You may have noticed the explosion of adult colouring books recently. I was even given 2 books for Christmas (very well received).
In turn I’ve found myself suggesting them more and more to my patients as a relaxation or distraction technique. I had an interesting discussion with someone in a session recently which prompted me to write this blog. So what is the big deal and what benefits do they give therapeutically…if any?
I found this article which sums up part of what my thoughts are:
The trend has caught on massively in Australia, where Melbourne neuropsychologist Stan Rodski’s Colourtation books have been incorporated into mindfulness and wellness initiatives in such organisations as ANZ Bank, Wesfarmers and Bupa.
One major appeal seems to be the creative escapism involved. A 2014 study from San Francisco State University showed that creative activities outside work help people handle stress and, accordingly, sharpen their work performance. Carole Tonkinson, publisher at Bluebird, Pan Macmillan’s wellness and lifestyle imprint, says: “Colouring is tactile and soothing. It’s creative, but not so challenging that it’s draining.”
Clinical psychologist Dr David Holmes believes colouring can, indeed, also be used to shift the mind down a few gears. “Brainwaves form different patterns of electrical activity near the skull which tend to fall into two broad groups,” he says. (Cited from Director.co.uk – “What’s behind the adult colouring book phenomenon amongst business leaders”; Nick Scott, Aug 2015)
So as I thought, mindful colouring helps to unwind, requires very little thought whilst also being tactile and hence can play an important part in therapeutic techniques.
Speaking at a mental health workshop in 2009, author, speaker and communication expert Mark Robert Waldman explained that active meditation focuses attention on simple tasks that require repetitive motion. Concentrating this way replaces negative thoughts and creates a state of peace, and many people who have a difficult time with concentrative meditation can find this easier. This gentle activity where you choose the colours to create your picture and the repetitive action of colouring it in focuses the brain on the present, blocking out any intrusive thoughts. (Cited in Psychologies magazine)
I only found out whilst researching for this blog that this phenomenon has gone crazy in France where sales of adult colouring books have overtaken sales of cookbooks! We’re not quite there yet but it’s fair to say that colouring is no longer just for kids!