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The Benefits of Coloring for Adults

With the sudden rise in popularity in adult coloring books, its likely you’ve seen them on the shelves of your local book store grocery store as well as online. Usually containing intricate mandalas, animals, patterns or floral designs, adult coloring books seem to be all the rave right now. But what is it that has made them so popular?

As of late, research is demonstrating just how beneficial creativity is in developing a number of skills. Additionally, there has been an increase in findings linking creativity to reduced anxiety and stress levels. Known to bring out your inner artist, bring about a sense of peace and calmness as well as stimulate brain function – coloring for adults is all the rage at the moment.

We’ve put together a piece that highlights the psychology behind this new trend, whether its an activity for everyone as well as 6 of the leading benefits of this practice. Lets dive in!

The psychology behind coloring

From a young age, coloring in is usually implemented into the lives of many children around the world. As we discussed in our article on the importance of creativity in childhood development (link article), we saw that art and creative practices are great ways to develop skills such as fine motor skills, social skills and hand eye coordination to name a few. 

From the time that they are born, children are instinctively imaginative, creative and adopt a magic-oriented way of thinking. When nurtured effectively, this can develop into lifelong creativity as well as an increased capacity to challenge the world, ask questions and make discoveries.

With this creativity being carried over into adulthood – coloring in for adults brings on its own unique set of psychological, physical and emotional advantages. With the inevitable increase in stress, responsibility and chaos that adult life brings – taking it back to the basics with coloring can have a number of benefits on one’s well being.

Research by clinical psychologists have shown that the main reason why coloring in can be effective for adults has little to do with the coloring itself and everything to do with the refocusing and redirection of one’s attention. Tasks such as drawing or coloring work to focus one’s attention outside of their self awareness – which essentially means it takes us out of our overthinking and directs our attention to the task at hand. Tasks that work to distract us from our thoughts are inherently calming and likely to reduce anxiety.

Further research showed that the act of coloring in requires both repetition and attention to detail which distracts us from our worries. As you begin to relax, activity in the amygdala is lowered. The amygdala is associated with stress – more specifically the fight or flight response. By directing your attention to low stress tasks, inflammation in the amygdala is decreased.

Does coloring work for everyone?

Although coloring can be a beneficial practice for some, it doesn’t necessarily appeal to or work for everyone. A prior affinity for creativity is usually required for coloring in to have a significant impact.

As we mentioned earlier, creativity that is instilled in early childhood and fostered through active parenting is likely to be carried over into adulthood. If this is the case, its likely coloring in as an adult can prove to be beneficial. Adults typically tend to gravitate to and enjoy recreational activities that they loved as children.

The benefits of coloring for adults

With all this being said, there are a number of ways in which coloring can prove effective for adults. Lets dive in!

1. Reduces stress

Although only recently becoming a hot trend, art therapy is no new concept. Using art as a means to relieve stress has been around for years, seeming to stem from one of the founding fathers of modern day psychology – Carl Jung. Jung focused predominantly on the positive effects of drawing and coloring in mandalas as a way to reduce stress.

Mandalas are intricate, abstract, geometric designs that are derived from ancient cultures such as buddhism and Hinduism. They are often seen as symbols of unity, wholeness and a connection to a higher power. If you’re familiar with adult coloring pages in any way, I’m sure you’ve come across at least one mandala inspired book, as they seem to be one of the most popular types as of late.

The intricate patterns require great concentration to color in, and provide one with opportunities to express their creativity. As we mentioned earlier, focusing your attention on a coloring task distracts your mind from overthinking, lowers stress and anxiety, and induces a sense of calm.

2. Relieves anxiety

Anxiety is perhaps one of the most common and pervasive mental health disorders that are experienced by adults. Anxiety is characterized as an incessant worrying regarding the future. By using adult coloring pages, one can calm and sooth persistent feelings of anxiety and negative thinking.

Although coloring in is a simple task in itself, it does require complete concentration which allows your mind to take a break from the anxiety you may be experiencing.

Additionally, the use of color is also another great way to combat anxiety. For more on the psychology of color in design, check out our article here. Essentially, creative expression allows anxiety sufferers to enter a more relaxed state of mind, which can in turn make other forms of therapy increasingly effective.

3. Exercises the brain

The task of coloring in serves as a ‘full brain workout’, stimulating both the left and the right hemisphere of the brain. The right hemisphere – typically associated with creativity is stimulated when you make aesthetic and color choices.

Additionally, your frontal lobe is also activated when you use concentration and focus on the task at hand. The left side of your brain, usually defined as the analytical half, is stimulated by fine motor skills and problem solving skills.

4. Improves focus

As life becomes increasingly last paced, it can become relatively difficult to narrow down our focus and pay attention to a single task. Coloring in is a great way to practice this skill in a fun and stress reducing way. In organizing your color choices and planning out a creative design, you will stimulate your frontal lobe and improve your ability to focus in the long run.

5. Spark creativity

If you happen to work in the creative sphere, as a designer, artist or writer for example – you can be susceptible to creative block. Because consistently generating creative ideas can become difficult, it is important to have outlets that work to inspire you. Thats where coloring comes in! By coloring in you’ll be able to settle any overthinking and clear your mind to create space for new ideas.

Similar to meditation or mindfulness, coloring creates a state of mind in which you can create new thought connections that you weren’t aware of before. After all, our best ideas do often come to us when we are at our most calm and distracted by another activity.

6. Displaces negative emotions

Unlike children, adults have an overwhelming amount of responsibilities. Be it your job, family life, health or future – its can become exceptionally overwhelming. Taking some time away from it all can be extremely beneficial to both your physical and mental health.

Coloring in allows for negative emotions regarding these responsibilities to fade away, or at least stay at bay for a little while. Allow peace, clarity and creativity to take the place of those negative emotions. Neuropsychological research has shown that carrying out creative tasks such as coloring has positive effects on the body itself – heart rate decreases and there are changes in brain waves too.

For more on the importance on creativity in childhood development you can check out our previous article. Additionally, we’ve also put together a list of 10 ways to inspire creativity in your children at home.

A shortlist of coloring books for adults

We have made a shortlist with some of the most popular coloring books for adults. You will have countless hours of fun with these!

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