The psychology behind how coloring helps reduce stress and anxiety
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.”
7 Benefits of Coloring For Adults and Why You Should Join the Adult Coloring Craze
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.
Adult coloring does not relax everyone. It depends on the individual and their prior experiences. Dr. Bea suspects that the more a person enjoyed coloring as a child, the more likely he or she is to respond to it positively as an adult. “It has been my impression that adults choose variants of activities they loved as children for their adult recreations,” he says.
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.
It’s the latest craze. Where you might expect to see children, you find adults: They sit with colored pencils in their hands, bent over the swirls and intricate patterns of coloring books. Yes, coloring books. They are losing themselves in patterns of mandalas, curved flowers and runaway stems. This is a world they create and escape into, and it’s become a popular form of relaxation.
Research on adult coloring specifically is limited, as it has risen in popularity relatively recently. However art therapy has been used for many years with much success.
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.
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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
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.
Cleveland clinic explains how coloring helps achieve mindfulness
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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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.
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.
November 13, 2015 / By Brain and Spine Team Tags: adult coloring, brain health, relaxation, stress management Share Facebook Twitter Linkedin Pinterest email Email
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
Get Inspired With These 10 Free Spiritual Coloring Pages Apr 06, 2018
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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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.
Art therapists respond to adult coloring being touted as art therapy
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.
Having hobbies to help de-stress is nothing new, whether people like to golf, cook, build model airplanes or put together scrap books. People are also open to finding new ways to unwind. “We have a very stress-inducing culture, and I think individuals are always seeking new ways to reduce tension, restore feelings of well-being, and reduce the toll that our stressful lives take on our health,” Dr. Bea says.
“The Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-stress art therapy for busy people” by Emma Farrarons is high on the Amazon UK bestselling books list.
Explore the world of ColorIt and reap the benefits of coloring for adults
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.
3 Reasons Adult Coloring Can Actually Relax Your Brain Find out what’s behind the latest craze Share Facebook Twitter Linkedin Pinterest email Email
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.
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.”
Study reveals coloring mandalas or geometric patterns helps with stress and anxiety
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).
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.
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!
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.
“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.
Coloring books for adults are topping bestseller lists 01:58
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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.”
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!
According to clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea, Psy.D., it has everything to do with refocusing our attention. “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.”
Pew Research Center discusses invasive nature of technology — how can coloring help?
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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).
Another fun title to check out is Calming Doodles Volume I, which introduced ColorIt to the world.
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.
That said, here are the top 7 benefits of coloring for adults:
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).
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.
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Illustrator Johanna Basford’s second book, “Enchanted Forest,” also made the bestseller lists.
Brain scientist backs claim that coloring replaces negative thoughts
Attention flows away from ourselves. A simple act, such as coloring, takes your attention away from yourself and onto the present-moment event. “In this way, it is very much like a meditative exercise,” Dr.
Bea says. It relaxes the brain. When thoughts are focused on a simple activity, your brain tends to relax. “We are not disturbed by our own thoughts and appraisals,” he says. “The difficulties of life evaporate from our awareness, and both our bodies and our brains may find this rewarding.
” Low stakes make it pleasurable. The fact that the outcome of coloring is predictable also can be relaxing. “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,” he adds.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
But how does it work? What does this pastime do to our brains to elicit such pleasure and calm?
“While adult coloring may differ slightly from this mindfulness art therapy, I suspect the adult coloring would yield similar results. It is likely that its therapeutic benefits would be similar to listening to a person’s favorite music,” Dr. Bea says.
In a 2006 study, researchers found that mindfulness art therapy for women with cancer helped to significantly decrease the symptoms of physical and emotional distress during their treatment. Art therapy has also been helpful to people cope with other conditions, including depression, anxiety, addictions and trauma.
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.
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.”
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.
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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.
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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.
JUST WATCHEDColoring books for adults are topping bestseller lists
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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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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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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.”
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.
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.