What’s Up with all the Coloring Books?

Coloring books for adults are popping up in stores just about everywhere these days. I’ve seen these books in Barnes and Noble, Sam’s, Costco and some of the dollar stores, and wondered why they all the rage. Especially regarding the mental health benefits associated with an activity once considered for children only.

It doesn’t require expensive paints, brushes, stretched canvasses, or special lighting to use these books… No art lessons are required either.  Simply select an appropriate color and stay within the lines — initially at least.

I know what I’m talking about here.  I purchased two adult coloring books the other day along with a box of color pencils, and got busy with some personalized, adult research on the matter.  I had read that yogis recommend coloring books for relaxation and associated meditation, and decided that I wanted to know more about this creative alternative to meditating.  It didn’t take long to get involved in what is known as “art therapy.”

I also learned about the American Art Therapy Association of mental health professionals, who help people create art as a way of improving their lives. This association helps people “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.”

What a thrill is was for me to realize that special coloring books are key tools in the practice of art therapy!  And it becomes especially helpful when an individual teams up with a therapist trained in this process to examine expressed goals, including reduction of anxiety and stress, learning how to focus, being more mindful of what’s around you, and staying present in the moment.

While many of us discovered years ago that colorful doodling can be relaxing, working with geometric or pictorial designs called mandalas take it to a whole new level.  A good adult coloring book offers intricate mandalas designed to switch off the individual’s brain from other thoughts thus encouraging the special energy that results from intense focus.  Also note that color pencils are far better that crayons when “tuning in” to your newly emerging art gene.  Pencils allow you to be more precise because you can blend, shade and add highlights and lowlights to your geometric designs.

This can be most effective for people who seldom participate in drawing, painting, decorating, cooking or even gardening.  The act of adding color to an image on paper feels safe for most people who normally are not comfortable participating in a creative process and enjoying the tranquility that most artists enjoy.

So, if you or someone you know is struggling with nagging mental or emotional issues consider talking to a certified art therapist to help work things out.  But if you just need to relax or get more focused, pick up an adult coloring book, some colorful pencils and get busy in a good kind of way.

Lisa Burbage

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