Lately, you may have noticed that “adult” coloring books are popping up everywhere. Many have even appeared on the NY Times Bestseller list! But this pastime is more than a trend—it is a wonderful soother for anxiety. Like needlework and crochet, coloring requires the mind to become task-oriented, thus distracting it from its limbic (emotional) overdrive, which is the brain malfunction causing anxiety. In addition, coloring forces the brain to be “in the moment” and therefore has a meditative effect. For this reason, coloring is also good tool for kids and adults with ADD and difficulty focusing.
Science backs up these claims: several studies on the effects of coloring on brain activity have been conducted in the last decade, and all of them have found decreases in heart rate and changes in brainwaves. Concentrating on staying in the lines, choosing colors, discerning patterns, and comparing shapes consume the brain’s attention fully, thus making it hard for negative thoughts to take over and spiral out of control while the repetition involved in coloring produces a calming effect. In addition, there is some evidence to suggest the bright, colorful images you create can replace negative ones in your mind which reduces, and sometimes even eliminates, anxiety and obsessional thinking.
As I have hated coloring since I was a child, I was very skeptical as to its ability to soothe my anxiety. But because we cannot recommend anything to our Anxiety Sisters we have not tried ourselves, I purchased an “adult” coloring book and a set of colored pencils. Would you believe I enjoyed it so much I bought the same book for my husband so we could do this relaxing activity together? It really really works! Both of us find coloring calming and restorative. Plus we make pretty pictures to hang on our fridge!
Click here for a link to free coloring downloads. I like the mandalas, but all of the designs are great.