Coloring books had a bad rap when many of us were in grade school. Art teachers especially disliked them because they "stifled" creativity. Our parents, however, rather liked them -- they provided quiet time when mom wanted a nap or a great back-seat activity on long car trips. We just saw them as fun.
Fun and Therapy
Enter Dr. Ben Michaelis, clinical psychologist, along with several of his Australian counterparts - the current gurus of the therapeutic benefits of coloring books for adults. What mom and dad know about coloring -- of its calming effects -- means that mom and dad should be coloring too. And now they are, in huge numbers! In fact, the adult coloring book craze has become such a phenomenon that large book sellers like Amazon are having difficulty keeping them in stock.
Why all of this fuss over coloring books? Turns out, there are some amazing benefits that are now being validated by actual research on adult coloring.
Just What Are These Benefits?
According to Michaelis, coloring relaxes the amygdala -- the fear center of the brain. This is an area that is stimulated when stress levels are high, whether from the demands of work or personal lives. Coloring, in effect, lets the mind get some rest. His counterparts in Australia state that it is particularly useful for clients who have difficulty with meditation and/or "shutting down" their brains. Coloring, they say, forces that "shut down" and has many of the same effects as meditation. Coloring, then, effectively allows stressed out folks to forget their problems of the moment and return to a time when life was so simple.
Other psychologists state that coloring books open up the frontal lobes of the brain, with the inherent "demand" that people stay in the lines. These are the parts that control organization and problem solving. As well, it forces both sides of the brain to work together - the logical left side (staying in those lines) and the more creative right side (choices of colors, shading, etc.).
Gone are the Tupperware parties of last century. Today it's coloring book parties -- adults bringing their favorite books and sharing conversation and a glass of wine as they color together. What everyone who attended these gatherings seems to love is that no one has to be an artist, but they can be artistic with color and shading.
Doctors and others who treat cancer patients are finding, at least with women so far, that coloring books appear to reduce both the physical and mental distress of cancer treatment. They are more relaxed, more positive, and complain far less of the physical side effects of treatment. An additional benefit seems to be a lowered heart rate.
Sense of Accomplishment
Coloring is a low-tech basic but rewarding activity, and when an adult finishes a particularly intricate mandala or other design, there is a strong sense of accomplishment. In fact, many are framing their finished products for wall décor. And coloring book publishers are accommodating this by producing books that have card-stock pages just for that purpose.
Something For Everyone
The vast array of adult coloring books on the market today means that anyone, male or female, can find some that are appealing. Here is a list of just some of the awesome options you have before you.
1. Coloring Notebook
What a perfect gift. This is a beautifully leather-bound Coloring Notebook with pages for diary or journal entries, along 50 beautiful scenes and designs for coloring. Add a box of colored pencils, and your recipient is ready to go.
2. The Mindfulness Coloring Book
The perfect anti-stress coloring book for busy career professionals. The Mindfulness Coloring Bookis filled with geometric designs, patterns, and mandalas, this should be in every purse, backpack or briefcase.
Intricate paisley printed owls and floral backgrounds provide quite a challenge for "artists" who want to demonstrate their "eye" for color and the love of owls - 31 owls in all in this amazing book. These, once completed, should be framed. The same author also has a similar book of cats.
4. Game of Thrones
As the new season of "Game of Thrones" is still in production, is there any better way to kill the time while anticipating it than with a 14-page Game of Thrones coloring book of all of the prominent characters from this hugely popular TV series? A perfect gift for a "Game of Thrones" junkie.
5. Color This Book New York City
Know any transplants from New York City? How about anyone who goes there often, just for the sights and sounds and a Broadway lay? 30 illustrations in Color This Book New York City capture every aspect of this most famous city in the world, from unique shops and eateries, to street scenes to the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and Macy's at Christmas. Very cool collection that captures the city perfectly.
This book by Richard Merritt features rather eerie and mysterious scenes and objects on a fully black background. The author has begun the coloring with all black, white, and red. But there are plenty of white spaces for you to add to the mystery with your own color choices. Some of the pages feature clocks, bridges, and playing cards.
7. Doodle Invasion
If you have a great eye for detail and excellent eyesight, then Doodle Invasion is for you. 50 pages of artwork look as if someone had sat with the same piece of paper and doodled all day - but in a truly artistic way, of course. Now you can add the color to all of these doodles - good luck!
8. The Mandala Coloring Book
Ancient Hindus and Buddhists used mandalas as a point of focus in preparation for meditation. These are intricate geometric designs, often circular, that represent the universe. Carl Jung, famed psychologist gave mandalas to his patients to color, and documented the calming effects that the activity had. The Mandala Coloring Book contains 100 original mandalas for coloring, along with introductory information that explains the therapeutic benefits of the activity. Perfect for those who need stress relief and/or who just like great designs to color.
So, how many people do you know who could use some color therapy?