Coloring books, coloring books, coloring books! It’s all over the news lately: adults enjoy coloring books. It’s a new “fad,” if you will, for adults to use coloring books as a strategy for stress-relief. I’m not surprised, not even a little bit.
As much as I love technology, I realize it is driving us to always be “in the know.” We feel like we will miss out on something if we don’t pop in and check our social media or What’s App. And this is on top of the busy lives we already lead: children, school, activities, work, errands, groceries, cleaning, caregiving for parents… I could go on and on. We have incorporated more “to-dos” in our day but the calendar remains the same: there are only 24 hours in a day.
So of all things, why have adults found coloring books to be an easy and fun hobby for stress release?
Coloring Books are Tactile and Meditative
We hold a coloring book. We use markers, colored pencils and crayons to actively fill in color to pages of a book. It’s not a Kindle, an i-Pad or an app for our phone. It’s something outside the world of busy-busy connected technology that physically grounds us in the moment.
Many of the best-selling books adults are drawn to use repetition and pattern in their design. In fact, it’s often a focus. This allows us to not think too hard about what we are doing. It means we get to enjoy being present in the moment and use the repetition to trigger a meditative state. Plenty of research today explains how meditation helps our physical and emotional health.
Coloring Books are For Our Inner Child
I remember my grandmother looking at my cousin when his dad died. She grabbed him by both of his shoulders, looked him straight in the eye and said, “You are the man of the house now.” He was sixteen.
Our culture tells young people and adults that we should be focused on adulthood. Our lives are about becoming adults. Yet, consider the words and experiences we connect with adulthood. “Adulthood” has all kinds of associations: responsibility, expectation, work, professional life, family, finances… do any of these sound like fun to you?
I have vivid, loving memories of working in coloring books with both my mother and grandmother. I felt so satisfied as a child when I could color a whole new world. It was a playtime with loved ones as well as a way to spend time by myself. Coloring books reconnect us with moments of pleasant and peaceful art exploration as children.
Coloring Books Are an Act of Self-Love
Adults prioritize everyone around them but themselves. I’ve observed this in women, especially. We say family first at the expense of our own health, happiness, etc. And yet, when we make some time for ourselves, we have more emotional and physical space to be open and present for those very loved ones we’ve been putting “first.” Coloring books are an activity to do with loved ones, or are a great way to disconnect from the world around us. We enjoy the meditative state that gives us a sense of peace and even clarity for life’s problems.
By coloring we model the future we want for our young loved ones: a world where adulthood isn’t only about working for “the man,” or doing things at the expense of your own happiness. It’s about making room for self-care, self-love, to open ourselves up to more opportunities of giving and true mindfulness when we spend time with others.
Coloring Books Open the Door to More Creativity
As an art teacher I’ve met countless people, of all ages, who have been told their desire and interest in being creative is unimportant. They’ve been told, like me, they are “too smart for art,” or “what’s the point?” of making art, “unless you are good at it, and you plan to sell it.” I’ve heard students told, “art is for girls,” their art “hobby is cute, but you need to take two sciences to get a real job after school,” you name it. Time and time again people are told their desire to be creative is not important or valuable.
Coloring books open the doors for countless creatives blocked by cultural mindset and social messages that tell them art is not important or valuable. It is an entry into the art world that feels safe, secure and inviting. Coloring books are meant to create pretty, colorful pictures, no more. There is no concern about purpose, selling art, or being without skill.
Coloring Books Are A Revolution
This also makes coloring books a stepping stone. It’s a door to creativity that is now slightly ajar, shifting our mindset from one where “I can’t draw a stick figure,” or “I can’t draw a straight line,” into “I’ve always enjoyed art, maybe I should take a painting class,” or, “I am going to start making jewelry again.” It gives adults confidence that their desire to be creative isn’t something silly or trivial, but that there is an intrinsic joy in the act of doing. It’s important.
Coloring books have become a way for adults to do something meaningful, like “manage stress,” using a tool many of us ignored since childhood: our creativity.
Coloring books are a symbol of a revolution: adults crying out for their inner children, seeking creative joy and discovery once again. It’s an answer to the question we’ve always known but often refuse to choose: is adulthood ever fun?
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Today’s the day to start owning your creativity. Try my coloring book Mandala Strong to get your creative mojo moving; you deserve it.
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I'm Carrie of Artist Strong. As an art educator for 10+ years I am dedicated to helping you celebrate your inner artist.
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