Adult Coloring Is the Unexpected Activity That Will Help You Relax

If you haven’t noticed, adult coloring books are kind of everywhere recently. Book stores, art stores, every store, seems to be stocking them—even the iconic ’90s brand Lisa Frank nearly broke the internet last week when they announced they were releasing one. 

But don’t call this a fleeting trend to wellness therapists. “Certainly there’s an explosion of popular ‘adult coloring books,’” says Anne Parker, wellness counselor at a wellness counselor at Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, AZ, and Miraval Life in Balance Spa at Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, CA. “However, the beneficial effects of this kind of art-making have been known for many years.”

Why It Works
“As a designer, I feel that adult coloring is really an embodiment of what everyone, as a human being, feels and is drawn to,” says New York graphic designer Nikole Glenn. “Our ideals, passions and interests are all part of how we choose to communicate with the world around us, and adult coloring has opened up a universal door through which everyone can express themselves in their own unique way. There is a book for everyone and everything, and I think it is a great reflection of individualism and creativity.” Plus, Parker adds, there’s a little bit of science to it as well. “It also helps us with integration of right and left brain. The right brain is involved with self-expression, creative problem-solving, and perception of color and shape. The left brain is involved with eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, planning and organization.”

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How It Helps With Stress-Relief
Coloring is a wonderful way to experience mindfulness. “Have you ever observed a child coloring, completely absorbed in what they are doing?” Parker asks. “Adults can create that same experience—being fully present with the rhythm of applying color to paper and the sensory stimulation of texture, color, shape, etc. It is an opportunity to suspend the inner dialogue and judgment, allowing ourselves to get into that flow state when time stands still and focus takes over. Because much of our stress is associated with desired or expected outcomes, coloring allows us to just be in the process without regard to meeting a particular standard or accomplishing a particular outcome. That, in and of itself, is stress relieving. It really helps us feel grounded and centered in the midst of the chaos of life, which is a big factor in relieving stress.”

And it's that simple act of completion that so many experts peg as a big reason coloring “calms” you. “I think that being able to fully immerse yourself in anything promotes calmness and allows for greater sense of focus,” Glenn says. “I believe that the output is even better when you have a completed page at the end of your efforts, something to be proud of and remind you of the experience. There is a tactility to coloring that allows adults to reminisce of what we would refer to now as simpler times. The weight of a new colored pencil in hand, the first strike of color on an empty page. These are the things that drive us to create, no matter our age.”

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The Fun Factor
Most importantly, coloring is fun. “We often underestimate the value of fun in stress relief. Experiences that are fun are some of the most important stress-relieving activities we can do for ourselves,” Parker says.

The Spa & Wellness Connection
Parker says she thinks this “trend” might be one we are going to start to see more and more of at spas. “It is a wonderful way to get out of our heads, be in the moment, and reconnect with quieter, more content parts of ourselves. Coloring can be done individually or in groups, with free-form art-making or as a part of something more structured.”

One hotel brand that’s already dabbling in it: Swissotel, which just launched its “Vitality-on-the-Go” program in partnership with TOMS. As part of the program, guests are given postcards and colored pencils and are encouraged to color them during their stay and then mail them back home. Each postcard integrates six universal dimensions of Swiss wisdom that relate to: vitality, authenticity, tradition, hospitality, calm and clarity.

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How to Start
While it really is as simple as going out and buying a coloring book and some colored pencils or markers, Glenn encourages people to follow their passions and explore the full realm. “Try different types of drawings, new techniques and research the products that are available. Prismacolor colored pencils and markers are some of my favorites. The markers are great for detail work and the pencils are available in 150 different colors, which is great for blending and lets me really delve into and explore different techniques on my coloring pages.”