By: Jomel Bajar, PT, DPT, MS
On March 19, 2020, Mayor Becky Ames ordered the city of Beaumont to take measures to reduce the possibility of exposures to COVID-19 and promote the health and safety of Beaumont residents. Around the globe, this pandemic changed the way we live; and for some, allowed us to reach inside ourselves and re- discover a newfound creativity.
People practicing social distancing and stay at home are now turning to coloring books. Yes, you read it right. What used to be a childhood past time is now taking the adult world by storm. Secret Garden, which was a coloring book made by artist Johanna Basford alone, sold 12 million copies worldwide. It is well supported by several studies the therapeutic effects of coloring books to all ages, especially adults. You may ask; what are in adult coloring books that people see them as appealing and “therapeutic” in this current time?
With the state of the world today, it’s no surprise that the rates of people having anxiety disorders has been increasing more than ever. According to Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who also owns his own line of adult coloring books, coloring allows people to get away from their anxious thoughts and helps them to focus on the moment the same way that meditation helps people to be in the present. Coloring, for the record, cannot cure anxiety but coloring can help people cope with it. In fact, coloring occupies the same parts of the brain that controls anxiety related mental imagery. Dr Joel Pearson, a brain scientist from the University of New South Wales, said that coloring helps people with anxiety by replicating their negative thoughts with pleasant ones. When the mind is focused on a creative activity like coloring, the worrisome mind tends to go away. Coloring puts the mind to play and what it does is that it activates neurochemicals such as serotonin which makes people feel calm and more positive. In addition, a task with predictable results like coloring, allows people to be just content on what they are doing and stay focus on the present moment. A research from the University of Otago also attest to the benefits of coloring after finding lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms in their participants after a week of coloring a logic puzzle group.
Besides reducing symptoms of anxiety, adult coloring books gives people a chance to reflect and allows them to add creativity in their life. Although coloring is not as complicated and does not require as much skills as other artforms, coloring is still an act of creative expression. Zorana Ivcevic, a researcher from Yale University, discovered that people who live a “creative lifestyle” tend to be more conscientious and more likely to seek personal growth. This may be due to the fact that the creative process behind an artwork requires a lot of self-reflection which also is done in coloring no matter how simple it is. According to psychologist Scott Barry Kaufaman, adult coloring books can also provide people with a way to “flex their creativity”. Not everyone is given opportunities to show their artistic capabilities nor not everyone has great artistic abilities. Coloring gives people a chance to add some color and creativity in their lives, especially those people who are less artsy than others. Coloring is also therapeutic in the sense that it helps people escape from their hardships in life. Even if it is just a few minutes or an hour in a day; coloring books give people the chance to rest their mind and reset. It allows them to escape from the stressful problems of life no matter how heavy it is.
Coloring books may not cure diseases, but it can surely do the job of making people feel better. Through different research and studies, coloring has been proven to improve mood, reduce mental health stress and enhance mindfulness. But aside from these benefits, coloring also shows how important it is to give time for our creative pursuits.
With how serious and scary the world has become, “coloring” can help us get in touch with our younger selves and remind us of what it likes to be carefree in the world. It gives us a safe place to express ourselves and be free at that moment. Coloring may not be everyone’s idea of fun, however, it will surely give us a new level of happiness and contentment. While we isolate ourselves in the midst of this pandemic – try grabbing a set of coloring books and unleash your creativity. Re-discover a new you! Stay safe !
Shainna Ali Ph.D.,”Are Adult Coloring Books Actually Helpful” (Mar.27.2018)
Jordan Gaines Lewis. "Neuroscientist Patiently Explains the Allure of the Adult Coloring Book”(Jan.10.2016)