How Coloring Can Help Reduce Stress
A post from our Stress Management blog
When was the last time you picked up some pens or pencils and did some coloring? The chances are that unless you've been playing with youngsters, you've not done any coloring since your childhood.
Yet adult coloring has made a huge comeback all around the world with adults rediscovering exactly what made this such an enjoyable activity. But coloring is more than just fun, it's also an effective way to manage stress. And it's these healing qualities which are the reason why coloring is such a hit.
Using art as therapy is nothing new; it's been a recognized form of treatment for many years. Art therapy can be used in a range of settings to great effect, from those suffering with mental health issues or elderly patients with dementia. It's even been shown to have benefit to those struggling with diseases such as cancer.
There are many different types of art therapy, but the central theme is based on using creative expression to help manage emotions and stress levels. The emphasis is on the process rather than the end result, but nevertheless, those with less creative ability may feel daunted about giving art therapy a go.
This is where coloring can provide a solution as it allows the individual to use their creativity with color, but removes the intimidation of not being a skilled artist.
While coloring is often not included as a formal type of art therapy, practitioners in this area agree that the activity provides genuine therapeutic value. For individuals who would benefit from art therapy, coloring provides a viable alternative but without any pressure.
Connecting with your inner child
When you were a child, the chances were that you had very few real worries in your life rather than being able to play for longer and stay out with your friends. As adults, we look back on our formative years wistfully and with a sense of fondness.
Carrying out an activity which formed a fundamental part of your childhood provides the ability to reconnect with yourself as a child. It's like walking into your old school; even the familiarity of the smell brings all the old memories rushing back!
Coloring is an activity which simply isn't required as an adult. When did you last have a work-related task which meant that you had to color in a picture? It's just not something we do as adults.
Therefore when you pick up your pens, pencils or crayons and begin to color, you'll discover an instant connection to your younger self. Coloring is incredibly liberating as you'll feel the same sense of freedom and pure enjoyment that you did as a child. It enables you to access the emotions and feelings hidden in your subconscious and allows you to once again experience the stress-free joy of childhood fun.
What goes on in the mind
Although coloring does invoke childhood memories and instantly provides those feel-good sensations, it actually provides so much more.
Neuropsychologists, who have studied the effect that coloring has on the brain, suggest that it provides a similar effect to meditation. Research shows that coloring causes physiological changes to take place, including changes in the brainwaves and heart rate.
This effect is believed to occur due to the repetitive nature of coloring and the need to pay full attention to the tiny details. A similar result is found in knitters, another activity which is repetitive and calming.
With coloring, there's also the need to think about many elements. The colors you're using, the edges of the design, paying attention to what you're doing - all of these things use the same part of the brain which anxiety can affect. The cerebral cortex is used to focus to use your fine motor skills and coordinate your vision, and it reduces the activity of the amygdala, the place where anxiety arises.
By coloring, you're keeping your brain so busy that anxiety doesn't have a chance to intrude!
The chance to switch off
Coloring is simple yet demanding, as you'll need to pay attention to the colors you're using and staying within the lines. These simple facts are what produces the feelings of calm, and offers an escape from everyday stress. While your problems may not change, coloring provides the chance to forget about them for a short while.
It's also possible to use coloring as a means of listening to important information more carefully. Some people struggle to listen without fidgeting; it's why doodling is quite so common. Coloring is an alternative to doodling and leaves the brain free to listen to the information. It's such an effective distraction that some places such as colleges keep coloring books on hand for those who find it hard to concentrate.
Get your coloring groove on!
If you've not yet tried adult coloring, you'll find there's a huge amount of choice now. The market has grown from being a niche activity to something that's far more mainstream and widespread.
The benefit of this is that you'll find an enormous choice of coloring materials available, specifically designed for the adult market. You won't need to resort to coloring childish pictures to get the benefits of managing stress.
There is even a new market which has appeared which offers profanity coloring, with slightly ruder images and words which are definitely for adult-eyes only! While this particular genre of coloring won't be for everyone, if you are prone to the occasional cuss and want to get it out of your system, what better way than coloring it in….?!
What you choose as your coloring implements is really up to you. Crayons offer vibrant color but for many, lack the precision that is necessary for the more intricate designs. Pens or pencils both work very well, but you'll need to consider the type of paper you are coloring in. Using markers or pens with an alcohol content may soak through the page, destroying your Zen-like calm so carefully cultivated!
Join the coloring revolution
Whether you're highly stressed or just need a distraction from time to time, coloring is a great activity that anyone can enjoy. You don't need to be artistic to enjoy being creative with color and it will leave you with a chilled out feeling that will benefit you overall.
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