Although the adult coloring trend might seem like a recent fad, Carl Jung used coloring over a hundred years ago as a tool for relaxation and self-discovery — by having his patients color Indian mandalas (circular designs with concentric shapes.)
Though he mainly used coloring for relaxation, recent studies indicate that coloring can help you:
- Relax (and sleep better)
- Lower your stress levels
- Be more creative
- Improve your focus and attention span
- Safeguard or improve your cognitive abilities
- Feel you have a higher “quality of life”
Is it really viable as an alternative to traditional meditation?
Studies have shown that biophysical markers (like heart rate and brain waves) during coloring mirror other activities that control your attention or focus (such as meditation.)
While coloring is certainly not the same thing as meditation, it can offer an alternative for those unable to find that “uplifting” sense of well-being through traditional meditation. For these people, coloring offers:
- A feeling of comfort with the familiar, with the repetition, with the attention to pattern and detail.
- An option to their current negative or stressed thoughts (Since we can’t hold two different thoughts or images in our heads at the same time, coloring encourages your attention to replace whatever negative thoughts, images, and feelings you’re holding onto, with pleasant ones – that are fully inside your control.)
Let’s look closer at what coloring might be able to offer YOU:
✓ Improvement in fine motor skills
We naturally try to become better at what we do, and the act of coloring engages two different hemispheres of the brain – the logical side (figuring out which areas are colored to match other areas) and the creative side (choosing, blending and matching the colors to use.) It’s an easy way to exercise the areas of the brain involved in vision and fine motor skills.
✓ Reduced feelings of anxiety
Coloring reduces the activity in the area of the brain responsible for our emotions in response to stress. In fact, studies suggest coloring can benefit all levels of stress, ranging from mild anxiety to PTSD:
Coloring has been used as part of an art-therapy regimen to help vets deal with anxiety and PTSD. Studies have found coloring an effective stress-reduction technique for university students. And numerous studies have shown coloring can induce a meditative state that benefits anxiety sufferers.
✓ A healthier brain with increased ability to focus
When we color, we creatively come up with a color pattern and then logically figure out what areas should be what colors. Combine that with the simple mechanics of staying inside the lines… and we are left with is a fuller awareness of the moment.
While it has long been thought that coloring may help delay or prevent the onset of dementia in the elderly, it is also being recognized as a focus tool for those that are younger as well.
Those that are very visually-oriented can use coloring to help focus on the moment and retain auditory information:
- Students have greater retention when listening to a lecture
- Office-workers become more engaged during brainstorming sessions
- It seems that coloring might be an effective tool for anyone with problems related to attention and focus.
✓ A “Pattern-Interrupt” for bad moods or feelings
Coloring provides us with great insight into our underlying feelings. Depending on our mood, we choose different colors or “intensities.” But in addition to being able to MONITOR our feelings, coloring actually allows us to change them – allowing even those who are depressed to feel happier.
Researchers are now finding that coloring can be used to significantly decrease symptoms of physical and emotional distress to those undergoing treatment for cancer. Multiple studies have pointed to a large number of cancer patients finding comfort in the simple act of coloring. During times of being emotionally overwhelmed, people are able to feel like they are in control of the outcome when they color.
✓ Greater sense of health and well-being
Coloring is one of the activities that has been found to stimulate the neurological system and give people a greater overall sense of health and well-being.
✓ A great night-time activity
If you are looking for a family activity, coloring before bed can be a shared fun activity that provides more engagement than watching TV. Also, since we have all heard about how exposure to the blue light from your electronic devices can impact your circadian rhythm (and sleep cycle), coloring provides an alternate activity to calm you down before bed.
✓ A great tool, even if it’s not a cure-all
As with anything that has been attributed with so many benefits, some experts express caution and say that coloring should not be thought of as “The Solution.”
Even though there are many health benefits to eating broccoli, your diet should include more than that. In the same way, coloring can be one tool in your tool belt. A very simple to use, seemingly very effective tool