I’d mostly heard about them from my mother, who’s always tearing out newspaper articles on mental health for me and thought I might find coloring relaxing. She suggested I might want to get one of the adult coloring books she’d heard of for Christmas (we love talking Christmas, it’s a whole thing and I know it’s annoying to many), and I didn’t really think much of it past that. Fast forward to a few weeks later, and I stumble upon a display of adult coloring books during a Christmas decoration-hunting trip (see? it’s gonna come up) at Michael’s craft store. A nature-themed book covered in koi fish caught my eye, the colored pencils were displayed beside them and the 50% off coupon in my pocket had already started singing to me. I’m usually a pretty easy sale, and this time was no exception. I ended up leaving empty-handed as far as Christmas decor, but I had hours of potential ahead of me in this somewhat thin book and pack of pencils.
While it’s no replacement for making an effort to create your own original artworks (which generally engages the brain more), it’s an excellent means of winding down and grounding yourself with something. You’re forced to be mindful of each line, where it begins and ends, which colors you’re going to use to fill in the next section etc. And once you’ve been coloring for a little while, you’re likely to enter a mental flow state. In psychology, flow is a state of operating where the person performing an activity is fully immersed in the involvement and enjoyment of the process. Basically, flow is when you’re ‘in the zone’ or in the pocket, really into what you’re doing, and it’s one of the more freeing, relaxing sensations you can experience.
Aside from flow, you feel a sense of ownership over the art you produce, and you can set small goals to finish certain pieces. It’s a great confidence-building activity, because you’re creating a clean, beautiful finished product by yourself, and most books come with frame-sized, convenient tear-out pages so you can display your art if you choose.
While they might not be a part of official therapy, adult coloring books are offering up a great way to focus yourself on the present and really work on mindfulness creatively. If you’re looking for an extra little tool in your mental health utility belt, these are awesome! There’s not one I specifically recommend over another (I’m wary of anything that pushes too hard on the ‘This cures what ails ya!’ tip), but I’ve included a small selection from Amazon that I’ve either picked up myself or slapped on a wishlist for later!