In his book The Magic of Mindful Origami: De-Clutter Your Mind and Fold Your Way to Happiness, author Samuel Tsang writes: “An origami project is a chance to be creative and make something tangible; in fact, turning a piece of paper into a three-dimensional sculpture is a meditative journey that instills in us a sense of pride, competence, and accomplishment. As we fold the paper, the focus required and the tactile connection help free our minds to roam, creating the opportunity for a moment of self-reflection, for true presence of mind. Worries and troubles float away as we start to fold and follow the instructions, fully focused on the task at hand, able to mindfully contemplate our intentions, hopes and dreams.”
Origami, the Japanese art of folding paper to create three-dimensional objects, from the simple boat-shape we all learn to make as children to highly intricate figures inspired by comic-book characters, has been shown to aid relaxation, concentration, hand-eye coordination and memory. It does not require complicated tools or materials to perform, and as Tsang says, all you need is a piece of paper and some focused thought, and the results can be enjoyed almost immediately.
“Origami enhances the ability to be aware of what is happening in the moment and focus. Origami has been studied as a tool for children to develop spatial and perception skills, learn mathematics, refine dexterity and hand-eye coordination, as well as improve concentration. Origami has been shown to improve spatial visualization and mathematics skills in middle school students,” writes Dr Marlynn Wei in Psychology Today. It could also help improve outcomes in the treatment of attention-deficit disorder.
So how can we fold our way to a calmer mind? Firstly, origami requires us to be fully present in the moment—one of the central tenets of mindfulness. “Its simplicity, the humble act of engaging with paper, the feeling of textures and creases and the visual result that emerges, all offer excellent ways to practice mindfulness,” writes Dr Richard Chambers, the author of The Art of Mindful Origami, and a clinical psychologist and mindfulness expert.
Origami also forces one to slow down, because the act of folding the paper into predetermined shapes has to be done with patience and thoughtfulness; there is no hurrying origami.
Along with activities like journaling and adult colouring books, origami is increasingly being used as a mindfulness tool. Whether you’ve never tried origami before or have a nodding acquaintance with the craft but want to get to the next level, there are various resources to help you along on the journey to discover how origami can help you achieve that elusive inner calm:
1. The Art and Craft of Geometric Origami: An Introduction to Modular Origami by Mark Bolitho, photographs by Brent Darby
The book explores how, with origins possibly dating to sixth century Buddhism, the art of creating shapes from pieces of paper offers an appealing combination of calming concentration and creativity. This book guides readers to create 27 pieces of geometric origami figures, from simple one-piece pyramids to beautiful and intricate starbursts, each explained with illustrated step-by-step instructions, and includes 32 sheets of origami paper to get you started.
2. The Art of Mindful Origami: Soothe the Mind with 15 Beautiful Origami Projects and Accompanying Mindfulness Exercises by Dr Richard Chambers.
Origami becomes a form of art therapy in these 15 projects that will calm your mind and soothe the soul. In recent years, interest in mindfulness has exploded and it is now a part of popular culture. Increasingly, creative pursuits such as origami are being used as a way for people to focus and enter a mindful state, says Dr Chambers.
3. Kusudama Origami by Ekaterina Lukasheva
Discover kusudama, a traditional Japanese paper sphere formed by modular origami construction techniques. Kusudama, meaning "medicine ball," originally served as holders for incense or potpourri, and this guide presents instructions for over 40 elaborate modular origami figures that range in shape from stars and flowers to kusudamas.