Five health benefits linked to adult colouring books
Did you know that colouring has therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus and bring more mindfulness? Ground-breaking research in 2005 proved anxiety levels dropped when subjects coloured mandalas, which are round frames with geometric patterns inside.
In fact, psychiatrists have prescribed colouring to patients since the early 1900s. Psychiatrist Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, prescribed colouring to his patients to calm and center their minds. Doctors today continue to follow Jung’s lead and still recommend the activity to combat anxiety.
The first commercially successful adult colouring books were published in 2012. Once perceived as a quick fad has now become a global trend, with everyone from researchers at Johns Hopkins University to the editors of Yoga Journal suggesting colouring as an alternative to meditation.
Just like meditation, colouring also allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus only on the moment, helping to alleviate free-floating anxiety. Marygrace Berberian, a Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Graduate Art Therapy Program at NYU says, “my experience has been that those participants who are more guarded find a lot of tranquility in colouring an image. It feels safer and it creates containment around their process,” she adds.
Neuropsychologist and neuroscientist Dr Stan Rodski, also agrees. He began exploring the idea when he was treating patients who didn’t benefit from traditional relaxation techniques. Dr Rodski favours patterns and shapes in his books rather than defined pictures or scenes. Watching children and the way that they relax while colouring really prompted the thought, says Dr Rodski. “Why can’t adults re-enter that space in a brain state? That’s what we’re trying to do with meditation as well. We’re trying to relax for a minute and go off the digital-based world that we’re in.”
5 health benefits of adult colouring
According to clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis, colouring is a stress-free activity that relaxes the amygdala — the fear center of the brain — and allows your mind to get the rest it needs. But colouring has other indirect health benefits, as well. Let’s explore five health benefits of adult colouring.
1. Colouring reduces stress and anxiety
Colouring allows the fear center of your brain to relax, thereby relaxing you – and not just while you are colouring. Giving your amygdala periodic rests actually reduces your stress overall. Colouring is a meditative, free-time activity you can schedule, making it perfect for retraining your amygdala to respond less harshly to stress. In simplest terms, colouring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries. Psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala says it also “brings out our imagination and takes us back to our childhood, a period in which we most certainly had a lot less stress.”
2. Colouring trains your brain to focus
Staying inside the lines takes focus, but not so much that it’s stressful. Clinical counselor Leslie Marshall notes that the activity opens up the frontal lobe of the brain – the home of organising and problem solving – and focuses the mind by allowing colourers to forget their worries. Being able to live in the moment is a critical skill in our increasingly demanding world, and colouring trains you to put everything else aside for the hour you spend doing it.
3. Colouring helps with emotional and mental health issues
Adult colouring books can help with a number of emotional and mental health issues. For many, boredom, lack of structure, and stress are the greatest triggers they have. This applies to individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety disorders, stress disorders, depressive disorders, eating and binge eating disorders, anger management issues, and substance abuse issues. The time and focus that adult colouring takes helps the individual remove the focus from the negative issues and habits, and focus them in a safe and productive way.
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4. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts
This is another method of practicing mindfulness, which has therapeutic and health benefits. This can help us replace negative thoughts with positive and pleasant ones. Doing therapeutic artwork can help reduce feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness associated with lengthy medical treatments. The focus we place on the project at hand, and on an object can replace negative and unhelpful thoughts from entering our minds. The step of acting and doing versus observing is a powerful deterrent to focusing on physical or emotional pain.
5. Colouring gives you a chance to be social
As colouring books become an increasingly popular hobby for adults, what is generally a solo activity has now turned into a social one. Colouring parties have become a thing, which adults gather to sip wine and socialise while colouring. Combining stress detracting activity with laughter and socialising is one of the keys to good health.
Let’s get started! Adult colouring book bestsellers
According to the many experts in colouring, they recommend adults skip the crayons and start on coloured pencils.
We’ve also listed a number of adult colouring book bestsellers to get you started.
- Dia de Los Muertos: Day of the Dead and Sugar Skull Coloring Book for Adults: Coloring Books for Grownups: Anti-Stress Coloring Book. View book
- Secret Garden – An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book. View book
- Enchanted Forest – An Inky Quest & Colouring Book. View book
- The Mindfulness Colouring Book – Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People. View book
- Color Me Calm – 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation. View book
- Color Me Happy – A Zen Colouring Book : 100 Coloring Templates That Will Make You Smile. View book
Examples of adult colouring books
– Why adult coloring books are good for you. By Kelly Fitzpatrick, August 2017. Read article
– ABC, The science behind adult colouring books. By Jeremy Story Carter, September 2015. Read article
– 7 Reasons Adult Coloring Books Will Make Your Life A Whole Lot Brighter. By Kristian Wilson, August 2015. Read article
– 7 Reasons Adult Coloring Books Are Great for Your Mental, Emotional and Intellectual Health. By Dr. Nikki Martinez, November 2015. Read article
Learn more techniques on how to relax your mind and avoid stress
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