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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.
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.
Mandalas to Color Volume I features 50 original hand drawn works of art with hard covers, spiral binding for right handed or left handed colorists, high-quality acid-free paper, and a bonus blotter.
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.
As 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.
Explore the world of ColorIt and reap the benefits of coloring for adults
Coloring books for adults are topping bestseller lists 01:58
Want to fill in some pages? Keep in mind, if you’re dealing with significant mental or emotional issues, art therapy is going to be more effective than coloring solo. But for those who just need a hobby to help them chill out, these books could be the ticket.
As Berberian puts it, “I truly believe that people should be engaging in activities that make them feel restored.”
Study reveals coloring mandalas or geometric patterns helps with stress and anxiety
1. Did you have any idea that the “prescription” of adult coloring stems all the way back to the late and great psychologist Carl Jung? Well it did. He was always ahead of his time. Jung used it thinking it would help his patient’s access their subconscious and new self-knowledge.  We now know that many psychologists suggest this to patients as an alternative to meditation, as a means of relaxation, and as a calming tool. It can help the individual focus on the act of coloring intricate pictures for hours on end, vs. focusing on intrusive and troubling thoughts.
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!
Story highlightsColoring has therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus or bring about more mindfulnessLike meditation, coloring allows the brain to switch off other thoughts and focus
Coloring book titles like Johanna Basford’s “Secret Garden” are selling well in the adult market. Basford’s first book has topped the Amazon.com bestselling books list. Click through for more coloring books suitable for adults.
However, it is important to note that using an adult coloring book is not exactly the same as completing an art therapy session. “Coloring itself cannot be called art therapy because art therapy relies on the relationship between the client and the therapist,” says Marygrace Berberian, a certified art therapist and the Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Graduate Art Therapy Program at NYU.
And while art therapy was first practiced in the 1940s, the first research on using coloring as therapy is generally believed to have only begun as recently the mid 90s, according to Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.
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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.”
And though the first commercially successful adult coloring books were published in 2012 and 2013, the once-niche hobby has now grown into a full-on trend, with everyone from researchers at Johns Hopkins University to the editors of Yoga Journal suggesting coloring as an alternative to meditation.
Here’s why you might want to open a page and say ahhhhhh.
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.
Illustrator Johanna Basford’s second book, “Enchanted Forest,” also made the bestseller lists.
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.”
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.
Relieving stress and restoring calm are common themes on the adult coloring book market. “Balance (Angie’s Extreme Stress Menders Volume 1)” by Angie Grace is one in a series of such coloring books.
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.
Despite the fact that coloring and art therapy aren’t quite the same thing, coloring does offer a slew of mental benefits. “Coloring definitely has therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus or bring [about] more mindfulness,” says Berberian.
Groundbreaking research in 2005 proved anxiety levels dropped when subjects colored mandalas, which are round frames with geometric patterns inside. Simply doodling, though, had no effect in reducing the other subjects’ stress levels.
Brain scientist backs claim that coloring replaces negative thoughts
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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.
7 Benefits of Coloring For Adults and Why You Should Join the Adult Coloring Craze
Another fun title to check out is Calming Doodles Volume I, which introduced ColorIt to the world.
Cleveland clinic explains how coloring helps achieve mindfulness
Design-minded grownups can find many fine-art and design-themed coloring books to satisfy their inner creative. “Dover Creative Haven Art Nouveau Animal Designs Coloring Book” by Marty Noble and Creative Haven is one title.
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.
There are many times when I suggest adult coloring books to patients, and they look at me like perhaps we should be switching seats. However, time and again, they come back to me and tell me how beneficial they find them to be. Many psychologists and therapists “prescribe” these to patients for various reasons, and many occupational therapists prescribe them as well! I will also let you know that I practice what I preach, when I was laid up in bed for eight weeks after major surgery, I devoured adult coloring books. When I need to shift my focus or practice my own stress reduction, I break these books out. They have so many uses and purposes that many are not aware of, beyond the obvious outcomes of beauty and enjoyment. Let’s look at their uses a little closer.
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.”
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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.”
Art therapist Lacy Mucklow and illustrator Angela Porter’s “Color Me Calm” and “Color Me Happy” are popular titles. They’re working on “Color Me Stress-Free,” to be released in September.
Interested in a premium set of colored pencils? ColorIt offers a set that includes 48 calming shades, a canvas case, and limited edition gift box.
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.”
Art therapists respond to adult coloring being touted as art therapy
If pencils aren’t your thing, we also have a set of 48 gel pens that come with ink refills, a case, and gift box. Each set includes 24 glitter, 12 metallic, and 12 neon gel pens.
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.”
2. Adult coloring 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 coloring takes helps the individual remove the focus from the negative issues and habits, and focus them in a safe and productive way.
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.
3. These activities can help tremendously with individuals with PTSD, anxiety, and stress issues, as they calm down our amygdala.  This is the part of the brain that controls our fight or flight response, and keeps individuals in a heightened state of worry, panic, and hyper-vigilance, when it is active. Coloring and focusing on this harmless and calming activity can actually turn that response down, and let your brain have some much needed rest and relaxation. This can be an exceptionally productive and welcome outlet for these individuals.
