Coloring has come back into style once again. While art may not be able to cure disease, it can help you cope with stress and anxiety, in a big way. Researchers recently acknowledged that this new trend, also known as ‘adult coloring’, has a therapeutic quality that can be helpful in times of stress.
Art can help you express your creativity and help you live in the moment, which can be very beneficial. In one 2006 study, mindfulness art therapy for women with cancer helped significantly decrease emotional stress and physical symptoms during treatment.
Another study done the same year concluded that those who underwent art therapy proclaimed that it helped them overwhelmingly express comfort.
According to Joke Bradt, a music therapist at Drexel University in Philadephia:
“People with cancer very often feel like their body has been taken over by the cancer. They feel overwhelmed… To be able to engage in a creative process is something that stands in a very stark contrast to sort of passively submitting oneself to cancer treatments.”
Art therapy cannot only help those with cancer, but it can also help people deal with conditions such as depression, dementia, anxiety, and even PTSD.
Mindfulness and Art Therapy
While art therapy may not be viewed as stringent a therapy as talk therapy, it can help reduce stress and anxiety by helping you focus on the task at hand.
Health Benefits of Coloring
- Helps promote mindfulness
- Combats stress and anxiety
- Good for exercising fine motor skills
- Calms the mind
- Helps spur creativity
- Helps you feel like a kid once again
The good thing is you don’t have to be an expert to engage in art therapy because anyone can pick up a crayon or a marker and start coloring. Publishers are producing adult coloring books in droves, and the trend will continue for quite some time.
Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who has his own line of adult coloring books, states that coloring helps produce a relaxed mindset similar to that achieved through a practice like meditation.
Coloring helps people turn off their brains, and it allows them to focus on the moment. This is also one of the reasons people might knit or engage in other types of simple, repetitive tasks.
Tasks with predictable results, like coloring or knitting, are often very calming according to Rodski. Using advanced technology, he was even able to see physical effects on the body as a result of adult coloring.
Adult coloring produces:
- Changes in heart rate
- Changes in brainwaves
- Teaches the brain to focus.
According to Rodski, “The most amazing things occurred — we started seeing changes in heart rate, changes in brainwaves.” Rodski believes that this neurological response comes from the simple repetition and attention to details and patterns often associated with coloring.
The therapeutic effect of coloring might also be the result of one focusing on pleasant thoughts and images rather than on negative ones.
Dr. Joel Pearson, a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia believes that adult coloring works because it helps you concentrate and live in the moment, which can be very beneficial.
“You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color,” according to Pearson. He continued by stating, “It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. … Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”
Even those in New York City are riding the wave of adult coloring, and there is a reason why. With life being hectic, anxiety is a part of daily life, and stopping for a moment to color can be very relaxing and soothing.
Jason Abrams, a 30-year-old account manager at North 6th Agency, a New York City public relations firm, a deadline driven job left him in need of a stress reliever. Abrams took up coloring as a way to relax, sparking a trend in his office.
According to Abrams, “We’ll meet in the conference room on Friday afternoons and get our coloring session in… to help relieve the stress.”
Doctors have known about the health benefits of this type of therapy since the 1900’s.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, even prescribed coloring for his patients to help them calm and center their minds, as a way to combat anxiety.
Since coloring is a very structured activity, it helps activate the logical part of the brain, while also generating a creative mindset, according to New York-based clinical psychologist Dr. Ben Michaelis.
“Because it’s a centering activity, the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is involved with our fear response, actually gets a bit, a little bit of a rest, and it ultimately has a really calming effect over time.” Michaelis stated.
Dr. Michaelis even uses coloring books to help his own family also prescribing them to patients proclaiming that coloring helps ease stress and anxiety.
Adult Coloring – A Growing Trend
The coloring trend is starting to spread across the nation as adult coloring books are appearing on bestseller lists. Some people, such as Heidi Johnson, a member of the
Ladies Coloring Club in New Hope, Minnesota, is even using adult coloring socially, meeting for cocktails and coloring.
Adult coloring helps us ease away stress and anxiety because we don’t have to follow the rules and stay in the lines. There is something very magical and freeing about engaging in an activity where you can do what you want.
“You don’t have to be an expert at the DIY project, or a painter or an artist,” Johnson said. “You can just pick something you like that speaks to you and color it however you want it.”
Abrams even compared his adult coloring experience with the feeling of doing yoga, which is another reason the adult coloring trend is so popular.
“You go in, right, you’re tight, and you’re tense. You start going through the motions, and the poses, and stretching out,” he said. “Then when you’re done, you’re like, ‘I feel excellent,’” Abrams stated.
The real joy of coloring is the fact that it makes you feel like a kid once again. By coloring, you live in the moment, and living in the moment means not having to worry about the stress and strain of daily life.
Color therapy has been utilized for a long time, even as far back as 2500 years ago with the establishment of color halls for healing purposes across ancient Egypt and China.
Edward Babbitt, the founder of color therapy used color to treat various ailments using the power of the sun’s rays to infiltrate water. Color therapy also referred to as chromotherapy, uses color to positively alter emotions, helping boost both mood and wellbeing.
The fact is that every single cell in the human body needs light energy to grow and to survive because color can affect the whole body. In many ways adult coloring is a trend that has been around for a very long time and there is a reason why – it works.
Just something to think about the next time you are feeling anxious or stressed out.