Yes, Those Coloring Books for Adults are Legit

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Ah, health fads: the Paleo diet, heated zit masks that resemble Freddy Krueger, kale and everything in between. A lot of them were fine to bypass, but here’s one that might be worth your time.

By now just about everyone has seen a bookstore display of “coloring for relaxation” or “coloring for adults.” And for anyone who remains skeptical, wait just a moment; the bandwagon might just be on to something with this one. Mindfulness has taken reign as king of health and wellness trends and it appears as if it’s here to stay. So, what exactly is mindfulness and why should college students be mindful of it (insert groan here)?

Move aside, Fitlates.

Mindfulness is a popular new health practice that helps with relaxation and living in the present. Mindfulness exercises help you gain awareness of your body as well as your mind and are similar to meditation. Mindfulness exercises focus on bringing attention back to the present moment and letting thoughts come in and out of your mind.

What makes it different from lying awake at night panicking as your train of thought derails? By the way you process your thoughts. Rather than overthink and wonder what everything means, the idea is to let thoughts come without labeling them as good or bad, but just letting your train of thought roll.

Still confused about what it is, exactly? Imagine this: You have a huge exam next week, a paper to write, a million emails to respond to and you need to find an apartment for next year’s housing, not to mention go to three club meetings tonight. Here’s where you would pick up a marker and a coloring book and let it all melt away, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes.

The coloring pages are often so detailed that you can spend a full 15 minutes on just one image, and that’s plenty of time to get the good vibes going. Pick your colors and watch the page come to life. Notice that you haven’t thought about any of that other stuff once. Instead you’ve been present the whole time, just focusing on the task at hand. Time flies when you’re finally taking a breath and enjoying yourself.

If the idea of meditating sounds about as relaxing as sitting in a straightjacket while you run through a to-do list of papers to write, articles to read and friends to catch up with, have no fear. Psychology Today, a leading source for news in the field of psychology, offers a tip for beginners to meditation: Start small with just a few minutes. Try it a little bit each day or each week, and slowly see how you meditate best and how to fit it into your life. But if you’re like me, then the meditations in yoga class usually work as a sure-fire way to catch up on sleep you’ve skipped this week.

Instead, you could pick up a coloring book and set aside a few minutes to color a page when you need to bring yourself back into the present. If you get stressed thinking about things you have to get done or plans you need to make, then coloring for mindfulness might serve as the relaxation technique for you. According to Psychology Today, coloring helps because it is a low-stress way to engage with your creative side as you make decisions on colors. Your brain is so focused on the page in front of you that you don’t have space to wallow in the past or worry about the future.

Mindfulness meditations help remind you to take care of both your mind and body. Studies have shown the benefits of short daily exercises in mindfulness, and get this: Research is being done now to confirm the hypothesis that regular meditation actually changes your brain chemistry to help you feel the active, present mindset long-term.

If you could achieve this with just a little coloring, wouldn’t you? Imagine saying goodbye to feelings of high anxiety and worry for good just by picking up a marker.

Lesley University even offers a two-year program to get a Master of Mindfulness Studies because of the benefits across career fields and demographics, so you know this trend is for real (I don’t see any majors that focus on the benefits of asparagus water). Maybe your yoga-obsessed neighbor isn’t as crazy as you once thought.

Why Students are Obsessed With Coloring Books

Written by Morgan Robertson.

Have you heard? Coloring books are not just for kindergartners anymore.I received a Today I Choose Joy coloring book from my mom for my birthday (yes, my 21st birthday), and it really helped me de-stress from my hectic Berkeley lifestyle.

Feeling overwhelmed AF over midterm season? You might want to pick up an adult coloring book.

1. They’re good for for de-stressing

“I work in the Student Union and after the whole free speech week, they held an event for the employees as a thank you and a way to de-stress. So, they had an event where they put on movies, had snacks, and other activities such as coloring pages, which seems childish but it was actually very relaxing,” UC Berkeley Senior Adrienne Hinkston said. In times of stress and uncertainty, we tend to let our bodies and our minds deteriorate. Coloring will serve as a sort of mindful meditation that takes the mind off of the constant pressure.

