Can Adult Coloring Books Calm You?

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on November 13, 2018

Are you feeling anxious? Irritable? Did you have a bad day?

Don’t laugh, but you might want to pull out a coloring book.

An adult coloring book, that is.

Coloring books for grown-ups have become popular for a variety of health benefits. They’re even being touted as an alternative to meditation.

Therapeutic Value

“Some people find coloring to be calming and therapeutic,” said Rick Seidel, Ph.D., a psychologist with Carilion Clinic.

“When we color, we may be able to temporarily turn our brains away from anxiety-related thoughts,” he noted.

Although there has been little research in this area, advocates of adult coloring books believe they have potential benefits, including:

  • Relieving stress
  • Relieving anxiety
  • Promoting calmness
  • Creating focus
  • Enabling mindfulness (focusing our awareness on the present moment)

A Growing Trend

Coloring books for adults have become so popular that some are even making the bestseller lists.

They are being marketed to stressed, overworked adults, and they seem to have something for everyone.

The books feature intricate designs across a broad spectrum of subjects, including:

  • Fine art
  • Abstract patterns and designs
  • Flowers and gardens
  • Art nouveau animal designs
  • Islands and marine life
  • Dragons
  • Characters from Star Wars, Disney cartoons, South Park, SpongeBob and Game of Thrones
  • Fairy tale characters
  • Mazes
  • Mandalas
  • Christmas themes

They also have intriguing titles like “Color Me Calm,” “Enchanted Forest,” “Island Dreams,” “Where’s Waldo?,” “Color Me Happy” and “The Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-stress art therapy for busy people” (published in England).

You can leave the crayons to the kids, though. Colored pencils for adults are available in over 100 colors so you can color precisely or blend and shade to your heart’s delight.

There are also a number of digital coloring apps, including Colorfy, Pigment and Garden Coloring Book.

Adult coloring has been compared to art therapy, but there are differences. The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as a profession that enriches lives through the creative process and making art. It also involves a professional art therapist and has treatment goals. 

A Zen State

Is an adult coloring book right for you?

Or someone you know?

If you’ve ever enjoyed being drawn into a meditative state while working on a hobby, it might well be.

And don’t be surprised if you spot an adult coloring book under a Christmas tree this holiday season!

Adults need to play too!