Mindfulness and the Way of the Coloring Book
Coloring books: not just for kids? Jessica Roy, writing for New York Magazine's The Cut, highlights a group of women who have found coloring to be a form of stress relief and a beneficial mindfulness practice. The women interviewed in her article identify coloring as a meditative escape from daily hassles, on par with a yoga class or a walk in nature. And coloring has an advantage over these other activities: it can be done anywhere, at any time, as long as you have some paper and colored pencils or other media.
Mindfulness practices are widely touted for their mental and physical health benefits, and typically involve focusing your attention on one thing. The focal point is often your breath, but sometimes it's the sounds you hear, the feelings in your body, or the food you are eating. Why not focus your attention on a field of color? Color has a profound impact on mood, and we have the power to alter our mood by surrounding ourselves with colors that create a desired feeling or state of mind. Many people find shades of green and blue soothing, and yellows and oranges uplifting. Coloring also involves a tactile sensation that can be used to great effect in mindfulness practice. Drawing with a sharp coloring pencil offers a sense of control that can be valuable when we feel out of control in our lives. Watercolor paint is looser and can create a sensation of flow when we feel too tightly wound.
A coloring book comes equipped with all sorts of lines and shapes, creating boundaries and limits to challenge us. Will you color within the lines, finding comfort in the structure provided? Would you prefer to push those boundaries by coloring around, over, and outside the lines? Perhaps you'd like to create your own illustration and fill it in, or just color abstractly on a blank sheet of paper.
Next time you're feeling unsettled or in need of some stress relief, try this mindful coloring art therapy activity:
Place in front of you a blank sheet of white paper and a selection of colored drawing media. Ask yourself, "what color do I want to look at right now?" Choose that color and hold it over the page. Ask yourself, "how does my arm want to move right now?" Softly and gently? Quickly with agitation? Slowly and deliberately? Hold the drawing tool and allow your hand to move across the page however it wants. Focus on the feeling of your arm and the color that you see on the page. Breathe and stay focused on the sensations of color and movement. When you feel ready to stop, observe the page and notice, without judgment, the feelings that come up.
What do you think? Would you use a coloring book for stress relief?