Just like anything else, coloring isn’t for everyone. I’ve actually even known some children who didn’t enjoy it. But if you’ve been to your neighborhood bookstore, you already know that coloring isn’t just for kids anymore.
Adult coloring books are suddenly everywhere, or so it seems, so much so that I had to try it. I quickly figured out a few things after only about five minutes of coloring. One is that it’s not for me, but not because I don’t like drawing or coloring or art or sitting quietly.
To the contrary, I enjoy all of the above, which is why coloring feels limiting to me. That is, it did until I figured out that coloring outside the lines and creating my own design within the design makes all the difference.
One of the reasons I make art is because my active imagination doesn’t rest until I will it to do so. But even before that can happen, it needs a place to wander (rather than aimlessly) and making art is my favorite type of journey. Once I’ve given my imagination a workout, I’ve also given it permission to rest. It’s a process.
For those who don’t make art as a matter of habit, there are adult coloring books with a variety of themes and approaches for every personality. Apparently, plenty of people are taking time out to color and the benefits include, but are not limited to reducing stress and anxiety, warding off depression, combating insomnia by readying the mind for sleep, and practicing mindfulness.
According to Anxiety.org, “the concept of art therapy dates back to the 1940s, and has been used to treat disorders, such as anxiety and panic.” It also says, “A study due to be published in Arts in Psychotherapy found that integrating art into a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatment resulted in less panic attacks in people with panic disorder with agoraphobia (PDA).”
There are therapists, however, who don’t approve of calling coloring therapeutic. Others think it’s worthwhile, but cannot be considered therapy all by itself, and especially not art therapy.
For instance, as reported by The Guardian.com, Drena Fagen, an art therapist and an adjunct instructor at New York University’s Steinhardt School, who has used coloring books in therapy sessions, the distinction between the books and therapy is important. “I don’t consider the coloring books as art therapy; I consider the coloring books therapeutic, which is not the same thing.”
As long as you don’t expect coloring to make everything all better in one sitting, I believe the point of it is to practice mindfulness or mindlessness, both of which serve a higher purpose.
Fagen says, “Any creative endeavor that can in some way help somebody discover something about themselves or find a space that makes them feel safe and comfortable or allows them an opportunity to be with their own thoughts, I don’t see how we can criticize that. It seems like it’s only bringing good things to the world.”
What if coloring is good for nothing more than replacing negative behavior, or serves as a coping mechanism within your larger plan? Isn’t that enough? Why do children color? Possibly for the same reason adults color, which is because they need an activity to help them relax and wind down. If focusing on coloring means you’re not worrying, blaming, nail-biting, drinking, smoking, drugging, arguing, regretting, beating yourself up or freaking out, why not give it a try?