Adult colouring in books have become all the rage. They are everywhere and demand is outstripping supply.
So what is going on? Do colouring in books really relieve stress or is it just another passing fad that we’ll look back on in a year or too and ask ourselves, “Did we really do that?”
Clearly colouring in has grabbed people’s attention and offers a welcome relief for eyes tired of looking at computer screens and looking for some gentle R and R.
So let’s look at some of the reasons why colouring might just work as a form of stress relief.
1. It’s doing something different, away from our ‘usual’ routine.
Now that doesn’t have to be colouring in, any form of diversion such as exercise, getting out into green space, watching a movie, meeting up for a coffee with a friend would all achieve the same thing. There are multiple other creative forms of relaxation. My mother did crotchet, my mother-in-law knitted, I have friends who make the most exquisite quilts or do embroidery. Other relaxing activities include jigsaws, painting, sketching, cartooning, carpentry, the list is endless.
2. It’s spending some focused time on an activity.
As above, forcing ourselves to pay attention to a particular task will in this instance divert our attention from other things, especially if our perfectionist tendencies demand we don’t stray over the black lines.
3. It’s engaging with colour.
Psychologists and art therapists have recognised how colour can have a significant impact on our mood. Our choice of colour in our art works can be used to convey emotion.
As a kid I used to treasure my Staedtler coloured pencils which I kept in a special case, closely guarded to prevent others nicking my favourite colours or disturbing the order in which they were kept. (Yes, perfectionist and OCD tendencies started young!)
4. It’s engaging with a creative process.
Giving ourselves permission as grown ups to do something we might otherwise perceive as childish can be hugely liberating, and fun! One negative is that the creativity is partly prescribed, all you have to follow someone else’s design, beautiful as it might be. Why not create your own?
When we activate the pleasure networks in our brain we experience reward and a higher level of dopamine, which makes us feel good and we note that this could be a good thing to repeat because of the pleasure it affords us.
The same can be found with eating chocolate (assuming you like the stuff) or spending time with someone we find attractive, or even playing a video game.
5. It’s engaging the brain.
Colouring in activates a number of different brain areas in both hemispheres because we are applying logic and creativity. We engage our focused attention, our visual cortex and area used for fine motor skills.
This focus along with our imagination distracts us from other worrying thoughts. This helps to reduce activity in the amygdala, part of the limbic system that is associated with the generation of emotion and triggering the stress response of fight, flight or freeze. Hence the ‘de-stressing’ effect.
I guess if you like colouring in and don’t obsess too much about getting the colours exactly right or fretting about making a ’mistake’, adult colouring in probably deserves a place in the toolbox of stress relieving strategies.
For now, I’m off to our local artist’s supply shop, they’ve got some beautiful new crayons in that I really fancy trying out.
Have you tried adult colouring in books as a means to alleviate stress?
Has your workplace suggested it?
What other methods of stress relief do you find effective?
Do you think adult colouring in is a fad or a trend?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.