Perhaps you made your own versions of mood boards when you were a teenager, with magazines strewn about your bedroom floor while you sat criss-cross cutting, pasting, and curating your collage of the week. Or, maybe moodboarding is an unknown buzzword for you.
Mood boards, vision boards, dream boards, and any other type of visual organizer are incredibly beneficial to young artists, design teams, bored children, and creative industry executives. These boards provide visual context for visions, projects, ideas, and emotions.
Certainly, mood boards help professional teams better conceptualize campaigns. They’re often used as design tools to help shape a new product or strategy by capturing sentiments through imagery. They help capture ideas on a broader, more malleable scale, so as not to enforce confines that could be limiting to the new idea.
But beyond industry use, mood boards can also serve as a vital self-care outlet. Learn more about the science behind using mood boards for inspiration, and how you can start creating your own.
What the Science Says
Getting through those grayer days isn’t as simple as focusing on the bright side or thinking happy thoughts. To get over that hump, we often need to see our own life through a different lens. One such lens for many comes in the form of visualization.
You may have a thought, idea, or feeling in your head that is too difficult to describe verbally. When words aren’t enough—or perhaps you express yourself better visually—mood boards can offer another means of expression.
While research is limited, the studies that do exist suggest that mood boards can be an effective resource for strengthening mental health. Similar studies, based on using guided imagery to reach a certain goal, indicate that regular rehearsal of what you'd like to achieve and the act of rehearsing in your mind the steps you would take to get there, can lead to the desired outcome.
Mood boarding can also help to stay attentive to emotional needs; for those of us living with a chronic condition, cluing into emotions is fundamental to successful condition management, given the added stressors that often accompany a diagnosis.
In particular, more visually oriented people may benefit from using these vision boards. Some may find solace in music, journaling, or reading. For others who are drawn to a more artistic process, the image boards perfectly capture a sentiment when words—or other methods of communication—may have failed.
Mental imagery has been utilized by many for professional development, from elite athletes to top executives. But it’s also a powerful tool in a personal sense.
Moodboarding can be the springboard needed to make future endeavors feel more accessible; it can serve as a way to stay on track with one’s financial goals or help complete projects around the house.
But perhaps the most valuable outcome from this visual practice is the self-care it can provide.
Using very little supplies—a few markers, some tape, old magazines, or maybe just a free vision board software tool, like Pinterest—you can easily find quiet, peace, solitude, and joy in this creative process.
Emotions are a physiological response that are often hard to capture through normal means of communication. Researcher and author Brené Brown found in her data collected from over 7,000 people that the average number of emotions a person could recognize and identify with was just three. (Depending on who you ask, there are anywhere from eight to 25 to 87 human emotions).
Language is finding the right words to explore, define, and communicate the human experience. But we simply don’t have an emotional vocabulary as expansive as the human experience, which is precisely where an alternative method of communication like moodboarding can impact well-being.
This type of psychotherapy taps into different parts of the brain that aren’t normally accessed through language; visual representation can help to change thinking patterns and behaviors by using imagery in place of words.
These visual cues can add a hint of flavor to life. They can be a physical inspiration source for what you hope to achieve or serve as a reminder of happy, joyful times. How we think about our future and envision past experiences has a profound influence on our current state of mind; these visual representations can offer comfort, encouragement, and motivation in times we may feel that our headspace needs a reboot.
How to Make a Mood Board
If you’d rather a more physical process, opt for a traditional collage—no fancy supplies needed. You’ll need paper (of any kind), either glue or tape, magazines and/or books with pictures and words, and scissors.
You can start with a theme (seasons, colors, emotions, fashion, favorite places), or you can let the images guide you. You will probably end up sourcing more material than you actually need, so take some time to curate what you’ve gathered. Be sure not to lean too heavily on objects or material possessions. Be intentional to add ideas, rather than things.
If this is your first time creating a mood board, don’t be intimidated by the process. Enjoy it, however long it may take. There is no right or wrong way of doing, or a specific timeline to follow. This is a gift to yourself, so don’t try to force any sort of outcome. Instead, fully explore all of your emotions using this new aesthetic.
This article has been clinically reviewed by Jamillah Hoy-Rosas, MPH, RDN, CDCES, and VP of clinical operations at One Drop, and Dr. Harpreet Nagra, PhD, VP, behavior science and advanced technologies at One Drop.