Relax, Focus With Adult Coloring

If you’ve ever spent much time in the hospital, you know how bored you can get. That happened to me recently when I was in for quite a long stay.

I’d run out of books, got tired of TV and wasn’t all that mobile. I was desperate for something to do. Luckily, a kind nurse turned up a Marvel coloring book and a tub of crayons. Kid stuff, but I was in no position to scoff.

Marvel Colouring Book

For the first time since grade school, I put Crayola to paper and turned out quite a nice Captain America, even if his suit was deep black and his shield a shiny purple.

Wow, I had no idea how relaxing coloring could be for an adult. It’s one of those singular tasks that requires all your focus – and none of it. Your hands and eyes take over and your mind feels free to wander where it will.

My breathing and heart rate slowed, my pain receded, and I realized that I was better able to concentrate than I had been in a while. And, as silly as it seems, when I held up that completed page filled in with bright colors and neat lines, I felt no small sense of accomplishment.

Adult Coloring Is Everywhere

Once I got out of the hospital, I began searching online for information on adult coloring. To my astonishment, this has apparently become something of a craze of late.

Secret Carden

There are coloring books galore for adults, including the best-selling “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book” by Scottish-educated illustrator and designer Johanna Basford. In fact, four of the top 10 selling books on Amazon in recent months were adult coloring books, according to CNN.

The Huffington Post has written about how adult coloring lowers stress; Gizmodo has marveled at the popularity of adult coloring books; Psychologies has reported on adults using coloring books in the UK and France.

According to the Huffington Post:

When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres, says psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala. “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.”

In simplest terms, coloring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries. But it also “brings out our imagination and takes us back to our childhood, a period in which we most certainly had a lot less stress.” This leads us immediately and unconsciously to welfare, exposes the specialist.

Leslie at Comfortable Shoes Studio is a mental health counselor and has written an interesting take on adult coloring, especially the difference between coloring to de-stress and art therapy. Definitely worth a read. Also interesting: She links to a study that, among other things, indicates adult coloring far pre-dates the current craze.

Getting Started in Adult Coloring

Ther’s nothing complicated about getting into adult coloring.

It’s mainly just a matter of choosing your materials.

One particularly popular design for adult coloring is the mandala, which is a geometric design that looks something like a round stained-glass window when colored. Not really my thing, but it seems to have some spiritual importance for many people.

Mandela Colouring Design

Otherwise, adult coloring books are everywhere, from hobby shops to Amazon, and the selection seems endless. The subject matter of adult coloring books is equally boundless – nature, landscapes, even humor.

Just pick one that resonates with you.

What you choose to color with depends on what kind of result you want. Colored pencils will give you finer lines and more versatility; markers will give you more vivid colors (but a tendency to bleed) and crayons will take you back to childhood. By the way, did you know that you cant get lead poising from graphite or colored pencil pencil

If you choose colored pencils, you can save money by going with student-grade water-soluble pencils like Stabilo Aquacolors or Faber-Castell Art Grips. The colors may not have the depth of professional-grade, but they are much less expensive and still allow you to use washing techniques for blended looks.

Stabilo Point 88 30 Colours

Markers are tough because most, especially those that are alcohol-based, will bleed through, rendering the back page unusable. For vivid colors that are less likely to bleed, try drawing/coloring pens like the Stabilo Point 88 or the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner.

Or, go old-school and use a crayon. The wax usually doesn’t adhere to the paper evenly and will leave you with those little shavings you have to brush away. But, your colors will have solidity, and you’ll feel like a kid again. Just do yourself a favor and use Crayola, not one of the knock-off brands; there’s no comparison.

Most importantly, don’t put a lot of thought into it. Just grab your book and your coloring instrument and have some fun.


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Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

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