Mental health benefits of mindful colouring

For many of us colouring in was a go to childhood pastime. Now it is resurfacing as a trend for adults. There are many benefits to colouring for adults:

  • By focusing on the present, it helps achieve mindfulness

·         The brain experiences relief by entering a meditative state

  • Stress and anxiety levels can be lowered

  • Taking in positivity allows negative thoughts to be dismissed

  • Stepping away from technology promotes creation over consumption

  • Colouring can be done by everyone

  • It is simple and can be taken with you wherever you go

  • It is something that can be done solo or done with a partner or child

Colouring can be seen as a form of meditation. When you meditate, your brain enters a relaxed state by focusing on the present and blocking out the constant thinking we all experience. As a result, you reach a state of calm that relieves your brain from the daily stresses of life.

A study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association  22(2) pp. 81-85 provides support that colouring mandalas or geometric patterns actually does help lower stress and anxiety levels.

It focused on examining colouring therapy which “combines elements of art therapy and meditation” (pp. 81). In the study, 84 undergraduate students received “a brief anxiety-induction,” and were randomly assigned to colour either a mandala, plaid form, or blank piece of paper (pp. 81). Curry and Kasser reported, “that anxiety levels declined approximately the same for the mandala- and plaid-colouring groups and that both of these groups experienced more reduction in anxiety than did the unstructured-colouring group” (pp. 81).

Ultimately, it was the “the complexity and structure of the plaid and mandala designs [that] drew the participants into a meditative-like state that helped reduce their anxiety” (pp. 84).

When we colour, it brings out our inner child. We are reminded of the days when life was simple, and our biggest concerns were watching our favourite cartoon show. By concentrating on colouring an image this may lead to the replacement of negative thoughts and images with pleasant ones. When we colour, we have to focus on the shape and size, concentrate on the edges, choose colours to use. This all occupies the same parts of the brain that stop any anxiety-related mental imagery happening.

We know that mindfulness is the key to achieving reduced stress levels. By focusing on the present, it stops us worrying about decisions made in the past or things too far ahead in the future. Colouring requires focused attention outside of self-awareness. It is a simple activity that takes us outside ourselves. In the same way, gardening, knitting, or going for a walk can all be relaxing.

By removing ourselves as the focal point for our thoughts, we become immersed in what we are doing in the present moment. When this is accomplished, colouring becomes a meditative exercise.