The beauty about 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.
7. 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 vs. observing is a powerful deterrent to focusing on physical or emotional pain.
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.
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.”
Because no one knows better than you what helps you de-stress and tap into that place of peace inside yourself, it’s important for you to create your very own GPS guide — a personalized collection of whatever helps you course-correct. Email us at [email protected] and we’ll set you up with your very own HuffPost blogger account to share your guide on the site. If you’re already a blogger, we encourage you to upload your personal guide today. We can’t wait to see what you have to share.
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).
6. Coloring utilizes both hemispheres of the brain, right and left. When we are thinking about balance, color choices, applying colored pencil to paper, we are working on problem solving and fine motor skills. We have talked a great deal about where they would be suggested by psychologists, but this is where they can very useful for occupational therapy as well. Imagine all the areas of retraining of the brain and skills training that can be accomplished with coloring increasingly difficult designs. The individual can start on easier items, and work their way up.
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.
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).
HuffPost’s GPS for the Soul app is based on two truths about human beings. First: We all have a centered place of wisdom, harmony and balance within us. Second: We’re all going to veer away from that place, again and again and again. What we need is a great course-correcting mechanism — a GPS for the Soul — to help us find our way back to that centered place, from which everything is possible.
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.
5. Believe it or not, coloring has intellectual benefits as well. It utilizes areas of the brain that enhance focus and concentration. It also helps with problem solving and organizational skills. This may sound strange, and like perhaps the usefulness is being stretched, but it is all true. Our frontal lobes are responsible for these higher level activities and functions of the brain, and coloring detailed pictures activates all those properties. Think of considering complex color schemes, and using the brain to balance and make the picture aesthetically pleasing. 
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).
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4. Coloring also brings us back to a simpler time. An activity that can invoke the easier and happier times of childhood. A time when we did not have as many responsibilities, and could just do something because we wanted too, for the pure joy of it. To be able to tap into this time and these emotions is very cathartic and enjoyable. It can take you out of your present stresses and worries for even a few hours at a time, which can have an exceptionally recuperative effect.
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.”
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.
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.
According to ColoringBooks.net, adults should skip the crayons and go straight for the colored pencils (precision is everything when it comes to tuning in). And Crayola has a complete guide that shows how to take your tools up a notch by blending colors, shading and adding highlights and lowlights to your newfound masterpieces.
Now get scribbling!
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.”
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.
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 What makes adult coloring books so special?
That said, here are the top 7 benefits of coloring for adults:
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 of work, you probably want to do something more calming.
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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.
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.
The psychology behind how coloring helps reduce stress and anxiety
Intricate designs are a hallmark of adult coloring books. “Flower Designs Coloring Book (Volume 1)” by Jenean Morrison offers painstakingly detailed floral designs to fill in.
Coloring books are no longer just for the kids. In fact, adult coloring books are all the rage right now. And while researchers and art therapists alike have touted the calming benefits for over a decade, it’s childhood favorite Crayola that’s gotten adult coloring books some serious grown-up attention. The famous crayon makers just launched a set of markers, colored pencils and a collection of adult coloring books, Coloring Escapes, last month.
You see it everywhere, on Facebook, in Amazon reviews, news stories, you name it — coloring book companies and customers protesting that coloring helps reduce stress and anxiety levels. At first glance, this may seem like a cheap gimmick to take advantage of unsuspecting coloring enthusiasts.
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.
“The Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-stress art therapy for busy people” by Emma Farrarons is high on the Amazon UK bestselling books list.
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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).
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.”
Just like meditation, coloring also allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus only on the moment, helping to alleviate free-floating anxiety. It can be particularly effective for people who aren’t comfortable with more creatively expressive forms of art, says Berberian, “My experience has been that those participants who are more guarded find a lot of tranquility in coloring an image.
It feels safer and it creates containment around their process,” she adds.
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“Creative Coloring Inspirations: Art Activity Pages to Relax and Enjoy!” by Valentina Harper gives doodlers of all ages a chance to make the page sing with color.
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.”
Art therapist Susanne Fincher uses her own coloring books, such as “Coloring Mandalas 1” as “homework” for patients to maintain continuity between their therapeutic visits.
Adult coloring books clearly help serve many purposes that are beneficial. They can be so much more than the color by number that people might be thinking they are. They can be focused, therapeutic, relaxing, calming, problem solving, and organizational. As you can see, they are highly effective for many reasons, and the ideas behind them have stood the test of time, even if they feel like they are only the latest fad. Try one out and you may just surprise yourself. If not, at least you have something pretty to hand on your fridge!
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.”
7 Reasons Adult Coloring Books Are Great for Your Mental, Emotional and Intellectual Health
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is a mental health profession in which the process of making and creating artwork is used to “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.
” So basically, it’s similar to good old therapy. (Don’t think you need therapy? Here’s why you should take a mental health day now) Yet art therapy is not only about learning and improving yourself — it’s a means of personal expression, too.
“Coloring Books for Grownups: Dia de los Muertos”by Chiquita Publishing is an offering that might not be appropriate for young children, but offers adults the chance to create art with cultural iconography.