As children, colouring is an art encouraged for learning, aiding in memory skills (ie, remembering the diagram you are colouring), developing fine motor skills in the hands and as a fun activity. Children adore it and gain fulfilment and gratification from it. However, as they grow, colouring is replaced by adult tasks and the perception that colouring is for little kids. However, science and spirituality shows that adults can benefit greatly from it, too.



  In a highly stressed world, the civilisations across the globe suffer from stress-related conditions and have greater difficulty sleeping and recovering from stress. In the book, Don't Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle, Doreen Virtue discusses how the primitive cycles of humans are being misused and sapping us of our power. The very beginnings of the world meant early man would use his brain and body's fight-or-flight, his biological powers, to increase his chances of escaping from a sabertooth, or survive the long journey between camps. Now, however, we use this power to defeat stress and prolong our energies to complete daily tasks that we heap onto ourselves. What this has done, some practitioners believe, is erode the quality of our lives, or as Virtue puts it, our Sparkle.

     When a person is stressed, they produce several stress hormones which can affect their bodies. While occassional arousal can be beneficial in emergency situations, constant emotional and physical excitement depletes the body of its effectiveness, and leaves us tired, drained, less efficient, hyperactive, negative, dulled, and cause traumas to pile up and eat away at us. We become restless, snippy at others, sleepless, uncertain about our choices, easily frustrated, fickle about our diet, and generally, less satisfied with life and ourselves.

     There is a regime that can help calm and rechannel energies in a better way -- see the book review of Don't Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle -- and one of the most accessible is called adult colouring in. Any activity that lowers the activity of the amygdala -- the brain centre for emotion control which stress arouses -- is going to be beneficial in being centred.




     Indian cultures introduce Mandalas in their spiritual teachings. Mandalas are often squares containing circles and T-shaped gates that are featured in the design. The user then colours them in as a guidance tool, the design created to draw the eye to the centre point, and aiding in trance and meditation practices. Although this is their aim, the calming effect happens before this, the act of colouring and its caused reflection and mindfulness will aid in reducing the stress hormones in the body -- cortisol and adrenaline. Westerner alternatives to Mandalas are not specific in shape and are not designed for meditation or trance, however, still rely on the reflection, mindfulness, and peace they incur in individuals.







     Free designs can be found at They are all unique in shapes, colours, detail levels and themes. Designs can be printed directly from the website, ready for filling in. You might choose to use pencil, pen, paints, or even virtual colouring if you have a PC with a graphics drawing tablet.

Graphics tablet


     But how effectively can simply colouring in be? A 2006 study found that mindfulness art therapy helped women with cancer significantly decrease their physical and emotional distress. Studies have also shown benefit with depression, dementia, anxiety and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

     "People with cancer very often feel like their body has been taken over by the cancer. They feel overwhelmed. To be able to engage in a creative process... that stands in a very stark contrast to sort of passively submitting oneself to cancer treatments,” states a music therapist of Drexel University, reported by Medical Daily.

     Other students and studies have been testing the re-focusing of energy from adult colouring and how it might affect learning and also personal effect in therapy sessions. It was found that users were less fidgety, more able to focus on the tasks, as stress often affects the ability to concentrate, and more information was taken in, when compared to the dozing mind of other students or clients who weren't paying attention. Changes in brainwaves and heart rates were also found.


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     Dr. Joel Pearson of the University of New South Wales states he belives the benefit is also in the pleasant thoughts associated with creating something colourful and pleasant, rather than the idle mind sift through the negativities of daily life.

     “You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color," he says. “It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. ... Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”



     The craze has taken on its own form in many countries, the US finding great popularity in it. Several of the top sellers on Amazon are colouring books. Christine Carswell, publisher of Chronicle books says it's a phenomenon, "I've been publishing for 30 years and I've never seen anything like it."

     In the US, there are social scenes where there are colouring clubs, meet-ups and colouring parties in bars. People take their materials and enjoy the activity as a group.

     Many therapists have suggested it to their clients, finding it beneficial for those who are used to keeping their hands busy and can't use other relaxation techniques. Dr. Stan Rodski, neuropsychologist and neuroscientist says, "The reality is that we actually enjoy the process. It's a process that takes us to a time that is stress free."

     "I was struggling with executives, managers, people who would normally be referred to me with stress, who just found it enormously difficult to do deep breathing, relaxation or meditation."


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     Many fans sing the praise of the discipline, stating its changed how they focus their attention and view their world, however, critics call it simple Peter Pan syndrome, where the colouring is a part of regression or escapism. Russell Brand created a video trend asking if they were the apocalypse.

     Julie DeMille, an author, told the Salt Lake City Tribune that she didn't find the colouring soothing. "I like these," she said, "but they also stress me out because I feel like I can't make them symmetrical enough. I usually quit halfway through."

     Dr. Rodski admitted, "I find that a lot of adults that I come across do get quite upset with themselves about the way they colour things. "

     "They create almost an internalised competition with themselves, which is the very thing we don't want them to do."


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     In my training and research I have been taught the importance of unmasking maladaptive traits before treating them. It might be said the act of facing this tendency, a stressor, might benefit from further work and confronting it, helping the client not carry this self-sabotaging thought process into other areas of their life too. While it might be dormant to the conscious most of the time, it would still affect functioning on some level.

     Psychologists state that without spiritual backing, even the act of concentrating enough to stay between the lines will reduce stress, and enhance concentration and creativity. Neuropsychologists suggest it's similar to those who find knitting or crochet soothing with the repetition, predictability and pride in the completed works.

     Adult colouring-in is a low-cost, high reward hobby for many, as well as a social outlet in the form of interest clubs. While it may not be suitable for everyone, research shows it can benefit the keen scribbler. Will they become the newest thing to hit doctor's waiting rooms and hospitals? Will we see them arrive in banks where the lines are long? Would you benefit from this? Only testing will tell.


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