Adult coloring books are all the rage so I decided it was time to try it for myself. Coloring for therapeutic benefit is often recommended to help clients practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can be a difficult concept to explain, and it certainly can be a difficult practice to incorporate into clients’ lives in this multi-tasking, phone-checking, hard-work celebrating, “I’m so busy” world.
Mindfulness is a state of observing your thoughts and feelings while living in the moment. The state of mindfulness should be one of relaxation and peace. Kids who color in my office visibly relax within minutes–I watch them as they start to breathe deeply and get lost in their therapy assignment. Fidgety kids typically melt into the couch and are suddenly quiet. Without teaching them mindfulness at all, they start doing something one-mindfully.
Most of us colored SOMETHING when we were young; some colored in hero-inspired coloring books and some of us may have colored on our walls (not me!). I would also venture to say that most of us ENJOYED coloring at some point in our lives. There is a simple joy in the lines provided by a coloring book because we are able to choose to stay in the lines or not; choose to use bright colors or not; and choose to press down hard or not. Unlike drawing on an empty white page, coloring books provide a starting point for our creativity.
So, onto my personal review of coloring for therapeutic benefit. Each time I sat down to color (about six times so far), I was feeling pretty anxious and distracted; but by the time I was 15 minutes into the activity I found I was feeling much more relaxed. My mind quieted and my dogs settled down too (this is rare at my house). Overall, I think coloring is a really helpful anxiety reduction tool. In fact, I believe coloring would be a great family activity especially if being quiet was made part of the guidelines.
Exercise will continue to be my first recommendation for clients suffering from anxiety, but coloring and mindfulness activities are also very useful!