Move over meditation, there's a new mindfulness technique in town - adult colouring. While some people may still be skeptical about the various benefits of colouring pages for adults, several experts and non-experts have come forward touting this activity as the new form of digital detox and so much more. But before we go into how mindfulness is achieved through colouring, let's first delve a little into what mindfulness is. After all, what do we really know about it except what we THINK we know?
According to Wikipedia, there are several definitions of mindfulness, depending on who is using it and how it is applied. For the purpose of this article, we will define mindfulness as "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment" and enabling us to see things clearly. Obviously, this state does not truly eliminate the pressures of daily living. What it does is provide us with a calm and clear mind which enables us to face and respond to these pressures with insight and understanding. In much simpler terms, mindfulness helps us become more aware of our actions and thoughts, stops us from responding automatically to our experiences, and enables us to make wiser choices.
So, how does adult colouring enable us to reach such a state? Well, we all know how stress can trigger worrisome thoughts to crowd in your brain, making you unable to relax, focus, or become mentally aware of the present. Colouring, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Ben Michaelis, actually lowers the level of activity in the part of your brain that is involved with fear – the amygdala. When your amygdala is relaxed, you also feel relaxed because your mind becomes clear of worries.
Dr. Michaelis isn’t the first psychologist to believe this. Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist and psychotherapist, studied the therapeutic benefits of adult colouring AND used this technique to help his patients calm and center their minds. Research conducted in 2005 also discovered the same thing – colouring mandalas helped individuals lower their anxiety levels.
Another expert, clinical counselor Leslie Marshall, believes that colouring within the lines requires you to access your frontal lobe which is the part of your brain involved in organization and problem solving. This enables you to focus your mind on the present, not on whatever troubles or distractions that surround you.
It must be stated that this activity isn’t exactly like art therapy as some might claim. However, its ability to help you become more self-aware and to switch off the constant buzzing in your brain can provide you with the state of mindfulness that some aspire to through meditation. In fact, for some, colouring is better than art therapy which can cause fear and anxiety to those of us who are less creative. Here, you have no right or wrong colour. You only have a limited space to work with, a limited number of colours to choose from, and the repetitive motion of sliding your pencil or crayon back and forth on the paper. And while the action is definitely repetitive and limiting, there’s still a sense of accomplishment and progression when you see something “creative” and beautiful slowly forming as the colour spreads across the page.
So… want to achieve mindfulness? Maybe you should try it. The hardest thing you’ll ever face is choosing which colouring book to buy.