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It’s gratifying to get official confirmation that not outgrowing your love for colouring books since four doesn’t mean you’re a crazy person (Mum, are you reading this??) In fact, it could possibly improve your mental and psychiatric health, hence it’s now hailed to be THE new meditation therapy for adults wanting to reduce anxiety and stress while improving deliberate concentration and focus.
I reckon it’s the ‘new yoga’ judging by the current craze for ‘mindfulness’ through colouring as a form of art therapy for adults. Mindfulness by definition is a ‘mental state attained by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations’. In essence, purposeful mindfulness has long been used as a therapeutic technique practiced for centuries with its origins rooted in Eastern philosophy, such as meditation for example, and had only been adopted by the West over recent decades. It has become recognised and revered as therapy or as a means to help us sleep better, learn better, improve memory and immunity, manage anger and mood swings, cope with grief, pain, depression, illness, relieve stress and promote relaxation, physical and emotional well-being. Wow, sounds like it could well save your life. No wonder the last time I was at Dymocks, the top tier bestselling titles to replace many reputable fiction books had all been colouring books such as illustrator Johanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest following the success of her inaugural bestseller, Secret Garden.
But the question on the lips of those not yet acquainted with all the fuss about these adult colouring books remains “What has colouring got to do with mindfulness”. Here’s my version of it based on my own experience with colouring. Well, for one thing, colouring is making art. And art has long been proven to have cathartic benefits on one’s mental and physical state as a kind of therapy in itself. You have to engage with your own mind as you’re colouring since your eyes are focused on the picture before you while you are consciously selecting which colours to apply one after another. Watching your coloured picture take form and shape provides the instant gratification of seeing instant results before your very eyes. Perhaps more than watching any screen, you begin to slip into another level of consciousness away from your regular self. You soon even forget your every worry, anxiety and may I dare say pain, in some cases?
I recall the most painful year of my life in 2003 when I was diagnosed with cancer. That’s the same year and time I took up jewellery design as a new craft—though I didn’t know back then that there was a term for it, I was really practicing mindfulness to deal with my illness and treatments. I must first credit God for His grace and mercies, then it had to be jewellery-making and painting as activities which not only helped me cope with the uncertainties of such a life-altering diagnosis, I definitely enjoyed similar positive benefits promoted by advocates of the new wave of adult colouring books.
What a wonderful opportunity this post is for me to simply celebrate that this website I’ve created just so happens to be dedicated to promoting ‘mindfulness’ through living a creative life—whether it’s through making art, crafting, reading or writing fiction and non-fiction, baking and pastry decorating, entertaining through the art of cooking, a love for home interiors or that which is aesthetically pleasing in visual design and presentation. Consciously or unconsciously, I truly believe we are influenced creatively by all that inspires us.
As for colouring as an adult, I don’t think there’s a better time than now for the closet knitters, crafters, artists…what used to be labelled ‘nerdy’ is now made hip. As for being one of those ‘strange’ adults who secretly love colouring as much as my pre-schooler and primary school child, well, there are no words to describe my triumph now that I’m finally having the last laugh.
Here’s an SBS article to prove it.
[Article from SBS online, 1 July 2015, By Sonali Kohli
Colouring Books Are Suddenly Catching On With Adults
There are Facebook pages devoted to adult colourers. There are colouring clubs. People who motivate themselves to pay off debt by colouring. Game of Thrones is making a colouring book. What this means: Colouring is now a normal adult activity.
Thanks largely to a recent wave of publicity over the release of illustrator Johanna Basford’s second colouring book, colouring books as a whole have been enjoying their 15 minutes of fame.
Taking over bestseller lists
Actually, they’ve been enjoying a lot more than 15 minutes: Basford’s book, Enchanted Forest, is #9 on the UK Amazon best selling books pageas of June 28, and has been in the top 100 list for 113 days. Her first adult colouring book, Secret Garden, was published two years ago but it sits close behind Enchanted Forest in the number 11 spot, and it’s been in the top 100 for 211 days.
And Basford isn’t alone at the top of the book charts: In the UK there’s an animal-themed colouring book in the number three slot, an anti-stress colouring book at number four and a “relaxing” one at 15. The latter two highlight a theme among some of these books, which capitalise on the idea that adults need a reason to colour. In the US, Basford Secret Garden is joined in Amazon’s US top 20 list by one that claims “stress-relieving patterns” and another that says “Colouring time is calming time!”
It’s good for you
There seems to have been, before now, some embarrassment attached to the notion that an adult might enjoy an activity as childish as colouring. Publishers behind these books have skirted that by marketing these books with health-based justifications and scientific evidence about the benefits of colouring. “Selling the anti-stress angle gave people permission to enjoy something they might have felt was quite childish,” one publisher’s spokeswoman told the Guardian in April.
Many adult colourists have latched onto the idea that colouring promotes mindfulness, and can help reduce stress. They are right, judging by the latest expert thinking. Though there aren’t studies specifically on the benefits of adult colouring, play is important for both adults and children. Colouring can act as a de-stressor, art therapist Saba Harouni tells Quartz.
These colouring books can act as a reset button for adults who are moving too quickly from one responsibility to the next, or trying to do them all at once. The repetitive motion of colouring can be both cathartic and meditative, and you can focus on filling in the lines on the page. “You’re giving your brain some some space and something to focus on that’s meditative, that’s containing,” Harouni says.
If you need more reasons, psychologists also told the Huffington Post that colouring allows for creativity and can invoke positive childhood memories.
Colouring books have been marketed to adults for a while, but they’ve only recently hit it big. Artist Jenean Morrison has self-published six adult colouring books on Amazon, full of intricate designs, since 2012, she tells Quartz. She actually got the idea when she came upon an old colouring book from her childhood, a 1970s book that was design-based rather than populated with pictures of “cows or princesses,” she says. Those designs still appealed to her.
Morrison isn’t in the top 100 on Amazon anymore (she was for about eight weeks in the US, earlier this year), but she too has seen the benefits of the adult colouring craze. In all of last year, she sold 15,414 books on Amazon. This year, in half the time, she has sold 43,420.
The sharp increase took her by surprise, she says. “Have they wanted to do this all along, they just were afraid to tell their friends?” She thinks people certainly do it for fun, but she also gets letters that demonstrate the positive effects of colouring books—a prison recently requested a batch for inmates who use them for therapy and stress release, and recovering surgery patients have told her that colouring her books is the only way they manage to stay put.
You don’t actually have to pay money to colour, by the way. One of the Facebook groups devoted to adult colourers, called Colouring Pages for Adults, regularly posts designs that you can print out and play with at your leisure.