When someone suggested that I try coloring for my anxiety, I thought they were crazy! I thought only children colored. But once I tried it, I was hooked!!
It varies from person to person, but I personally have found that using colored pencils is my favorite way to color! I love being able to do little details with the pencils that I couldn’t necessarily do with crayons or markers.
For me, coloring has become a way to unwind after a stressful day. It has become something I do in public to help combat my anxiety. Something that I do with friends and alone. It works great for those days where something is bothering me. I can sit down with a complicated picture (or 3!!) and while I’m deciding on colors and focusing on keeping them in the lines, my mind works through problems in the background.
Coloring has become a great way to destress for a lot of adults. Go to any store that sells coloring books and you are sure to find adult coloring books mixed in with the children’s coloring books. But you don’t have to just use the adult books!!
At a recent women’s event, one of the organizers was an elementary school teacher who brought crayons and coloring books for multiple ages. I actually had more fun coloring a children’s forest animal birthday party than I did anything else!
It was a great experience and I loved seeing adults and children alike sharing the crayons and books. You could physically see everyone relaxing as they laughed and joked and colored.
There is even research that backs up using coloring as a method of stress relief.
Medical Daily shared an article in which “Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who also has his own line of adult coloring books, says that coloring elicits a relaxing mindset, similar to what you would achieve through meditation.” The neuropsychologist further mentions that “like meditation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment. Tasks with predictable results, such as coloring or knitting, can often be calming.”
It may be hard to believe Dr. Rodski since he owns his own line of adult coloring books, however, he didn’t base his findings off of assumptions. Instead, he used advanced technology to see what actually happens to our bodies when we color.
Dr. Rodski tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “the most amazing things occurred — we started seeing changes in heart rate, changes in brainwaves.” He also mentions “there are three key elements—repetition, pattern, and detail—that prompt positive neurological responses in participants. When you have things that you can predict will happen in a certain way, it’s calming for us.”
A study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association 22(2) pp. 81-85 provides support that coloring mandalas or geometric patterns actually does help lower stress and anxiety levels. Nancy A. Curry, BA, completed this project while pursuing an undergraduate degree at Knox College with then associate professor, Tim Kasser, Ph.D., who is now the Professor and Chair of Psychology at Knox College.
Their interest was in examining coloring therapy which “combines elements of art therapy and meditation” (pp. 81). In the study, 84 undergraduate students received “a brief anxiety-induction,” and were randomly assigned to color either a mandala, plaid form, or blank piece of paper (pp. 81). Curry and Kasser reported, “that anxiety levels declined approximately the same for the mandala- and plaid-coloring groups and that both of these groups experienced more reduction in anxiety than did the unstructured-coloring group” (pp. 81).
Ultimately, it was the “the complexity and structure of the plaid and mandala designs [that] drew the participants into a meditative-like state that helped reduce their anxiety” (pp. 84).
Here are the top 7 benefits of coloring for adults:
- Your brain experiences relief by entering a meditative state
- Stress and anxiety levels have the potential to be lowered
- Negative thoughts are expelled as you take in positivity
- Focusing on the present helps you achieve mindfulness
- Unplugging from technology promotes creation over consumption
- Coloring can be done by anyone, not just artists or creative types
- It’s a hobby that can be taken with you wherever you go
Additional reading: https://www.pocketmindfulness.com/coloring-for-adults/
Do you already use coloring to help destress? Tell me in the comments below how you prefer to color!!
For those interested in coloring, here are some free printable coloring pages:
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