Coloring in books for adults are exploding in popularity around the globe and it looks like this trend is set to stay. These mandalas, and inked drawing books for adults are topping bestseller lists across the world.
Currently 5 out of the top 20 bestselling books on Amazon, are adult coloring in books.
Is this veritable craze and publishing phenomenon, the new meditation for the masses?
As an adult today, you are bombarded with social media, deadlines, wads of information, pressure to succeed, and demands on your time. Advertisers and online gurus say they have 3 to 4 seconds to capture your interest before your mind wanders. Your attention span if you’re lucky, is statistically speaking, about four minutes.
Your nervous system is probably frazzled and even with all the tremendous health inducing practices, supplements and health foods around today, this espresso fuelled lifestyle lived by most, is taking its toll. So, where do you go for respite from our modern world? It seems today stressed out adults are buying coloring in books in the droves.
Finding joy and relaxation in a world of coloring
Fuelled by the promise of mindfulness, inner child healing, peace, fun and relaxation, trendy coloring in books are flying off the shelves of book stores, gift outlets and even supermarkets. It seems adults are so stressed, that some of the usual go-to relaxation techniques are no longer working so well.
When your mind is racing, your heart is thumping and you’ve been in a state of adrenal stress for months, perhaps years, it can be deeply challenging to breathe, let go and relax. Even yoga can become a stress, as you try to keep up with the ever growing “yoga as fitness” movement.
One of the keys to the popularity of adult coloring in books is the ease, joy and relaxation they are bringing to overwhelmed, exhausted adults. Any one can color in. And its fun! We’ve all been a child lost in the reverie of colorful crayons.
Art washes away from the soul the dust of every day life. – Pablo Picasso
So are coloring in books portals to inner peace?
According to Cognitive Neuroscientist and coloring book author Dr Stan Rodski, there is a sound scientific basis to the benefits of coloring in. His own research has discovered that coloring in leads to heart and brain changes. Dr Rodski says that repetition, pattern and detail cause people to have beneficial neurological reactions which enhance stress relief. Other experts are saying that coloring in can ease insomnia, anxiety and depression.
One of the first psychologists to use coloring as a relaxation technique was Carl G. Jüng
Jung used mandalas in the early twentieth century and is said to have brought the eastern tradition to the West. He encouraged his clients to draw mandalas and referred to the mandala as “the psychological expression of the totality of the self.” Jung created mandala paintings and sketches over a period of 5 years post World War One that he felt mirrored his process and inner world at that time.
Research shows that coloring allows the amygdala, or fear centre of the brain to relax and reduces overall stress because of this. Of course coloring in promotes mindfulness and induces the alpha brain state, which promotes relaxation and restoration. Importantly this coloring in phenomenon is also taking people away from technology and social media. And heaven knows, we can all do with less tech time.
While there’s a coloring in book staring at you wherever you go nowadays, I wondered whether this new fad is as popular as it seems, so I surveyed a group of female entrepreneurs from 25 to 70 about their coloring in experiences. The response was varied from “totally love it” and “its is my top way of relaxing”, to: “coloring in makes me feel anxious and I don’t like staying within the lines.” Some people reported becoming completely absorbed in their mandalas and coloring in projects and said they “become fully present, time stands still and problems are forgotten.”
Interestingly there were two or three people who said it was anxiety inducing and attributed this to their personality types, and perfectionism mainly. Perhaps the more Type A personalities don’t enjoy coloring in. Small Business Owner Luba Carlson said she definitely doesn’t find it relaxing. “There are too many lines, lots of restrictions and it takes forever…what a waste of time.” Out of the group of ladies, there were also many who would far rather knit, sew or crochet as a relaxing pastime.
But generally, for most people I surveyed, coloring in and being busy with their hands freed up their mind and reduced stress. Business Consultant and Personal Coach, Keri Kaplan Norley said she finds it hard to settle, even while watching a movie. “Coloring helps me settle and calm down. and as a student, I like coloring in while listening to my teachers. It actually helps me stay focused on them.”
An important aspect of coloring in books, is color. Humans have long known the benefit of color and the healing power of color therapy. Coloring in is another way of interacting with color and certainly the colors chosen will have an effect on the mood of the person who is coloring in. People will also choose certain colors that reflect their attitude at the time.
It is also interesting that each mandala or coloring in picture will be totally unique due to the combination of colors chosen even in a group of people who are coloring identical pictures. This is a beautiful affirmation of our individuality and uniqueness as people, reflected through a uniform activity.
Color provokes a psychic vibration. Color hides a power still unknown but real, which acts on every part of the human body. – Wassily Kandinsky
Ancient Buddhist Arts
The coloring in books of today seem in some way to be a watered down version of some of the ancient Buddhist Arts, such as thangka painting, sand mandalas and other mindful art practices. The five kinds of mandalas practiced by Tibetan Buddhists are used as meditation aids.
The fine art of thangka painting or creating sand mandalas, or three dimensional mandalas, have the effect of purifying and healing the practitioner as well as creating the right perception. Mandala is a sanskrit word meaning “world in harmony.” The creation of sand mandalas affects everyone observing the creation, as well as the environment around the sand mandala. So in some small way perhaps coloring in is an attempt at creating harmony in our own world through the flow of our sharpened colored pencils.
Coloring in books are encouraging art as therapy. On the whole this coloring in trend that started in France over three years ago seems to be filling a much needed gap for stressed adults. We are all creative beings. Each one of us needs to create and express this deeply ingrained force. Expressing your creativity, and having an outlet for self expression promotes health and happiness.
To be an artist is to believe in life. – Henry Moore