Like our bodies, the brain needs a chance to switch off stress
We all need a break from reality. No, I don’t mean the kind where you need to be medicated and enter therapy. I mean the kind that gives your brain a chance to switch off from the day to day demands and stress.
Our body needs rest, so does our brain. When we give our brains time to slow down and rest before trying to sleep, we often will sleep better. How often have you found yourself bone tired and yet unable to settle into sleep because of your mind racing 100 miles an hour?
Colouring is one of the many activities you can use to help refocus the brain and give it a break from stress. Taking some time away from trying to solve problems, clears the fog to give a different perspective and can lead to insight.
Colouring books for adults have been a growing activity for over a decade. A quick search on Amazon for the term ‘adult coloring book’ returns over 50,000 results. And then there are specialized niches. The choices are endless.
Why the popularity?
Are we trying to reclaim our childhood?
Or does colouring serve a purpose in our adult world?
Coloring Books Are a Form of Mindfulness
Spending time colouring has a proven brain-quieting, stress-reducing effect. Numerous studies done on the subject have found this effect. Interestingly enough, mandala type patterns seem to have the most benefit. Mandalas are patterns, often very intricate patterns.
One of the early studies carried out by Nancy A Curry and Tim Kasser, Ph.D on the effects of colouring discovered this. They induced anxiety in in a group of students and then gave them coloring pages with the choice of blank, plaid or mandala patterns. After 20 minutes of colouring the anxiety level eased for those colouring the patterns. A later study doing the same thing found very little effect for the blank and plaid pattern but definitely anxiety relief for those colouring the mandala.
Geometric designs have a similar effect. They can be coloured any way you want, letting you focus on applying the colour more than thinking about if it’s the ‘right’ colour.
As anxiety and stress ease while colouring, a negative mood will start to subside. This is a benefit of relaxing and the mind being shifted to focusing more on the image than what else is happening.
Colouring Brings Out Imagination and Creativity
If you don’t remember when you were really young, have you ever watched a child at play? Their imagination is boundless. The world hasn’t intruded enough to tell them anything is silly, or not real, or not possible. Their imagination and creativity are able to soar.
As the mind relaxes, you can find yourself accessing that part of you so long ago nudged aside to take on adult ‘stuff’. If you let yourself, imagination you thought dulled can spark into life.
Even without intending to, our mood will flow out onto the paper through the colour choices and intensity made in colouring an image. Try it, colour a pattern and then do another copy of the same pattern when you’re in a different mood. Compare your choices.
Pre-made images lets the colorist focus energy into the repetitive coloring strokes to complete the image. Colour choices bring the image to life becoming personal expression.
Your Coloring Pages Can Be Keepable Art
Even though colouring books arrive with a preprinted pattern, they are still customizable. How you choose to colour them makes them uniquely yours.
You can start out with simple patterns and add your own to make them intricate or you can start with intricate and use colour to create patterns within patterns.
With a wide range of themes, colouring books let you focus on your interest area or explore interests you’ve not taken the time to before.
When you complete a piece you really like, display it. Show off your work or just put it up for you to admire. It’s all yours. It really can be satisfying to view your own creativity.
Colouring Is A Form of Therapy
With traditional art therapy, the patient is presented with a blank canvas and then encouraged to create the image. The goal is to help open awareness and understanding of the innerself.
In the early 20th century psychologist Carl G. Jung was one of the first to use colouring as a relational technique in therapy. His images of choice for his patients were mandalas.
When a person is colouring both cerebral hemispheres becoming involved in the activity with different areas within being activated. Logic and creativity is used to mix and match colours, involving the areas involved in vision and fine motor skills in the cerebral cortex. When you relax into colouring, activity in the amygdala where stress and emotion are controlled is lowered.
Colouring is not art therapy in the traditional sense but has been proven to be of benefit to reduce stress and anxiety. Colouring can be used as a way to ‘break the ice’ toward more traditional art therapy or as a way of reducing stress and copying with life’s stresses better.
There are benefits to improving mood, enhancing mindfulness, and reducing mental health stress, but the personal process may be distinct from the growth one encounters in therapy. Most of all, colouring can be fun.
Colouring Can Be a Social Opportunity
People who deal with colour or applying colours is a colorist. Many who spend time colouring have taken to calling themselves colorists. Often with good reason as they do take the use of colour and how to apply it very seriously.
Communities of colorists, those who colour in colouring books have formed. If you’re going to look for a community to be part of, make sure it’s one about colouring books or pages and not hair colouring. Well, unless your into hair colouring.
Getting together to colour can be fun as well. My sister belongs to a knit group where a group of ladies meet weekly to knit, visit and share ideas. The same can be done with colouring books. Maybe even including a glass of wine, or two. The choices are wide open.
Note: this post also appears on my Hive account.