A few years ago adult coloring books became an incredibly popular trend. Kids of all ages (self-included) were flocking to book stores when presented with the health benefits of coloring.
But how much of what you’ve heard is actually true?
I’ve never been great at making physical art. I have a lot of respect for people who can draw or create things with their hands. That’s not a strong suit of mine. But, like many kids I always liked coloring. I liked the structure of it, yet at the same time coloring comes with little to no pressure.
Fast forward a few decades and now adult coloring books have become a trend in wellness for mental health. Not only are they a good way to tap into inner child work, but there are some serious health benefits as well!
Adult coloring, such as with mandalas (where it seems the recent trends began), helps you live in the present moment and destress. It is also helps you feel less anxious as well.
What the Research Actually Says About the Health Benefits of Coloring
The good news is that the reported health benefits of coloring are true! Coloring as a practice helps reduce stress and anxiety overall. But, there are also some surprising conclusions.
The research has found that there is no substantial difference between coloring in your adult Golden Girls Book or free-drawing (e.g. doodling). The biggest difference was found between coloring things like the Golden Girls coloring book and traditional mandalas. People reported less stress and anxiety with mandalas over other formats, suggesting there’s something to the more traditional practice that is more restorative or mindful. I theorize that the more repetitive design of mandalas helps create a more mindful, almost trance-like experience.
Additionally, coloring in a group setting with a licensed art therapist is much more beneficial than going at it alone. You get an even bigger health boost when you have an encouraging therapist in a soothing group atmosphere.
The Limitations of Coloring for Mental Health
It’s important to know that coloring is not a catch-all treatment for mental health issues. Adult coloring can help reduce “state” anxiety which is essentially day-to-day or moment specific anxiety, rather than “trait” anxiety which is more stable in people over time (ie “I’m an anxious person.”). That means that if you’re having a tough day and feeling stressed or anxious then adult coloring can help a great deal, but if you regularly deal with increased anxiety and struggle with an anxiety condition then you may not feel the same sense of relief from the practice.
As you can see, the health benefits of coloring are great, but limited in scope. If you’d like to enjoy a break from the normal stresses of the world and create, coloring is a good thing to add to your regular wellness regimen. But, if you’re looking for a way to beat your anxiety, adult coloring likely isn’t going to provide sustained benefits. Your best bet is to contact a therapist to work closely with in development a treatment plan tailored for you.