The Psychology of Adult Colouring Books

Up until a few years ago colouring books and colouring were considered creative activities reserved for children. Lately, however, the shelves of bookstores are filled with adult colouring books. It is a publishing phenomenon with adult coloring books breaking records in the market. Just look at the charts on Amazon to understand the magnitude. The same is true across many of South Africa's online book stores.

So how does this unprecedented success benefit us psychologically?

What may have been considered a child’s pastime, adult colouring books is now thought-about as a powerful tool for personal growth and emotional wellbeing. To make sense of this, let's consider children who draw. If we were to watch them individually colouring and drawing, we might notice them in deep concentration and totally absorbed in the activity. They'd be entertained for hours.

Likewise, if we were to watch an adult female colouring, we might also see her absorbed - almost in a meditative state. Why? Because adult colouring books contain complex drawings and patterns that require a lot of precision. So, like our female example, we end up focusing on the here and now, allowing us to isolate our minds from reality. By doing this, we create a neurological break that helps us become less stressed, less anxious, less depressed, less angry....at least in that moment. The result is we feel more relaxed and at ease - we become distracted from our difficulties.

Stress and emotional wellbeing aside, adult colouring books have many other benefits for us. Some examples based on various research include:

  • to express our creativity through the use of colour and technique;
  • to increase our self-esteem through achieving something, such as finishing colouring one page;
  • to regulate our heart beat;
  • to practice hand-eye coordination;
  • to promote the ongoing development of both brain hemispheres - the logical (left) and creative (right) sides;
  • to assist in preventing the onset of certain diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Dementia;
  • to help manage certain mental 'disorders' such as depression, anxiety and autism;
  • to create a relaxing environment and state of mind;
  • to improve attention and memory;
  • to help maintain social ties and sharing among adults when colouring in groups;
  • to improve the parent / children bond;
  • to switch off from the digital world and engage in something analog.

Colouring books provide a creative experience unique to each one of us. We can explore our creativity without having to face a blank page. The drawings invite us to create without fear. And, because colouring requires concentration and attention, it helps us escape from the daily hustle. We become present in the pencils, crayons, pens and paper. We become mindful of the now - moment by moment. With our minds free from negative thoughts and focusing on the present, we can reduce our stress, if just for a short while. Instead, we find ourselves calm and with a renewed sense of wellbeing.

All this from a relatively inexpensive hobby that can be practiced at your own pace and from anywhere. You just need a colouring book, a few pencils or crayons, and you're ready to start!

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