Every major news outlet from CNN to CBS News is reporting about the adult coloring phenomenon. What once was an activity that kept so many of us entertained as children, is now resurfacing as a trend adults are coming to love. Therapeutic elements parents sought to keep their children calm or entertained before dinner, are now being applied to adults, to help distract them from the daily pressures of life.
That said, here are the top 7 benefits of coloring for adults:
WHAT MAKES ADULT COLORING BOOKS SO SPECIAL?
Coloring books intended for adults are not the average book you would buy your child. They feature a higher quality of paper, intricate designs, and a wider selection of themes. Whether you’re a big fan of Doctor Who, Harry Potter, cities, swear words, flowers, animals, or mandalas, we guarantee there is a coloring book for you.
ART THERAPISTS RESPOND TO ADULT COLORING BEING TOUTED AS ART THERAPYAs with any major trend, there are critics. While some therapists have come out strongly against adult coloring being referred to as a form of therapy, there are others who welcome the growing trend. The main difference that all art therapists seem to agree on is that there is a stark contrast between the benefits of coloring for adults and the art therapy profession.
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.”
As you can see, one of the major issues of associating adult coloring with art therapy is that there is no interaction between an art therapist and patient, who facilitates the patient’s growth. Susan Gordon, Licensed Master's Social Worker and manager of Piedmont Sixty Plus, tells Piedmont Healthcare "coloring books can be a complement to art therapy, but they aren't a replacement."
The Guardian spoke with Drena Fagen, an art therapist and an adjunct instructor at New York University’s Steinhardt School, who is not averse to using adult coloring books in her therapy sessions, however, makes it clear that coloring is not art therapy. “I don’t consider the coloring books as art therapy; I consider the coloring books therapeutic, which is not the same thing,” she told The Guardian.
These sentiments uncover an important distinction and promote a healthy dialogue between the art therapy and scientific communities. Despite the strong response from some in the art therapy community, we cannot discount scientific findings that back the therapeutic benefits of adult coloring.
CAN COLORING REALLY REPLICATE THE EFFECTS OF MEDITATION?
There are claims by many that coloring is a form of meditation. When you meditate, your brain enters a relaxed state by focusing on the present and blocking out the nonstop thinking we all experience. As a result, you reach a state of calm that relieves your brain from the daily stresses of life. Don’t take our word for it. Here are some helpful views presented by experts.
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 REVEALS COLORING MANDALAS OR GEOMETRIC PATTERNS HELPS WITH STRESS AND ANXIETY
You see it everywhere, on Facebook, in Amazon reviews, news stories, you name it — coloring book companies and customers protesting that coloring help reduce stress and anxiety levels. At first glance, this may seem like a cheap gimmick to take advantage of unsuspecting coloring enthusiasts.
Much to our disbelief, 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).
THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND HOW COLORING HELPS REDUCE STRESS AND ANXIETY
Most of us simply know that we love coloring. Taking out our favorite coloring tools and filling in an abstract design keeps us focused on the activity at hand. Whether we are by ourselves or with a group of friends, we experience a sense of relief and are given a break from life’s issues.
But psychologically, what goes on in our bodies to allow us to reach this peaceful state? Cleveland Clinic was interested in this very topic and shared some insightful thoughts from the clinical psychologist, Scott M. Bea, Psy.D.
According to the article, coloring “relaxes the brain. When thoughts are focused on a simple activity, your brain tends to relax.” Dr. Bea mentions, “we are not disturbed by our own thoughts and appraisals. The difficulties of life evaporate from our awareness, and both our bodies and our brains may find this rewarding.”
In a separate article, Gordon tells Piedmont Healthcare “coloring can be beneficial for adults because it has a de-stressing effect. The act of coloring requires repetition and attention to detail, so you are able to focus on the activity, rather than your worries."
Most importantly, Piedmont Healthcare highlights that as you “relax, your brain lowers activity in the amygdala, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight stress response that can lead to inflammation.”
BRAIN SCIENTIST BACKS CLAIM THAT COLORING REPLACES NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
When we color, it brings out our inner child. We are reminded of the days when life was simple and our biggest worry was watching our favorite cartoon show. Additionally, “concentrating on coloring an image may facilitate the replacement of negative thoughts and images with pleasant ones,” Dr. Joel Pearson, a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia told Medical Daily.
In Nine MSN Dr. Pearson further explains, “you have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color. It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stop any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well.”
Going back to the study in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, coloring temporarily prevents colorists from continuing their “inner dialogue and to deeply engage in an activity that removes them from the flow of negative thoughts and emotions that can sometimes dominate their lives” (pp. 81).
