In high school, I took a coloring book and crayons to occupy my spare time during standardized testing days. Even then, I knew that coloring calmed my anxiety over the extensive testing and made me feel creative and confident, even if I didn’t know all the answers on the test. Some bored friends asked for a page and some crayons, and soon my classmates were bringing coloring books and crayons of their own to soothe their minds after testing.
Now it seems like we were onto something. Adult coloring books have existed for a while, but now they are rising in popularity, with much of the credit going to social media for spreading the word. Today, adult coloring books take up 7 of the top 20 Best Selling Books on Amazon. You can even subscribe to the Monthly Coloring Club to receive coloring books delivered to your door each month, and take coloring classes (yes, apparently that’s a thing). This trend is not limited to the US. In France, thousands of adults have been indulging in coloring since Hachette published Art-Thérapie: 100 Coloriages Anti-Stress.
So what’s the big deal? Why are adults around the world picking up crayons and colored pencils again? Is it part of society’s desire to reject responsibility, escape reality and regress back into childhood? Some critics express this concern, but there are some pretty legitimate reasons why coloring appeals to adults. I revisited the world of coloring to experience them for myself.
1. It’s fun.
Adult coloring books frequently feature complex images that give you freedom to express creativity with color without being tied to real-life representations. While we may feel the need to be realistic about the color of the sky and grass in a child’s coloring book, adult coloring books frequently abstract their subjects or use a mandala/henna pattern style of representation to remove us from the restrictions of reality. This means there’s just enough freedom for us to feel like we have a say in how the picture looks without the pressure and intimidation of free painting or drawing, which can create more anxiety than peace if you are a perfectionist without drawing and painting skill.
2. Artistic expression is therapeutic.
Adults are stressed. I doubt anyone reading this would attempt to make a case against that statement, but just in case, here are a few articles on the consequences of workplace stress and how stress can even make you sick. Art therapy, in different forms, has shown to decrease the physical side effects of stress, and adult coloring books have even been used to treat PTSD. It’s been proven that creative expression is a healthy way to calm, relax and even heal the mind. The repetitive motion of coloring, the fact that it is all contained and under your control and the expression of creativity, emotion and self through coloring combine to make it an excellent way to alleviate stress.
Throughout the day, we demand our minds to focus on several things at once and bounce from one to the other quickly. When you try to unwind from the day, you may find your mind still racing from one thing to another, making it difficult to relax. Adult coloring books allow you to put all your attention into one task. Sure, you can put on music or listen to TV in the background, or even have conversations with friends, but your attention will be mostly absorbed by the complexity of the picture at hand. It mimics the way that meditation (intentional mental focus) can heal, calm and empty the mind.
3. It makes you feel creative and confident.
Creating art has become a hobby for stressed adults. You can book a painting class, walk in with no skill and walk out with your own work of art shortly thereafter. It’s a fun experience that requires no skill, but makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something in the end. Similarly, coloring a preprinted image doesn’t require much skill, but it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something, giving your self-confidence a little boost. Depending on the pattern and picture you choose and the number of colors you want to incorporate, it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to three or four hours.
All this relaxation, creativity and focus can help you be more productive at work, rest better at night and reduce stress. So grab a book and get to coloring!
Have you tried adult coloring books? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
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Charlotte Stapp Price – Marketing Coordinator