Coloring for stress relief has been a thing for several years now, and it’s continuing to grow in popularity. Every time I go into the bookstore, it seems that there are more coloring books than there were the last time. At last count there were no less than 3 tables devoted to adult coloring books.
But does it work? I know several people who say it did nothing for them and others who swear by it. So who’s right? Is it an individual thing or does it matter how and what you color? The short answer is: It depends.
On the most basic level, this is what you need:
Beyond that, there are a few things you need to know and consider before you try coloring for stress relief.
I love me some coloring. I love it so much that I bought special colored pencils that practically deposit the color on the page for me and give me incredible control over shading. Not that you need fancy tools to benefit from coloring, but if you have tools you love they’ll make you more likely to sit down and color, and most of us could use as much motivation we can get. For example, I was perfectly happy using an old set of colored pencils and was getting a lot of stress relief from my coloring but I wanted a few more color options. Upon hearing of my desire for more color, my husband pulled out a small old set of colored pencils he’d had (that I somehow didn’t know about) and let me use them. They were heaven and the old set I’d been perfectly happy with suddenly seemed incredibly difficult to use… Kind of like mixing cookie dough by hand after you’ve finally experienced the ease of using an electric mixer. So we bought a larger set of the heavenly pencils for me to use and I now color even more than I did before.
So… motivation is important. The most important motivation is that you enjoy coloring. After that, you need a desire to find an enjoyable way to relieve some stress. Those are the most important motivators. But as you’ve seen, quality tools can provide additional motivation as can the images themselves.
The images. I could go on and on about the images in some of the coloring books, but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say, the best images to color for stress relief are mandalas and mosaics. Their lack of clear image allows the rational grass-is-green-and-sky-is-blue part of your brain to disengage. This allows the creative part of your brain to come out to play. Some mandalas and mosaics will have distinct images within them, and that’s ok as long as you don’t worry about coloring them the “right” color… try leaving them white or coloring them a fantastical color.
Coloring mandalas and mosaics can be a form of mindfulness meditation and mindfulness meditation has proven stress relieving benefits.
That covers the what, so let’s move on to the how.
When coloring mandalas and mosaics the first thing to remember is this: Forget what color things are supposed to be. Don’t worry what the final image will look like. You want to be creative without trying to be creative.
Here’s how you do that:
By the time you’ve finished coloring the page, your breathing should have slowed and deepened. Your thoughts should also have slowed considerably. You’ll feel calmer, centered, and more grounded, as if you’d just finished meditating. Congratulations, you’ve successfully used coloring as a form of stress relief.
There are a few scenarios that will keep your coloring activity from relieving stress:
The wonderful thing about the popularity of coloring is that you can find coloring books filled with just about anything you might be interested in. There are books of Celtic mandalas, abstract flowers, nature mosaics, mythologically themed abstracts and mosaics, Indian mandalas, and many more.
So what are you waiting for? Go out to your local independent bookstore (or if there isn’t one in your town visit the big chain or online store) and get yourself a lovely coloring book and some colored pencils and color your way to less stress.