CLEVELAND CLINIC EXPLAINS HOW COLORING HELPS ACHIEVE MINDFULNESS
It’s no secret that mindfulness is the key to achieving reduced stress levels. Instead of worrying about decisions made in the past or things too far ahead in the future, mindfulness keeps us committed to the present.
As revealed in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, “people who cultivate “mindfulness,” or awareness and attentiveness to the present moment, also experience lower levels of anxiety” (pp. 81).
So just how does mindfulness tie into coloring? Dr. Bea told Cleveland Clinic “adult coloring requires modest attention focused outside of self-awareness. It is a simple activity that takes us outside ourselves. In the same way, cutting the lawn, knitting, or taking a Sunday drive can all be relaxing.”
By removing ourselves as the focal point for our thoughts, we become immersed in what we are doing in the present moment. When this is accomplished, coloring becomes “very much like a meditative exercise,” Dr. Bea says.
PEW RESEARCH CENTER DISCUSSES INVASIVE NATURE OF TECHNOLOGY — HOW CAN COLORING HELP?
All day long we use some form of technology. Whether you are stuck at a desk looking at a computer screen or scrolling through Facebook getting updates on your friends, it is very rare that we unplug and enjoy the world around us. Upworthy created a video that captures these exact sentiments.
If you are more of a numbers person, The Pew Research Center published a report that displays some alarming statistics in relation to mobile connectivity. “67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.”
During sleep, “44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night.”
Realizing just how much technology is immersed in our daily lives makes it clear that we need to invest in hobbies that help us unplug. Coloring does just that. For thirty minutes or however long you choose to unwind, technology is left behind as you focus on what is in front of you.
Another added value to adult coloring is that you can turn your coloring designs into actual art pieces. Decorating your home with your coloring masterpieces is a great way to share your hobby with visitors. In this way, you are creating rather than consuming, which is the typical exchange we experience with technology.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AN ARTIST TO ENJOY ADULT COLORING
The beauty of coloring is that there is no skill level that must be acquired before you are considered an expert. By the time we reach adulthood, it’s safe to say a majority of us have accomplished coloring in between the lines.
Even if you have never picked up a colored pencil in your life and completed a coloring page, it can still be pleasurable because you have nothing to lose. Dr. Bea mentions in Cleveland Clinic that “it is hard to screw up coloring, and, even if you do, there is no real consequence. As result, adult coloring can be a wonderful lark, rather than an arduous test of our capacities.”
In addition to this, most colorists have expressed seeing a finished product as one of the reasons they love coloring. Completing a coloring page whether you are new to the hobby or have been coloring since childhood, provides a sense of accomplishment. The instant gratification we feel continues our wave of positivity, which elicits more happy feelings.
TAKE YOUR LOVE FOR COLORING WHEREVER YOU GO
How many times have you been in an airport or stuck at the DMV with nothing to do? The amount of time we spend waiting can seem endless. Of course, cell phones could be the answer to ceasing our boredom, but after a long day at work, you probably want to do something more calming.
This is where having an adult coloring book comes in handy. Not all hobbies can be taken everywhere, however, coloring happens to be a hobby that is easily portable. Most colorists take their books with them while traveling, heading out to the park, or relaxing at a coffee shop.
Adult coloring book companies are even catching on to the desire of their customers to color on the go. You can now find colored pencil sets that come with travel cases. This is a great way to stay organized and easily pack your coloring supplies when you are ready to hit the road.
EXPLORE THE WORLD OF COLORIT AND REAP THE BENEFITS OF COLORING FOR ADULTS
If after all of this you are still wondering whether or not to join the adult coloring craze, we have one final reason why you should . . . it’s fun! With all of the stresses of life, we could all use an activity that elicits childhood nostalgia and promotes some good old fashioned fun. Below are a few products from the ColorIt Collection that can get you started on this exciting hobby!
SOOTHING EMOTIONS WILL GUIDE YOU WITH RESEARCH, ARTICLES, AND INTERACTIVE TOOLS TO HELP YOU ON THE JOURNEY OF NAVIGATING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.
© COPYRIGHT 2015. "Soothing Emotions" is a registered trademark of SoothingEmotions.com ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
DISCLOSURE: THE CONTENT PROVIDED ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE, MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE, OR THERAPY. IF YOU ARE HAVING A MEDICAL OR MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM, PLEASE SEEK APPROPRIATE HELP FROM AN APPROPRIATE PROFESSIONAL. IF YOU ARE HAVING A MEDICAL OR MENTAL HEALTH EMERGENCY, PLEASE CALL 911, YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBER, OR GO TO YOUR NEAREST EMERGENCY ROOM.