Ever feel stressed? Is that a silly question to ask? Yeah, it definitely is. All of us feel stressed at one point or another. I can think of plenty of stressors I face on an hourly basis a day sometimes. Now, hearing that, you may think: “Oh she’s probably always on edge.” That’s what anyone would think. But that’s not true at all. How, you might be wondering? I’ll give you my secret. Listen closely.
COLORING. Yes, you heard me right. I color when I am stressed. I have always been the artistic type since the moment I could hold a crayon in my hand. I find enjoyment in picking up a piece of paper and getting out my pastels, pens, and colored pencils. What I find most relaxing about coloring is the focus. It’s not a focus like trying to memorize a definition. It’s a focus on the picture I am creating. I get to decide what colors to use, where to use them, and what technique I will use with each color. There are no mistakes in art. Anything goes. That’s what I love about it. How can you be stressed when you’re creating your own image and you don’t have to worry about “messing up?”
As soon as I noticed the therapeutic benefits from coloring I was experiencing, I began my research on the concept. Was coloring just for kids and the artsy fartsy? Well, this is what I found…
You are NOT too old to color. It is becoming a popular trend among publishers to create adult coloring books. So, why should adults color when a little sh*t hits the fan? According to an article called “Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress” published by the Huffington Post, coloring triggers areas of the brain that control motor skills relative to creativity and our senses.
The article goes on to discuss the artistic approach of Carl G. Jüng on the idea of using coloring as a way to reduce stress. A twentieth century psychologist who was the first to use the mandalas technique, Jüng created drawings of geometric patterns symbolic of the universe. This technique was commonly used within Indian religions. Using the various colors to fill in each unique shape required concentration and creative direction. Focusing on a task forces you to live in the present. There is no time to dwell on past experiences or predict future happenings. You just look at what is in front of you and take action.
This concept was not newly developed. Several people today have become skeptical of Jüng’s techniques and ideas. Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala explored this theory a little further. If coloring does in fact have a therapeutic benefit tied to it, how is this occurring? By what process in the human mind can this be possible? According to Dr. Ayala’s research, coloring reduces stress through stimulation of the cerebral cortex and amygdala. The part of the brain that handles emotion is the amygdala. When the activity of this part of the brain lessens, stress is reduced because it processes fewer emotions.
Think about it this way. When you color you are focused on what is in front of you, not what happened twenty minutes prior or what’s about to happen in twenty minutes. You are focused on the present. When you put all of your attention towards something that has already happened or something that could happen, you become stressed. So if it’s that easy to just get twenty minutes to an hour of stress-free time, why don’t more people try this therapy?
Coloring is commonly associated with children. People typically do not consider it an age appropriate activity; however, with the emergence of adult coloring books across Europe and the United States, more and more adults are trying out this therapeutic hobby. It’s been reported that even though coloring can’t erase your stress away, it can relieve it significantly. And that’s not just for people with a natural creative eye. You don’t have to be an artist to color. You just need to apply a little bit of focus and use your imagination. Sometimes it’s good to have an escape from reality at times. We all need that.
…So why not try it? Pick up an adult coloring book. Ain’t no shame in the coloring game.