Right now, adult coloring books are all the rage. And for good reason. Studies demonstrate that there are many, benefits to picking up a set of colored pencils and sitting down with a coloring book. It may sound strange, but coloring could be your ‘fountain of youth’!
Here are five health benefits to adult coloring… plus they make unique holiday gifts:
1. Mindfulness and Improved Sleep
Mindfulness is the word that is most often associated with adult coloring books. In general, there’s a big push for mindfulness—despite recent sceptics in the news—across the board (see: glitter jars). Adult coloring books promote mindfulness because they keep you focused and present in the moment.
In a world of smartphones, internet, and constant distraction, it can be hard to find time to take a mental break and focus on a singular task at hand. Coloring offers just such an opportunity.
In a 2014 study, increasing mindfulness was shown to help people who suffer from chronic insomnia. The findings of the study showed that meditation-based treatments, “provided improvement by significantly reducing total wake time and pre-sleep arousal.”1
Imagine, it’s possible to color your way to a better night’s sleep!
2. Sparking Creativity
In a 2012 study sponsored by Adobe, only one in four participants reported that they felt like they were living up to their creative potential, while 52 percent of Americans reported that they felt like they were creative (this is more than any other nationality).2
The best part about coloring is that it makes us feel creative without requiring much decision
making skill. Our prefrontal cortex is responsible for making thousands of decisions everyday, from which socks to wear (it has to be the pair with the kitty-cat print!) to what to order for lunch, to how to manage your money. This can trigger something called “decision fatigue.”3
Discovered by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, decision fatigue involves a phenomenon called “ego depletion.” Decision fatigue happens because our brains essentially have a finite amount of decision making capabilities. Because we live in a time when there is a surplus of choice, it is easy for us to become fatigued, or worn out. This, in turn, can cause stress and poor decision making skill. For this reason, social scientists suggest that it is best to spend your decision making energy on important things.
Adult coloring books offer the best of both worlds. They let you feel creative, but without expending the decision-making energy you would if you were to create your own designs or illustrations.
3. Alleviating Anxiety and Depression?
Boredom and lack of structure can be triggers for those who suffer from anxiety and depression. Coloring books can help with both of these things.
Adult coloring books are designed to be more elaborate and intricate than the coloring books of your youth. They require a precision that gives structure, and because of the sophistication of the design, it can take several sessions to complete a single page. Studies support the idea that coloring may help to reduce anxiety.4
4. Helping with Chronic Illness
In a study of chronically ill women, participants were interviewed about the way that art and creativity affected their current well-being. Their answers to the way that art benefited their lives were surprisingly varied. The study concluded, “Art filled occupational voids, distracted thoughts away from illness, promoted the experience of flow and spontaneity, enabled the expression of grief, maintained a positive identity, and extended social networks.”5
In another study, conducted at the Velindre Cancer Center in Cardiff, coloring books were given to adults on the cancer ward.6 Many of these patients brought coloring books with them for treatment. They were found next to beds, and patients liked to use them during inpatient chemotherapy, noting that the coloring books helped to pass the long hours in the hospital. Others said, “It relaxes the mind and body.” Still others liked that while they were coloring, it was the only thing that they could think about.
The study was conducted because throughout 2015, coloring books topped the paperback charts in the UK. The wave of adult coloring books’ popularity then began sweeping across the globe.
5. Anti-Aging Benefits?
Because of the way that coloring books reduce stress, it can also be surmised that they may have some anti-aging effects.
It has long been known that stress is bad for you – really bad for you. It wreaks havoc on your body, and therefore your face. Work-related stress has been shown to damage cells and DNA, leading to early aging. A study from UC San Francisco showed that even the anticipation of stress can cause cellular damage.7 Can you say double yikes?!
With all of the data showing the damage that stress can do on your body and your skin, it can be hard to combat it. Taking a little time each day to reduce stress can help to combat this. Coloring is a fun new, way to do this. Plus, it brings us back to a time of play, reminiscent of our childhood. In a world where whimsy can evade us, adult coloring books offer so many benefits. If they can reduce fine lines, all the better! Just make sure that you’re not furrowing your brow while you shade in those trees …
Color Your Way To Happy & Healthy
On the whole, there are many reasons to treat yourself (and your friends and family members) to a new coloring book and a pack of markers, gel pens or colored pencils – the gel pens or colored pencils take longer to get the desired effect, and markers give more instant gratification, so it’s really up to you. There are so many available that you can find one that really speaks to you. Big fan of Anne of Green Gables? There’s a coloring book. Want to take a trip to Europe from the comfort of your couch? There’s a coloring book full of cities across the world. Major dog lover? A coloring book awaits filled with pooch pictures. Whatever your heart’s desire, it’s available, and there to help you reduce stress, fight depression, and even ward off the effects of aging.
2The Creativity Gap. 2012. Accessed December 9, 2016.
3Arnsten A. Stress signalling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2009;10(6):410-422. doi:10.1038/nrn2648.
4Curry NKasser T. Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety?. Ericedgov. 2005. Accessed December 9, 2016.
5REYNOLDS FPRIOR S. ‘A lifestyle coat-hanger’: a phenomenological study of the meanings of artwork for women coping with chronic illness and disability. Disability and Rehabilitation. 2003;25(14):785-794. doi:10.1080/0963828031000093486.
6Rigby MTaubert M. Colouring books for adults on the cancer ward. BMJ. 2016:h6795. doi:10.1136/bmj.h6795.
7Ahola K, Sirén I, Kivimäki M et al. Work-Related Exhaustion and Telomere Length: A Population-Based Study. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(7):e40186. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040186.