Coloring For Adults is a Healthy Hobby

Coloring For Adults is a Healthy Hobby


Adult Coloring Book: Butterflies and Flowers – Stress Relieving Patterns

Coloring used to be reserved for children and the occasional adult who got to babysit them, but recently, the activity has found a different demographic.

What started as a niche hobby has now turned into an international trend, as adult coloring books find themselves on more and more bestsellers’ lists throughout the world. However, while this trend may be a fun way to pass the time, it’s the books’ therapeutic properties that really have them flying off shelves.

Art may not be able to cure disease, but it can surely make coping with it a lot better. Researchers have acknowledged the therapeutic qualities of art for years, and today, art therapy is used to help people express themselves when what they’re feeling is too difficult to put into words, such as when they’re faced with a cancer diagnosis.



Art Has Healing Power


Research shows this form of therapy often has tangible results. One 2006 study, for example, found that mindfulness art therapy for women with cancer helped to significantly decrease symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment. Another study from the same year concluded that after only one hour of art therapy, adult cancer patients of all ages “overwhelmingly expressed comfort” and a desire to continue with the therapy.

“People with cancer very often feel like their body has been taken over by the cancer. They feel overwhelmed,” Joke Bradt, a music therapist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, told Reuters. “To be able to engage in a creative process… that stands in a very stark contrast to sort of passively submitting oneself to cancer treatments.”

It’s not just those with cancer that can benefit from the visual arts, either. Art therapy is also helpful among people dealing with a variety of other conditions, such as depression, dementia, anxiety, and PTSD.

Art therapy often involves using an art medium as a tool to help address a patient’s specific problem, but as you might have observed in your high school art class, some individuals are more artistically gifted than others. Those who judge themselves as bad artists may be more likely to miss out on the benefits of art-based therapies. Adult coloring, therefore, presents a creative venture without the need for artistic flair. One simply needs to color within the lines in order to get the desired effect. However, some experts suggest it’s this lack of artistic input from patients that prevents adult coloring from being considered a genuine form of art therapy.

“It’s like the difference between listening to music versus learning how to play an instrument,” Donna Betts, president of the board of the American Art Therapy Association told The Guardian. “Listening to music is something easy that everyone can do, but playing an instrument is a whole other skillset.”

Drena Fagen, an art therapist and adjunct instructor at New York University’s Steinhardt School, shared Betts’ sentiments: “I don’t consider the coloring books as art therapy,” she told The Guardian. “I consider the coloring books therapeutic, which is not the same thing.”



Here’s What Happens When You Color:



You Slow Down


We live in a world where being busy is the norm, and we easily get overwhelmed and overloaded by ever growing “to-do” lists. When you take time to color, you are actually slowing down. You are not focusing on what needs to be done next, but just allowing yourself to do something at a much slower pace.


Your Breathing Changes


Most adults are unaware of how they breathe throughout the day. Most fall into a bad pattern of breathing shallow or even holding their breath unconsciously as they focus intently on certain. Shallow breathing can contribute to rising stress levels as it prevents the body from getting an adequate supply of oxygen, which stresses the body. And the busier you are, the more prone you will be to breathing shallowly. When you begin to color, the breathing slows and deepens and you take in more oxygen, leading to a reduction in stress.




You Forget About Problems


When coloring you are focused on that task, and not on the problems from the day. Sitting down and taking the time to color has actually been shown to calm the amygdala, the area of the brain that controls emotions and motivation. The reduction of activity in the amygdala can help lessen the effect of negative emotions and allow you to let go of your problems for awhile.



You Remove Excess Stimulation


With all of the technology that everyone has access to, people are constantly being exposed to external stimulation from television, cell phones, computers and more. This constant stream of stimulation can actually increase stress levels significantly because it causes us to be connected to others continuously and causes us to be exposed to noise and light for longer periods than normal.

When you take time to color, you reduce external stimulation, which in turn reduces stress. It is best that if you wish to reduce stress through coloring that you color without a lot of external noise, such as the television or loud music. Silence is the best for true stress relief while coloring, but soft music will not overwhelm your senses and create stress.



Coloring Boosts Creativity!


When you color a beautiful pattern, it feels good to see the color that you are adding, bring that picture to life!  Many people are choosing to spend time coloring because even short sessions with a coloring book have been shown to ramp up creativity and increase the ability to focus.



Just like meditation, coloring 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.

Coloring may not be the best thing since meditation, but it definitely can help to reduce your stress level and give you a break from the demands of life. Coloring books can be relatively inexpensive, and you can also find a lot of coloring pages online that are free to download.





Some Coloring Inspiration



To see some absolutely magical coloring, watch this video below which uses the coloring book Magic Jungle by Johanna Basford.





The artist, Chris Cheng colored with Prismacolor Premier 150 Colored Pencils, and also used a Uni-Ball Signo & Souffle Gel Pen in the coloring book Magic Jungle.





Tips on the Use of Color

A useful tool for a discussion about colors is a color wheel. This wheel is composed of the three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. Where the primary colors overlap, you’ll find the secondary colors orange, green and purple. In between are various other shades. 

If you want to achieve an amazing effect, try combining blue and orange for instance. If you prefer a more harmonious result, a combination of blue and purple would be a better idea.

How a color comes across partly depends on what colors surround it. A red area within a yellow surface will seem much darker than the same red area on a blue background.

If you keep these things in mind, you can play with color. For instance, try using contrasting colors to outline the bigger shapes, and then fill these in with harmonious colors.

Different colors evoke different emotions. Apart from personal preferences — what is your favorite color? — colors have a more universal psychological meaning. Well-known of course is that red stands for danger, passion, and fire, and white for purity and peace. But other colors also have a psychological effect.


Red: Danger, passion, love, fire

Blue: Power, dignity, clarity

Yellow: Energy, lightness, joy

Green: Nature, peace, fertility

Violet: Wisdom, spirituality, strength, healing


Associated with this topic is the so-called color temperature. Colors can be divided into warm and cool colors.

Warm colors are red, orange, yellow, and everything in between. Cool colors are blue, purple, green, and whatever shades are between them. In general, warm colors are seen as active, while cool colors are perceived as soothing. If you would like to give your coloring page an air of relaxation, choose many shades of blue and violet.




I hope you’ll give coloring a try.  It can be so enjoyable and relaxing.   Remember, you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy adult coloring, so don’t be intimidated.

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.

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.  Clinical psychologist Dr. Scott M. 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.”

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.




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