I always get SO excited when I go to a restaurant where the tables are lined with butcher paper and crayons are readily available. I get equally excited if I’m hanging out with my kindergarten-age niece and she pulls out the magic markers. Every time the opportunity to draw and color is thrown my way, I snap it up hard, and afterwards I always have the thought, “That was SO fun. Coloring is like therapy, but CHEAP. Why don’t I color ALL THE TIME?”
As it turns out, I’m not the lone weirdo who still loves participating in this elementary school activity. Psychologists are now telling us that coloring, an activity that they say, “generates wellness, quietness, and stimulates brain activity related to motor skills, the senses and creativity” isn’t just for kids anymore. It can also be great for us driver’s-license wielding, voting, and bill-paying grown ups.
As with children, the activity of coloring de-stresses adults. Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala explained in a blog post that when adults color, it “brings out our imagination and takes us back to our childhood, a period in which we most certainly had a lot less stress.”
She goes on to explain exactly WHY coloring works as a de-stressor: “The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.”
Psychologist Antoni Martinez concurs: “I recommend it as a relaxation technique. We can use it to enter into a more creative, freer state. I myself have practiced that. I recommend it in a quiet environment, even with chill music. Let the color and the lines flow.”
The market has picked up on the demand, and is now publishing coloring books for us legal adult humans. If you look up “adult coloring books” on Amazon, a LOT of results come up. As you can see from the following images, coloring for the older set kicks it up a notch and these intricate patterns really test that “Can you color within the lines?” hand-eye coordination. Case in point, check out these images from the adult coloring book Colour Me Good, in which you can color in celebrities like Ryan Gosling and Benedict Cumberbatch
Other coloring books aimed specifically at grown ups which we’re totally ready to buy, include:
And of course, the TV themed coloring books like the Breaking Bad coloring book:
The Downton Abbey coloring book:
And, naturally, Color Me Swoon, which describes itself as a “beefcake activity book.”
So, the next time you’re feeling a little bit out of sorts, it might be a good idea to reach for the Crayolas and see if some coloring will make you feel better. Science says it will! Every once in a while, science just has the awesomest answers to problems.