious self. Art therapist, Joan Kellogg, believed that our attraction to particular shapes and colors found in mandalas, represent our current physical and emotional condition.

Mandalas are an art form that help produce a sense of calm, balance, focus, and concentration. A calming effect, an increase of self-awareness, and an improvement of both self-esteem and mood, are just a few benefits of creating mandalas with students.

The mandala is best utilized before tests, as a de-escalation technique, helping students express their feelings or tell their story, or as a group project. It is always a good idea to keep art supplies and mandala coloring sheets in your office. Printable mandala coloring sheets are available on the Life Lessons for Little One’s lesson page.

Making a Mandala: Trace the outline of a paper plate onto a piece of paper. You may use a variety of materials ranging from crayons to sand. The student can draw shapes, lines, and pictures. Instruct the child to focus on peaceful thoughts while creating the mandala. I like to play soft, calming music to help the student relax.

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Processing: Ask the child to name their mandala creation. What feelings or thoughts do they have as they look at the colors, shapes, and designs represented in their mandala?
Notice the colors used and not used by the child. Are the lines soft or hard? Are the edges smooth or jagged? Are there any areas of high contrast? What image did they draw in the middle of their mandala creation?

Group Mandala: Seeing how we represent ourselves in our circle of peers, friends, or families can be a powerful way to change or express our behavior.

Suggestions on how to utilize mandalas in both an individual setting or a group setting:

  • How does each person see themselves in the circle? How do they feel they fit into the whole?
  • Explore group conflict or classroom conflict: If there is a particular issue experienced in the classroom, have each child draw how they feel about the conflict. Have the child also draw how to resolve the conflict. What is their contribution to creating the problem and resolving the problem.
  • Visual representation of families: If you are working with a family, have each member complete their own section of the mandala. If you are working with a student, have him or her draw a representaion of each family member in each piece of the mandala.
  • Bullying: You can use a mandala as a follow-up activity when discussing bullying with your students. In the middle of the mandala, students may draw what a bully-free school looks like. In each section, students may draw what they plan to do to prevent bullying.
  • Goal Setting: Instruct the student to draw a picture of their goal in the middle of the mandala. In each piece, the student will draw a strategy needed to reach their goal.

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The above mandala was used in an anger management group.  As a group, the students decided on using the image of a sun to represent their group. The kids felt that a sun was a good symbol of happiness.  Each student worked on their own section of the group mandala.  This was a fun closing activity for the group.