A few months ago, I was looking for a present for a friend from work, because she had an exam coming up and had been a bit stressed out. (There were other reasons too, an important one of which is that she’s always bringing us cake. But that’s not really relevant to this story, so let’s move on.) As I was browsing in the shops, wondering what to get her, I happened to notice a display of adult colouring books. Intrigued, I had a closer look and found that they all suggested they were good for mindfulness and easing stress.
I wasn’t sure about the science behind it all, but figured it seemed like a fun idea, and one that my friend would probably appreciate. So I selected a book from the display, along with a packet of coloured pencils, and took them to the check out, where the assistant enthusiastically assured me I’d made the right decision. Though it was the first I’d heard of using colouring as a stress reliever, he told me he was already hooked and that it ‘totally worked’.
Long story short: my friend was pleased with the present, even though the concept was new to her too, and started carrying the book and pencils around with her for times when an emergency de-stress was needed. But I was still sceptical – mostly because I know I’m a total stresshead, and I haven’t yet found anything that helps me relax and stops worrying about stuff, so I had no reason to suppose colouring would be the answer. On top of that, I tend to have a natural and totally illogical aversion to anything that’s really popular – even if the reason it’s really popular is because it’s actually good.
As adult colouring books became more and more popular, other friends started using them, and they all seemed to agree that it really was a good way to chill out. So eventually, after much debate, I caved and bought myself a copy of The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons. The book promises ‘Anti-stress art therapy for busy people’, which does sound a lot like me… So far, so good.
Inside are loads of different designs – flowers, animals, random patterns, all waiting to be coloured in. And here comes the science bit: the idea behind it all is that taking the time to colour in a picture offers a particularly good opportunity for mindfulness, which is all about clearing your mind and focusing on just being in the moment, without any distractions.
The slight problem is that I’ve been a bit too busy and stressed out lately to do much colouring, which does seem to slightly defeat the purpose. But on the couple of occasions I have had time to sit down and give it a go, I’ve enjoyed it. I always liked colouring when I was younger, selecting the right colour to use and imagining what the picture would look like when it was completed. I’ve never had any particular skill at creating art from scratch (anyone who’s seen my stick men drawings can testify to that) but with colouring I could create something that looked really good, without any need to have much artistic talent. So maybe that’s really what it’s all about – taking us back to a time when life was simpler, without all the responsibilities and stress that adulthood brings.
Honestly, I have no idea if adult colouring books really work, or if they’re just a fad that will die out as quickly as it started. As much fun as it is, I haven’t noticed any obvious lowering of my stress levels – but then again, they’re so ridiculously high most of the time that I’d be amazed and suspicious (and probably worried, ironically) if I did see instant results.
I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who’s found that colouring works for them and helps them de-stress. In particular, I’d love to know if you regularly set aside time for it, or if you just seize the moment whenever you can? Thanks 🙂