This past Saturday morning I walked into my local Chapters Bookstore to purchase a gift card for a friend’s birthday, after I paid for my gift card the cashier gave me a little booklet and wished me a “Happy National Coloring Day”. This bizarre felicitation gave me a moments pause, I looked around and there were any number of coloring books displayed throughout the store, and not the conventional kiddie coloring books either, these where beautiful sophisticated pen and ink drawings meant for adults not for children. I would be lying if I told you I hadn’t heard about the adult coloring trend, but I hadn’t realized its appeal had become so wide spread. So in the spirit of the day I purchased one of these adult coloring books and a box of pencil crayons to see what the hype was all about.
When I brought the book home my 8 year old daughter loved it, and the funny part is she was never really interested in coloring books. She was instantly enchanted by the ink drawings in this “adult coloring book” and picked a page and began coloring right away. As I watched her, I thought to myself that maybe we need to revamp the children’s coloring book industry (but that’s a blog for another day). As I patiently waited for my turn with the coloring book I did a little research on the whole adult coloring book trend. I discovered that in 2011 a Scottish commercial illustrator in the UK was persuaded to create a coloring book for adults entitled “Secret Gardens: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book. It is interesting to note however, that coloring books for adults is nothing new and have been around for decades. In fact psychologist Carl Jung was known to prescribe coloring as a form of therapy to his psychiatry patients. Jung provided his patients with “mandala colorings” to work on when they left their sessions to help ease tensions. Mandala means circle in Sanskrit, but can refer to any geometric shape that has no beginning or end, and these shapes have the power to promote balance and relaxation
Clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis maintains that coloring has great therapeutic value and further claims that “…colouring is a stress free activity that relaxes the amygdala-the fear center of the brain- and allows your mind to get the rest it needs”. The activity itself is quite zen like, moving the colored pencil back and forth promotes a feeling of inner peace and relaxation. The whimsical subject matter of the ink drawings provide an “escape into a world of inspiration and artistic fulfilment.” There are also indications that this activity builds focus and sharpens fine motor skills. Critics of the adult coloring trend however call it a “mindless displacement activity” and is just another example of our proclivity to not want to make any kind of effort. I find this opinion a little harsh, in fact for those of us with NO ARTISTIC ability, there is definitely a sense of artistic satisfaction when you look upon a filled in coloring page.
When I finally got my turn with the coloring book, and I began coloring, I first felt a wave of nostalgia for a time when my life was simpler and then, I eventually gave myself over to the rhythmic coloring motion. By the time I finished the page and looked upon it, I not only felt relaxed but very proud of my pretty picture. When all is said and done the reason coloring is good for you is because it’s fun!