Warm summer days, sitting in a circle and coloring our favorite character from the most recent movie we saw are fond memories we can have. When we reminisce about those summer days, we feel our stress and anxiety melt away. As we grow older, we often let ourselves move away from coloring and fun forms of play. However, many of these fun things also are great ways to continue to destress. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) provide many caring tools and resources for our UCA members. One such popular tool is found through our Pinterest page in the form of coloring pages. With these we regain a sense of calm and joy that boosts our energy to take on the rest of our week!
Who Started This Trend?
One of the first documentations of coloring being used for relaxation is Carl Jung in the early part of the 20th century. Most famously, he used mandalas: circular designs with concentric shapes that originated in India.
When we first began researching this topic, we were not sure why coloring is effective for reducing stress. We just knew from experience and other sources stating coloring does. Upon reading an article from Psychology Today, we discovered that, “In a recent study, Mantzios and Giannou utilized randomized controlled experiments to explore the differences between coloring and free-drawing.” One experiment had no differences between a free-drawing group and an unguided coloring group. In a second experiment, participants were divided into either a guided or unguided mandala coloring group. The people in the guided group did show a reduction in anxiety.
Clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea, Psy.D. back these findings up, because it has to do with refocusing our attention. “Adult coloring requires modest attention focused outside of self-awareness. It is a simple activity that takes us outside ourselves.” Dr. Bea gives three simple reasons why color can be calming for us. First, it allows our attention to drift away from the stress and become present in the moment. Next, it helps relax the brain because we are not focused on the stressful event. Lastly, coloring is low stakes for us. If we color a section not to our liking, it is ok and we are not going to lose the house, so to speak.
Is Color a Cure-All?
The answer in short is, it depends. Each person is unique and has their own favorite activity that helps them become grounded. The key is to think about what prior experiences as a younger person made you happy and care-free. The reason why coloring books for all ages has become so popular around the world is that many of us colored as children. Coloring is also easy to pick up and set down as needed. “Dr. Bea suspects that the more a person enjoyed coloring as a child, the more likely he or she is to respond to it positively as an adult. ‘It has been my impression that adults choose variants of activities they loved as children for their adult recreations,’ he says.”
A Quick Glance at Studies on Coloring
Over the years many specialists and clinics have performed studies on the effects of coloring. Below is a short list of coloring studies and their core findings.
The Science Behind It
When we are coloring, we activate different areas of our brain. “The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.” (Gloria Martínez Ayala, Huffington Post) More simply put, coloring helps us feel less stressed because we are focusing on a particular activity, and not what we are stressing over. Additionally, we are able to revisit childhood or a time when we had little or no stress in our lives, leading us immediately and subconsciously to a more balanced state of being.
To access downloadable coloring pages on our Pinterest page, click the thumbnail of the image you like to enlarge it. Select the three dots at the top of the window that pops up. Then select download. Open the image on your computer, and print. Grab your favorite coloring tools, and begin melting the stress away with each stroke of the pen.
When we fill our minds and hearts with our not so forgotten childhood, we regain our strength, and often find that we have a new solution to solve that daunting problem at work, home,school, etc. We are happy to share some images with our caring community, and hope that they help us take a moment to de-stress.