Even if you have only a little coloring experience under your belt, the expectation of an approaching coloring session is almost always accompanied by elation
You know you are about to embark on yet another fun-filled and sensuous creative romp, and it’s just so difficult to contain yourself.
Besides, a coloring session needs so little preparation.
- Choose a page in a favorite coloring book.
- Gather your art tools: pencils, crayons, brushes, or markers.
- Allot some quality time.
Judging by the recent explosion in popularity of Coloring Books for Adults, throngs of avid colorists share similar expectations and joys.
Obviously, then, coloring grants the devoted colorist a multitude of enviable blessings.
In a nutshell, here’s what coloring can do for you
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase creativity
- Provide technique-free relaxation
- Promote mental health
- Deepen emotional calm
- Improve color combination choices
- Nurture health and well-being
- Stimulate both sides of the brain
- Encourage spontaneous joy
- Invigorate creativity
- Enhance color appreciation
- Provide an alternative to formal meditation
- Boost subtle motor skills
- Develop a gentle and super-fun pastime
- Expand self-knowledge
- Lead you into deep mindfulness
- Reconnect you with your inner self
Below, I’ve explored the benefits in greater detail and arranged everything into four loose categories. Despite these groupings, the benefits remain extensively interconnected and strongly dependent on each other.
Stress saturates our lives, and the passage of time only adds to the burden.
Our resting state has become one of unconscious hyper-vigilance where our fight-or-flight response remains permanently on hair-trigger alert. We are an overburdened, exhausted, and anxiety riddled culture with no “official” fix anywhere in sight.
If we genuinely value our well-being, a sane decision will entail taking full responsibility for our current emotional state and the beginning of steps to bring about positive change.
And the sooner the better!
Living with unrelenting stress not only precludes any chance of lasting joy; without a doubt, it sucks the very life force right out of you.
When you buckle at the knees because of relentless stress, a simple solution seems to be any form of escape you can manage: recreational drugs, over indulgence in food, excessive alcohol, or just plain distracting and destructive activities.
The rub here is that all of these easy “solutions” have a huge negative impact on your wellbeing. Certainly none address the root cause or brings about any fundamental change. Instead, they merely mask the symptoms for a time while pushing your body and psyche more out of balance.
You see, an ancient part of your brain called the Amygdala – the primordial seat of your fight-or-flight response – actually caused all this mischief,. When it remains in a constant state of high stimulation (caused by such things as stress that never resolves, etc.), it condemns you to escalating states of obsessive worry and ever present anxiety.
Now the Amygdala is not all bad. It can be extremely handy when you find yourself face-to-face with a drooling, rabid Sabretooth tiger. This is a situation where you instantly need all the adrenaline you can muster to super-charge your ability to run, and run very fast. In such cases, the Amygdala is your very best friend.
When your neighborhood remains Sabretooth free, however, and you just want to get on with life, a lifetime habit of living with an overstimulated Amygdala becomes an enormous burden.
Among other nasties, it leaves you with huge excesses of adrenaline and other toxic chemicals cursing willy-nilly through your body.
So what does a person do with all these super jitters when there is nothing to fight and nothing to run from?
Most of us just internalize it, shoving it all down inside our bodies and psyches. That, of course, would have to be the world’s best way to build on the existing stress, anxiety, and general feelings of total yuckiness.
Smart move, huh?
An infinitely better approach is to become involved in activities that gently encourage the growth of relaxed states of being.
And what do you know, coloring has proved to be a most effective way of taming your Amygdala’s over-zealous activity.
The art of coloring involves basic, repetitive physical motions plus the calming effect of choosing colors and creating something out of nothing. These characteristics engage parts of the cerebral cortex that never provoke agitation while fully soothing and relaxing the Amygdala.
Coloring also takes your attention away from yourself and into the present moment. As your coloring session progresses, you become less and less disturbed by your thoughts and judgements.
When you focus on the simple act of coloring, your emotions naturally move towards relaxation. A pleasurable and calming feeling inevitably spreads throughout your being and, as your coloring experience deepens, the overall calming effect continues to increase.
By turning down the Amygdala’s unruly responses, coloring gives your brain and emotions much needed rest, relaxation, and nurturing comfort.
Coloring is highly therapeutic and encourages deep mindfulness. It can even grow into something akin to meditation.
Although it might be difficult to believe, coloring does indeed positively affect your intellectual fitness.
