There is a growing trend out there that is bringing millions of adults back to the joy of childhood. Adult coloring books appearing in bookstores and other coffee shops around the world, and it has many people taking notice. While it may seem like an interesting hobby or a silly fad to most, others are saying that this could be more important than we think.
Adult coloring books are not just regular old coloring books with more adult-themed pictures. They feature more intricate designs, a wider variety of selections and even higher-quality paper. They are also not the same as the color-by-number books you may have seen. Adult coloring books require high levels of attention and detail, and they can unlock a creative nature in anyone.
Not only could they bring back your inner child, they also provide a wonderful artistic outlet for anyone. Claims have also been made that they can be beneficial for a person’s mental health. There is already a school of thought that creating art can be used as a form of therapy.
Some therapists are beginning to speak about adult coloring books and their potential as a therapeutic tool. In fact, many have already been using this type of therapy for years. You may have heard of the term “art therapy” before, but most people are unclear about exactly what it is. Just for the record, we got the definition directly from the source.
According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is: “a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.”
That may just sound like regular therapy with some artistic stuff thrown in. Well, it kind of is. The process of art therapy is very similar to the process of therapy that most of us already familiar with. In turn, the benefits are very similar as well.
Adult Coloring Books and Art Therapy
While adult coloring books could be a very useful tool in the process of art therapy, the books without the therapist may not be as useful. As the trend continues to grow, so does the debate about their therapeutic value among therapists.
While many art therapists have come out strongly in support of adult coloring books and their benefits, not everyone agrees. The main dispute seems to be regarding the usefulness of these coloring books as opposed to art therapy as a profession.
The biggest difference is the lack of interaction when one only uses a coloring book without being part of a therapy session. During these sessions, a trained therapist may use them as a tool to help the patient’s growth. However, without the therapist, many believe the benefits are greatly diminished.
Drena Fagen, an art therapist and instructor at New York University’s Steihardt School spoke exactly to this sentiment in a recent interview, saying “I don’t consider the coloring books as art therapy; I consider the coloring books therapeutic, which is not the same thing.”
Although the art therapy community may disagree on the new trend of adult coloring books and how it relates to their profession, that does not mean they are not helpful. You may not be able to cure all your mental ailments with colored pencils, but there are many clear benefits of using adult coloring books.
Genesis of Adult Coloring
While the dispute about adult coloring books as a form of therapy continues to grow today, the idea actually goes back decades. Carl Jung, who is viewed as one of the father’s of modern psychology, recommended coloring as early as the 1930s. He would often “prescribe” it to his patients as a method of accessing their sub-conscious and recognizing greater self-knowledge.
The modern adult coloring trend started a bit differently. Although adult coloring books have been available as a niche market for hobbies since 2012, the recent trend seems to have begun in the usual modern fashion: as a marketing campaign.
Beloved crayon manufacturer Crayola recently began creating and releasing coloring books for adults, and the idea took off. It has been so successful that they now have an entire line of adult colored pencils, markers and coloring books called Crayola Escapes.
Benefits of Coloring for Grown-ups
Although you may not be creating a masterpiece, coloring can unlock many benefits in even the least artistic among us. A few of these benefits include:
- Helping relieve stress and anxiety levels
- Releasing and expelling negative thoughts
- Helping your brain to enter a meditative state
- Helping achieve mindfulness by keeping you in the present
- Bringing you back to a simpler time in life
- Unlocking a level of creativity that you did not know was there
Some claim that coloring can even be a form of meditation. Coloring does cause many effects that are similar to a meditative state. In creates a sense of great focus that takes one away from all the thoughts and worries of the present. This focus is directed at one simple and singular thing that then takes precedence in the mind.
In a recent article about coloring as a form of therapy, neoropsychologist Dr. Stan Rodski said, “Like meditation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment. Tasks with predictable results, such as coloring or knitting, can often be calming.”
Dr. Rodski does have an interest in the field of adult coloring, as he owns his own line of adult coloring books. This would make one skeptical about his beliefs, but he has done extensive scientific research on the topic. In a later interview with the Australian Broadcast Corporation, he spoke about some of his studies.
“The most amazing things occurred — we started seeing changes in heart rate, changes in brainwaves. There are three key elements—repetition, pattern and detail—that prompt positive neurological responses in participants. When you have things that you can predict will happen in a certain way, it’s calming for us.”
Whether he is biased or not, this does make sense.
Coloring in the Treatment of Mental Illness
It has been said that the use of adult coloring books can be helpful in the treatment of many mental health problems. In many instances, lack of focus and structure are key triggers for individuals. The effort, focus and time that it takes to color can help to take the person away from the negative habits and redirect their minds in a more positive direction. This is can be especially helpful in cases of:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Stress disorders
- Eating disorders
- Anger management
- Substance abuse issues
- and many others
“These activities can help tremendously with individuals with PTSD, anxiety, and stress issues, as they calm down our amygdala. This is the part of the brain that controls our fight or flight response, and keeps individuals in a heightened state of worry, panic, and hyper-vigilance, when it is active. Coloring and focusing on this harmless and calming activity can actually turn that response down, and let your brain have some much needed rest and relaxation. This can be an exceptionally productive and welcome outlet for these individuals.”
How Adult Coloring Books Could Benefit You
Even if you do not suffer from any of the above mental health problems, coloring could still have many benefits. There have been many recent studies showing evidence that coloring can significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels.
This happens because coloring focuses the brain on simple activity. When this occurs, the brain relaxes and we become less aware of our current stresses and problems. It requires a certain repetition and attention to detail that takes us away from all the normal worries of the world.
If nothing else, coloring can take you back to a simpler time in life when all that mattered was cartoons and candy. Reconnecting with the feelings of childhood can be very cathartic and can help relieve a lot of tension and anxiety that can be brought about in the normal, grown-up world. It can also tap old feelings and memories of a times before cell phone and social media.
Similarly to the effect it has on children, coloring can replace negative thoughts with more constructive ones. It takes a lot of focus and concentration to select the right color, stay within the edges and making everything just right. Although it may not seem like a lot, at least you won’t be concentrating on bills and work.
Give it a Shot
The great thing about adult coloring as a form of therapy is the fact that it has no known side-effects. Even if it does not have all of the great benefits we discussed here, at least you will have made a pretty picture.