Adults Who Color Are WAY Less Stressed, According To Study

Photo: Getty 
Adults Who Color Are WAY Less Stressed, According To Science

One of the most fun things to do when you're babysitting or hanging out with your own children is to color with them. You can work on one picture together or each of you can have their own picture.

And now, adults are coloring on their own with coloring books specifically marketed to them.

Adult coloring books are extremely popular. Johanna Basford's coloring book, Secret Garden, was a global best-seller, as were her books Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean. One reason these books are so popular is that they offer a break from looking at computers and other devices.

Photo: Johanna Basford

"People are really excited to do something analog and creative, at a time when we're all so overwhelmed by screens and the Internet," Basford said in an NPR interview.

Basford's fans are encouraged to post their completed works on her website.

Photo: Johanna Basford

One of the first psychologists to apply coloring as a relaxation technique was Carl G. Jüng in the early 20th century. He did this through mandalas (circular designs with concentric shapes similar to the Gothic churches' rose windows).

When we color, we activate different areas in our two cerebral hemispheres, says psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala.

"The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress," Martinez Ayala said.

This is an adult coloring book that's only mandalas:

​Photo: Amazon

One study examined a method of decreasing anxiety called Coloring Therapy, which combined elements of art therapy and meditation. The basic idea of coloring therapy is that when individuals color complex geometric forms, they're given an opportunity to suspend their inner dialogue and deeply engage in an activity that removes them from the flow of negative thoughts and emotions that can take over their lives.

84 college students participated in the study, and took a test to measure their baseline anxiety levels. They then upped those levels by writing about frightening experiences. The participants were randomly assigned to color a blank page, a plaid design or a mandala.

The researchers found that those who colored the plaid or mandala patterns reduced the level of their anxiety, while those who colored a blank page did not.

"There's something about the mandala that is particularly soothing for people," said Lacy Mucklow, an art therapist and author of multiple coloring books, in an interview with USA Today. These books contain mandalas and other geometric patterns, but also nature scenes of babies and cute animals.

Photo: Amazon

Coloring can bring us back to a simpler time, and remind us of the easier and happier times of childhood. A time when we didn't have as many responsibilities, and could do something because it was fun. To be able to tap into that time of your life is very cathartic and enjoyable. 

Geometric designs, animals, and gardens may not be what interests you. If you have a more dystopian point of view, you might enjoy Patrick McGilligan's Lethargic Artist Coloring Book.

The Huffington Post compares McGilligan's style of drawing to that of R. Crumb and George Grosz, calling it "the visual equivalent of a Charles Bukowski novel.

Photo: Amazon

Adult coloring books are beneficial in many ways: they can be therapeutic, relaxing, calming, problem-solving and can lower your anxiety. No matter what you're looking for in an adult coloring book, you're sure to find it. 

And don't worry about coloring inside the lines — it's not about precision, it's about chilling out and having fun.

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