When coloring, you constantly make decisions and launch into large intuitive leaps. Here are some are examples of thoughts that might float around your head while coloring.
- What color goes with this?
- My goodness, that purple sure looks good with that blue. I wonder what red and turquoise would look like next to them?
- Which brush should I use next? Maybe I could use my finger. No, wait, there’s a Q-Tip lying around here somewhere.
- Whoops! I think I pressed a little too hard with that last pencil stroke.
- Perhaps this would be even more fun if I changed into my pajamas.
- Funny, putting that pink alongside the yellow made my toes tingle.
- I wonder if turning the page upside down would help me color inside those thin lines.
- This book’s designs are amazing. I’m setup for weeks of fun.
What is happening here is that both hemispheres of the brain are engaged. Coloring is always a holistic process. It uses and exercises much more of your brain than most other things can. Yes, even your day job. It certainly uses your brain in a healthier way than sitting in front of the TV. It might even help undo some of the damage an overindulgence in TV has already caused.
Okay, so now your brain is working as it should.
- Synapses are firing throughout the brain.
- New internal connections are constantly forming.
- Because of the above, your gray matter is developing into a far more efficient, stronger, and flexible friend.
The next step is a simple decision…just color some more!
- When you color, you grow your brain.
- When you color, you use both brain hemispheres in concert. Intellectual and intuitive capacities work together. And the result is always synergistic (i.e. the combined effect is greater than the sum of the separate parts).
- When you color, you become both a stronger thinker and a far more intuitive creator.
Although hardly as rigorous as lifting weights or hours devoted yoga practice, coloring does indeed improve your physical well-being.
As subtle as it might seem, the repetitive exercising of fine motor skills (a prime example is the hand-eye coordination required while laying down color) improves your overall ability to perform complex daily physical actions.
Then there’s the whole Relaxation Response thingy. Do something, anything, in a fully relaxed state and your body goes about its hidden, internal maintenance work in a much more efficient manner. Blood flows easier, the organs become content and happy, and your immune system purrs along cheerfully.
Why is coloring so relaxing?
You have endless of fun coloring, right? And when you are having fun, your nerves, your body, your entire outlook on life are both enlivened and calmed. Things just work better when you’re happy and relaxed.
- Stress is the great killer. Let it run unchecked for long enough and it will bring down even a so-called super-person.
- Relaxation is the great invigorator, healer, and rebuilder. If you regularly color, you open the doors to enduring relaxation and boundless health benefits.
Approached with sensitivity and willingness, coloring can be a conduit leading into deep states of meditation.
While coloring is a hobby that needs little conscious effort, it still remains thoroughly engaging. It’s a simple and pleasurable way to let your brain take a well-earned rest.
This, of course, doesn’t imply that coloring makes you drowsy or dimwitted. On the contrary. What we often accept as normalcy – the chaotic headlong rush of thoughts careening into each other – is hardly the sanest way to live one’s life. In fact, this daily mental slog
most often leaves you exhausted and provides little space for genuine awareness to develop.
There is another way.
Whenever you sit down to color, begin by taking a few deep breaths to center yourself. When ready, begin by letting your colored pencil or crayon lead the way. Allow yourself the freedom to embrace all the joy that will surely come as you sink deeper and deeper into the coloring experience.
By surrendering fully to this pleasurable pastime, the coloring itself encourages a slowdown in the endless rush of thoughts. Eventually enough space forms between the passing thoughts that true awareness emerges.
Do not confuse this emerging inner space with vacuity or void. You remain fully aware and present. It’s the intensity of the distracting background noise in your head that lessens. And into that expanding quiet a certain clarity emerges, allowing you to see even more deeply into the true nature of yourself, and life itself.
Without force or will, allow this quiet and clarity to deepen naturally. Its growth will enable an even more pronounced slowing of your thoughts.
Eventually the present moment will take on an extraordinary importance.
And as you continue coloring, sinking even deeper into this inner quiet, your serenity will expand beyond recognition. Previous compulsions that urged you to engage in internal mental battles with yourself abate, and your unruly thoughts just melt away.
For a time you find peace.
And it’s in this place of effortless tranquility that miracles are born.
Here you might stumble on mind-expanding insights into the true meaning of life. You might also realize startling novel ways for your personal energy to interact with the world and other beings. And there’s a very good chance that for the first time in your life you’ll discover the life-affirming comfort of just being yourself.
Continue to apply color and go deeper still. The ultimate blessing lives in the realization that in this present moment you are fully and truly alive.