Instead, it’ll allow you to focus on a simple non-goal orientated practice.  Coloring for just a few minutes relieves so much unnecessary weight (pro tip: quitting without finishing a whole page = totally acceptable). It also helps bring you back into the present moment. Rather than getting caught up #postgrad plans or reliving the embarrassing encounter with that cute guy you like (Mean Girls style when Cady said “gruel”), you can focus on one small patch of paper and make all your troubles go away (momentarily).

 2. They Help You Relax

Along with being a full-time student, UC Berkeley senior Tyler Clark spends her time with young students tutoring them in reading and writing. “I just color when I am watching TV to relax,” Clark said. With classes, clubs and jobs, we may not always express our emotions in a healthy way, instead putting it off to the side. Some even tell ourselves that we’re fine. We need some sort of outlet for all that negative energy. Why not take that and make it into something beautiful?

UC Berkeley senior Maggie Anderson takes time every week to color and de-stress. “Coloring really helps me when I’m feeling when I’m feeling anxious or struggling with negative thoughts. Shifting the focus from what’s going on in my life to creating something pretty makes me feel more calm almost immediately.” Although you cannot substitute coloring for proper professional help should you need it, it may help if you feel occasionally anxious. Just pull a ten dollar bill out of your pocket for a set of colored pencils and a brand-new coloring book. It may just serve as the best investment you’ve made since your last cup of ramen.

3. They Can Help Spark Creativity

Coloring evokes the “relaxation response.” It allows the mind to relax and be creative. “The greatest mental, physical and spiritual benefit that students get from art classes is the reawakening of their right brain, their intuitive selves,” UC Berkeley Art Practice professor John McNamara said. “We all have this in the beginning as kids, but it gets beat out of us as we get older and are taught that memorization and knowing the answer is the key to success. Our right brain is neutralized, thereby nullifying the potential for real engagement with life.”

Beyond that, when you feel frustrated about #adulting and wish for someone to tell you what to do, coloring might serve as the answer. “Staying within the lines and following directions can be satisfying,” said Professor McNamara. It takes away the extra pressure of everyday college life. Instead, at least for a little while you only need to focus on choosing a color or pattern and staying inside the lines.

4. They Give You Time for Reflection

The black and white page gives you an opportunity to fill it with color. “I like using coloring books because it gives me time to sit and think about what’s going on in my life and what I’m happy about and what I need to fix,” Loyola Marymount in Chicago sophomore Lindsay Walters said. “It’s like I can’t just sit in my bed and stare at a wall and think like that, I need to be busy doing things with my hands and art gives me that! I need to work on through my head and make some cool designs while I do it.” In fact, psychologists on the UC Berkeley campus have mentioned to me multiples times to really emphasize self-compassion and mindfulness. That’s right—coloring may help with that.

Who knows? Maybe the key to feeling better is in between the lines. Many of us will not be extraordinary artists, but hey it can be fun to pretend.

Looking for a good coloring book?

1. Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Animal Designs by Dan Morris

2. Adult Coloring Books Good vibes: Don’t Give Up: Motivate your life with Brilliant Designs and great calligraphy words to help melt stress away (volume 16) by Cherina Kohey

3. Adult Coloring Book: Butterflies and Flowers: Stress Relieving Patterns by Cherina Kohey

4. The World’s Best Madala Coloring Book: A Stress Management Coloring Book for Adults by Marti Jo’s Coloring

5. Good Vibes Coloring Book (Coloring is Fun) (Design Originals) by Thaneeya McArdle

6. More Good Vibes Coloring Book (Coloring is Fun) (Design Originals) by Thaneeya McArdle

7. Coloring Books for Adults Relaxation: Adult Coloring Books: Flowers, Animals and Garden Designs by Coloring Books for Adults Relaxation

8. Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns by Blue Star Coloring

9. “Today is Going to be a great day” Inspirational Adult Coloring Book

10. Art of Coloring: Disney Animals: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity and Relaxation

*Updated on October 26, 2017 by Morgan Robertson to include “Why Students are Obsessed with Adult Coloring Books” and 10 coloring books.

Katherine is a sophomore studying secondary education and English at Boston College. She is a lover of reading, quoting movies, and never met a cup of coffee she didn't like.

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