Health Benefits of Adult Coloring Books

February 22, 2016



Adult coloring books are all the rage right now. In fact, many of the popular ones are the best sellers in their respective categories on Amazon (in fact, 1/3 of the top 15 best sellers in all categories are coloring books!). Turns out there are some health and psychological benefits of coloring, a fact that children may instinctively know (like so many other life lessons we should learn from our kids!).

Most children naturally love to draw and color and we actively encourage this in our children. Yet, sometime around “real school” age, we stop encouraging creative activities like coloring and drawing and instead encourage more structured academic activities. By adulthood, the idea of cracking open a coloring book seems almost laughable… except that researchers have been studying the benefits of this classic childhood activity for adults for over a decade.

Benefits of Adult Coloring Books?

It might seem crazy that something as simple as a coloring book could actually be beneficial, but research continually supports this idea. In fact, researchers have known for over 100 years the benefits of coloring on the adult brain and famous psychiatrists throughout history (including Carl Jung) have recommended it to their patients.

Stress Relief

Coloring has been shown to have stress-reducing benefits. The reason? Coloring is said to calm the amygdala, the part of the brain related to the fear/stress response while stimulating the parts of the brain responsible for creativity and logic. A 2005 study documented a reduction in anxiety in subjects after a short time of coloring geometric patterns.

In fact, coloring therapy is being used experimentally for those with anxiety and stress related disorders. Some people report sleeping better when coloring for even 5 minutes before bedtime.

Focus and Creativity

There’s a reason that adult coloring books are becoming a favorite among high-profile business professionals in high-stress industries and creative professionals. There is evidence that even a short coloring session can help improve focus and spur creativity. Some offices are even making time for group coloring sessions for employees as a way to improve group focus and creativity during big projects.

While we may think of group coloring time as an activity for pre-schoolers, high-profile executives are joining the trend!

Social Time

Group coloring time is becoming an increasingly popular activity in many places as clubs and social groups pop up to facilitate it. Even in my own small town, the library is hosting adult coloring sessions and I’ve seen several Mom’s Night Outs that advertise “Coloring and Wine” (count me in!).

While coloring does take focus and promotes relaxation, it isn’t such a difficult activity that it can’t be done while talking or spending time with others, making it an increasingly popular group activity. If you have kids, this is a fun activity that you can do with them!

Alternative to Meditation

The psychological benefits of prayer and meditation have been well studied, but many people find it difficult to “turn-off” and calm the mind. Coloring and other hands-on activities offer an alternative because they allow you to “do” something without the need for active concentration. In studies, activities like coloring are able to produce a similar effect to meditation in the brain.

Benefits Aren’t Specific to Just Coloring

It is important to note that while coloring is a fun activity for many children and adults, it certainly isn’t the only creative activity with these benefits. Music, drawing, crafts and even home repairs (if you enjoy them) were found to be meditative and therapeutic. Knitting has also been studied for its ability to lessen depression and anxiety.

I’ve personally always noticed the same effects from other types of creative activities like painting, drawing, and DIY projects but can see how coloring can be even more relaxing as there is no need to create anything from scratch and the ability to follow a pattern and template removes some of the need for active thought.

Adult Coloring Books: How To

I was surprised to find hundreds of options when I started looking at adult coloring books, as well as dozens of opinions about the “right” way to color them (reading the reviews/comments on adult coloring books is not stress relieving!).

I ended up ordering several books (including one that was on the best seller list) and apack of colored pencils. Since adult coloring pages tend to be much smaller and more detailed than the coloring books of childhood, I would definitely suggest colored pencils or very fine tip markers over crayons or regular markers.

This has become my favorite book, since the quotes are inspirational and can be used for decoration when you are done coloring them, but there are different types of coloring books for every interest and preference (including animal patterns, geometric shapes and patterns, any many others.

Bottom Line

Though coloring therapy is being used experimentally for those with PTSD, anxiety and other stress-related disorders, it isn’t a substitute for regular therapy or consulting with a qualified professional. Despite its hype, it probably also won’t be a magic fix for any health or stress-related problem.

It is, however, a fun and relaxing activity and an inexpensive way to relax, de-stress and spend some time with friends or your kids. Since it may help sleep, focus, and creativity, I figured a $6 book was worth a try!

Do you have adult coloring books? Ever tried coloring for relaxation?

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