Coloring for Relaxation

Lately I have been doing a lot of coloring. Yes, you read that right. I color in a coloring book--just like we did when we were kids. Although I typically do not use crayons any more and the books I purchase have far more intricate designs than the ones I grew up on, the process is the same as it was for me in the '70's. Buy a coloring book, pull out the colored pencils and start coloring in the picture. This is a "new fad" but I've been doing it for several years with clients. It admittedly started with my younger clients when I read about the positive effects of coloring mandalas. (Even Carl Jung, one of the pretty important forefathers of psychotherapy saw the benefits of this). I immediately downloaded some simple designs from the internet and took it to session. The kids preferred to use markers but they enjoyed it nonetheless. Even the boys, whom I assumed would balk at such an activity really got into the geometric designs (and I had found some with flames and other "cool" stuff I thought would appeal to their rough and tumble nature). Of course, I was ignorant and many of the boys AND girls liked these "cool" designs but an equal number preferred the more swirly, flowery designs. I remember one boy saying "I'm coloring this for my mom." I have no idea if he actually ended up giving it to her but the point was, he had a lovely, relaxing time that day just coloring in little hearts and flowers.

As the years passed, I noticed more and more "adult" coloring books at craft stores like Michael's. I enjoyed looking at the pictures--they were getting away from the strict mandala designs and more into not only "pictures" but geometic patterns, tesselations, and a variety of other appealing artwork. One day I found a giant book of mandalas at Costco of all places and immediately snapped it up and currently use it in my office. This one is great because it has the mandala look but incorporates many animals, birds, insects and other living things into its designs which broadens the appeal.

About a month ago, I noticed a coloring group show up on my Facebook newsfeed. It was started by a woman I knew from my kids' preschool and who I ultimately worked with for a few years. Members of the group were also some people I knew from various community events and I longed to be a part of their coloring group. They posted pictures of the lovely things they were working on and they had moved it from the solitary event (or a nearly solitary event as I usually color with my clients) of which I had become accoustomed, to a social event. They brought snacks! Met in a bar! Drank wine! Shared tips and techniques and compared coloring books! This was wonderful! Then I got invited to the group and I couldn't wait to join them! I rushed out and bought a new coloring book and pencils to mark the occasion. I showed up with my snack and supplies and had a lovely time reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. By then the group was meeting at a community center since lighting is pretty important when you're coloring intricate designs and table space is imperative so that all the supplies can be laid out so just the perfect color can be selected... but the idea was the same. I could sit and color with this group, chat, feel social yet isolated in my own world that I was busy coloring in. It was indeed lovely. 

My schedule, unfortunately, has gotten completely out of control lately so I missed last week's group, but I decided to write about the experience here to share not only the wonderful world of coloring, a throw back to simpler times, perhaps, but also to possibly encourage you to give it a try. You can download images from the internet for free--try googling "mandala" and you'll get an amazing number of free things that will keep you busy for weeks! You don't have to use super high-quality supplies--there are no rules when it comes to coloring. You could use paint, crayon, colored pencil, pastels, charcoal, ink pens... whatever you have on hand. Here's an article about coloring for adults and highlights many of the reasons I use it as a therapeutic tool with my clients. Here's another! 

And here's a picture of my coloring group working on our books... that's me in the middle with my head bent down--totally immursed in the simple pleasure and relaxing nature of coloring.

With a busy schedule and family responsibilities, you might think you don't have time to color. I would challenge that notion. Even spending 10 minutes a day or just coloring once a week or even once for that matter, can promote stress relief. Its an inexpensive, highly portable, and social activity (if you want it to be!) that is so easy, a little kid could do it! It could be an activity that you do together with your family! It is a wonderfully creative way to escape the busy-ness of our day even just for a few minutes of relief.