How Coloring Books Help Anxious Children – and Adults

coloring bookColoring books aren’t just for children anymore, as adults have latched onto them as a soothing way to beat the stress of the day. The coloring book trend has been picking up steam since 2014, with a slew of coloring books geared toward adults making Amazon’s bestselling book list, according to CNN.

The new breed of coloring books feature more intricate and sophisticated illustrations than you’d find in your average children’s book, although children are welcome to use them right along with mom and dad. The marketing genius behind the success is targeting stressed-out, overworked and anxious adults – which could pretty much cover just about anyone.

A Much-Needed Break

Art therapy is nothing new, nor is using crafts to revive and unwind. The surge in stress-reducing coloring books, which kicked off in the UK and is rapidly spreading to the US, may be stemming from the vehement need to unplug and the array of books you can find online. Options range from classic paintings to detailed nature scenes, animal adventures to mandalas.

Regardless of the theme, the activity works for a number of reasons.

  • Gives you a break from screen time and digital connections
  • Brings back fond childhood memories of less stressful times
  • Focuses attention on the moment and activity at hand, rather than the swirling thoughts in the head
  • Lifts the mood, decreases anxiety and stress
  • Mimics benefits of art therapy, which can rejuvenate, grow and alter the human brain
  • Empowers you to manage feelings and thoughts with positive action rather than harmful or abusive habits
  • Can simply be fun

 A Huge Dose of Mindfulness

One more benefit of coloring books for all ages is the ability to bring on a huge dose of instant mindfulness. Mindfulness can be defined as being truly aware of the world around and your place in it, again a much-needed break from the robotic existence many experience on a daily basis. Rather than going from one activity or obligation to the next, you get to take your time moving from one pattern to the next carefully – and mindfully – coloring them in.

Coloring book creator and therapist Emma Farrarons noted mindfulness encourages people to “break patterns in life by introducing variations to avoid the sensation of being on autopilot.” Another way to describe it is a practice that allows you to let go of the past and future to focus on the single thing in front of you.

While the concept may seem simple, that doesn’t mean it’s always simple to do. As with any other practice, however, it gets easier and becomes more natural the longer and more frequently you engage in it.

Other Mindfulness Practices

Sharing quiet coloring book time with your anxious child is only one way you can bring the mindfulness practice into your daily life. Other activities can include listening to soothing music, lying back and focusing on your breathing and similar exercises.

You can learn more about the benefits and strategies behind mindfulness in our post on Mindfulness or MBSR for Treating Child Anxiety. Or you can skip the details and simply pick up a couple of coloring books, one for you and one for your anxious child, and let the mindfulness begin.


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