Here’s an interesting commentary on today’s society: my local craft superstore is sold out of adult coloring books. And no, this is not an indication that we’re regressing.
People have gotten the message that what seems to be mindless child’s play is actually a relaxing, mindful activity that grown-ups can enjoy. The adult coloring trend, which Brian wrote about years ago, is an artistic antidote to help treat modern ails from monotony to mental stressors.
But before you rush to raid the Crayola box, keep in mind that it’s not just the act of coloring but the choice of what you color that matters. Elevate the benefits of your artistry by making your work an active meditation using mandala patterns.
The Science of Coloring
While a return to crayons, colored pencils, and markers would make your elementary school art teacher proud, art therapy has long been used to decrease stress and anxiety and increase concentration and contentment.
The reason coloring works so well, according to clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea, is that it’s an effective way to refocus your attention.
Adult coloring requires modest attention focused outside of self-awareness. It’s 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.
So while making art for art’s sake sounds simple, it has profound effects. For example, a recent study of oncology doctors and caregivers using therapeutic coloring for self-expression showed upticks in positivity, creative agency, and self-efficacy and decreases in anxiety, stress, and burnout.
In other words, elementary artistry can color your world view for the better.
While there are endless free designs and patterns to choose from online, coloring a mandala — “circle” in Sanskrit — can help you access a higher level of consciousness. The ancients, from Hindus and Buddhists to Native Americans and Celts, among others, have used mandalas as a meditative tool to cultivate self-awareness for greater peace of mind.
Modern philosophers, including Carl Jung, describe mandala creation as a vehicle for self-acceptance and a tool to move closer to your core being. As Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön observes:
Making a mandala is a universal activity, a self-integrating ritual.
While the act of coloring moves your focus from your thoughts and feelings (aka your stressors) to the present moment, mandalas add a contemplative, centering component. Case in point: a recent study of cancer patients who used mandala coloring as art therapy reported significant increases in emotional acceptance and decreased depressive symptoms.
Add in the fact that as grown-ups, we don’t have to sweat someone telling us to stay in the lines, and coloring is the perfect way to relax. Forget Color Me Badd … color me calm.
- 3 Reasons Adult Coloring Can Actually Relax Your Brain (Cleveland Clinic)
- Best Adult Coloring Books – A Gift Guide For Yourself (Hello Amber)