[su_dropcap style=”default” size=”3″ class=””]I[/su_dropcap]t appears that the latest trend to hit the U.S. is the adult coloring book. But, what has brought about this youthful fad? Aside from the nostalgic feelings of our easier childhood days, research from as early as 2005 until now has indicated that coloring provides similar relief that meditation and therapy offer as well. Coloring can reduce anxiety levels, improve focus, and have genuine intellectual benefits, which is why coloring is now prescribed by many care physicians.
Coloring is described as a useful stress reliever to adults because, contrary to daily life situations, it has predictable results. Like any task with expected outcomes, it creates a calming sensation, because the user has full control over the situation and knows that the end result is a colored picture.
But the real source of this sensation is a less active amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotions. The amygdala is stimulated by stress; when activated, it releases emotions such as anxiety, stress, or anger. By focusing attention on a simple activity, such as coloring, the mind is preoccupied from outside stress. Regulating the activity of the amygdala catalyzes feelings of calmness and happiness, while also giving the colorer a sense of control and achievement.
In addition to relaxation, coloring also enhances your problem-solving and fine motor skills. Coloring involves both cerebral hemispheres: the left part of the brain, which is specialized in behavior like logic, math and language, and also the right side of the brain, which is responsible for more creative behavior like music and visual imagery.
Left Brain vs Right Brain:
The left side of the brain is active when you are deciding where and what to color in the picture, for example, deciding to color a flower stem green would be considered a logical decision. Whereas the right side of the brain is active when creating color patterns and making new colors. Deciding on colors and making patters also enhances problem solving skills, and the strokes and repetition of the colored pencil or crayon develops your fine motor skills and focus. Scans have shown that brain wave activity is actually changed from the repetition of these movements and decisions, which also results in a lowered heart rate and overall calmness.
Kids get it. So, why did it take so long for adults to catch on? It actually hasn’t. Coloring resembles a lot of methods and techniques used in art therapy. Although coloring and art therapy are similar in several aspects, they are completely separate methods of therapy. Art therapy involves painting, drawing, and other outlets of creativity to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional health. What makes it different from coloring is that art therapy typically requires a professional to help the artist understand the meaning behind their artwork. You do not need to be a professional artist to participate in art therapy; it is used for all forms of treatment with people who have varying art skill and different walks of life.
Coloring is considered more of a gateway therapy technique. Experts suggest coloring as an outlet to those struggling with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and stress. If you’re not ready to commit to art therapy or maybe you aren’t looking for any professional therapy at the moment, a coloring book is an excellent way to relieve stress and begin to experience some of the positive effects of meditation.
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