What’s topping the bestseller list on Amazon today? Coloring books—like Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden, which, with beautifully illustrated pages in intricate patterns and designs begs for a bit of Crayola color and a healthy dose of imagination. But before you place an order for your 5-year-old nephew’s birthday present, take a second look at Basford’s book. This is not kid stuff—this is for you!
Yes, while for years we grown-ups have encouraged kids to turn off the television and have handed them crayons and paper to allow them to explore their imaginations a bit—and just simply wind down—what have we been doing to deal with the stresses in our own lives? Most of us have a never-ending list of things to do. No matter how much we may cross off, more is piled on and the stress grows. But this is where the influence of art therapy comes in, reviving a childhood pastime that delivers grown-up results.
Therapist Susanne Fincher works with illustrators to create coloring books specifically designed around art therapy techniques. In a statement to CNN, Fincher said, “Neuroscientific research has shown that through the use of art therapy, the human brain can physically change, grow and rejuvenate.”
But for most adults seeking an escape from the tensions of everyday life, coloring is simply relaxing: You choose the color you like and you calm down enough to focus and color within the lines. The concentration it takes to focus on the task at hand, rather than everything going on in your mind, allows you to release tension you may not even realize you carry around consistently.
Your Moment of Zen
So are grown-ups really picking up on this trend? Many adults are coloring—noting that with no effort at all they experience a Zen-like moment and a lingering mood boost. Time spent coloring is time spent away from phones, TV and the Internet, which are known to cause an astonishing amount of stress, depressive thoughts and even anti-social behavior.
While coloring therapy is not new, the trend has only recently spread from the United Kingdom and France (where it was warmly embraced by many adults) to the United States. Coloring offers a sense of mindfulness, experts say, that is a much-needed break from one’s routine. It can become frustrating and oppressive to constantly feel like you are on autopilot, following a list of things to be done that you may not have any control over and do not enjoy. But taking one-on-one time with yourself, deciding what you’d like to color and choosing the colors may give you a sense of control and a sense of freedom from responsibility that not only feels liberating, but also reduces anxiety.
And guess what? Adult coloring books are proliferating. Choices include everything from Basford’s intricate patterns to Ryan Hunter’s and Taige Jensen’s raunchier, comedic stylings in Coloring for Grown Ups. Whether you believe the psychology beneath this growing phenomenon, it is proving to be a positive outlet for plenty of overworked, stressed out adults. Not to mention, who wouldn’t want to take a few minutes to feel like a little kid again?