What used to be known as a simple, fun activity for kids now is a tool for practising good mental health. Colouring took off in popularity a few years ago, especially for adults.
While children’s colouring books feature cartoon characters and simple designs, adult colouring books have intricate patterns of flowers, artwork, mandalas or animals.
Books are available for purchase, and you can print free colouring pages online. For people who prefer a digital version, many colouring apps are available for mobile devices.
But what makes adult colouring so popular?
Colouring can improve your health by helping you to be more mindful. Mindfulness is the ability to focus and stay in the moment.
For example, because you’re focusing on colour choice and staying inside the lines, you’re only thinking about the present moment. You can shut off the noise around you, and give your mind the gift of focusing on the movements, sensations and emotions of your present moment. Practice being non-judgmental as you go through the task with no expectations and just being in the moment.
If your mind wanders, which is normal, gently return to what you are experiencing right now. While colouring, you use the parts of your brain that enhance focus and concentration. It gives you the opportunity to disconnect from stressful thoughts.
Colouring is a healthy way to relieve stress. It calms the brain and helps your body relax. This can improve sleep and fatigue, while decreasing body aches, heart rate, respiration, and feelings of depression and anxiety.
Although colouring isn’t the ultimate cure for stress and anxiety, sitting down for a long colouring session holds great value. As you colour, pay attention to your breathing rhythm, ensuring steady, full breaths from your diaphragm, and tune into your heart rate periodically if you can.
Embracing the Imperfect
There’s no right or wrong way to colour. Colouring is a non-competitive activity, so there isn’t pressure to “level up”, win a prize or beat the clock. You can colour for as long or as little time as you want. You don’t need to finish a picture in one sitting. Try to let go of judgments or expectations and enjoy the simple beauty of colouring. It doesn’t matter if your picture is neat or messy.
The only thing that matters is if you found enjoyment and relaxation while colouring. Some people don’t find colouring to be relaxing or enjoyable, especially those who didn’t like to colour as a child.
Other fun ways to relieve stress include:
Spending time with a four-legged friend
It’s no secret that pets make us happy. Their love is unconditional, they are always happy to see us, and they’re adorable. Spend some quality time with a pet, or volunteer at an animal shelter if you don’t have pets of your own.
Crack open a book
Reading is a great way to wind down. Like colouring, it helps you lose yourself in the moment and forget about your work or other stressors.
Massage your earlobes
Massaging the pressure points in your earlobes brings on a calming, relaxing sensation over your body. Do this for a few minutes, and you may start to feel some relief.
Bust a move
Breaking out your best dance moves along with your favourite song can be therapeutic for many people. And if you’re dancing throughout most of the song, you can also say you snuck in some exercise.
Take a deep breath
Deep breathing is a great way to reduce your body’s response to perceived threats. Breathe in through your nose for five seconds and hold for two seconds. Then release your breath through your mouth for five seconds.