Coloring Isn’t Just for Kids

by Crystal Zhao

In recent years, coloring, an activity most people leave behind after graduating elementary school, has gained a foothold in an unlikely demographic – working adults. As unlikely as it may seem, the simple act of coloring between the lines has recaptured the attention and hearts of a generation that has changed very much since it last picked up a box of crayons. These are the people who have experienced the time both before and after the proliferation of the Internet and mobile technologies, and the stress of our current breakneck-paced lifestyles and interconnectedness has caused them to search for the peace that they once took for granted. Adult coloring is one of many trends that has found its place within the rise and popularization of mindfulness techniques.

Though it may be tempting to dismiss it as a mere whim of hipsters, coloring has proved itself to be a powerful relaxation technique for many. The proof lines the shelves of mainstream bookstores, which offer volumes for such varied audiences as cat lovers to Taylor Swift fans to admirers of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There is also research that backs the legitimacy of coloring as a form of meditation. According to Craig Sawchuk, clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, the activity can be “almost like a volume knob to turn down the sympathetic nervous system, the stress response.” His studies also show a correlation between coloring and slowing down heart rate and respiration, muscle relaxation, and increased brain stimulation. These benefits seem to stem from the deliberate focus that the activity demands. “The gentle pressing of the crayon or pencil on the page, the texture of the paper across your hand, and the soft sounds of the coloring instrument moving back and forth in a rhythmic fashion… [have a] grounding effect” Sawchuck says.

In short, coloring not only improves fine motor skills and promotes creativity, but also is capable of positively impacting the health and well-being of those who regularly practice it. As odd as it may seem on its surface, there is a certain satisfying cyclicality to the continuing expansion of the so-called “Peter Pan market.” The best way to counteract the negative effects of our ultra-modern world is to go back to the basics – a pencil, paper, and a blissfully blank mind.