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Colour Outside the Lines

Adult colouring books have become all the rage the last couple years. Where you might expect to find children, you find adults surrounded by pencil crayons. Many adult colouring books have even become bestsellers. What makes adult colouring books so special? You should try it and find out for yourself on August 2nd - National Colouring Book Day.

Adult colouring requires modest attention focused outside of self-awareness. It is a simple activity that takes attention away from you and onto the present-moment event. When we focus like this, our brain and body relax because we are not disturbed by our life stresses. In the same way, cutting the lawn, knitting, or taking a Sunday drive can all be relaxing. Research has shown that colouring mandalas decreases anxiety levels more so then simple doodling had with the same individuals. Colouring is also great for exercising our problem solving and fine motor skills. We use both hemispheres of the brain, right and left when we colour; we are thinking about balance, color choices, and applying colored pencil to paper. We can also make this a social activity by colouring with friends and family. So maybe instead of doing a book club you can switch it up and try a colouring club!

Although there are many benefits to colouring many have misinterpreted it as a form of art therapy. Art therapy is done with a mental health professional in which the process of making and creating artwork is used to explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, etc. So colouring may be therapeutic but it is not art therapy. Some people can find colouring overwhelming, causing their anxiety to increase. Rather than starting with an intricate colouring book, maybe start by colouring less complex designs on the computer with digital programs and work your way to paper when you’re ready.

There are colouring books for all types of interests making it a great activity for anyone to start. Just remember to keep your posture in mind while you colour as you might find yourself in need of your Chiropractor!

Nancy A. Curry BA & Tim Kasser PhD (2005) Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety?, Art Therapy, 22:2, 81-85.

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