The Joys and Benefits of Coloring
Even if you have only a little coloring experience under your belt, the prospect of an approaching coloring session will still cause all manner of intoxicating expectations.
You know you are about to embark on yet another joy-filled and sensuous creative romp, and it’s just so difficult to contain yourself.
Besides, a coloring session needs little preparation.
Choose a page to color.
Gather your art tools: pencils, crayons, brushes, or markers.
Allot some quality coloring 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 anxiety and stress
- Increase creativity
- Provide technique-free relaxation
- Promote mental health
- Expand 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 simple mindfulness
- Reconnect you with your inner self
Below I’ve explored the benefits in greater detail and, for clarity’s sake, I’ve 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 find yourself buckling at the knees because of relentless stress, an easy 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 none of these “solutions” addresses 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, all this mischief is actually caused by an ancient part of your brain called the Amygdala, the primordial seat of your fight or flight response. 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 worry, anxiety, and hypervigilance.
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 will never fail you.
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 already 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 that out-of-control brain part!
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.
By focusing 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.
Eventually coloring evolves into something akin to meditation.
By turning down the Amygdala’s unruly responses, coloring gives your brain and emotions much needed rest, relaxation, and nurturing comfort.
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.
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 beginning to work as it should.
Synapses are firing all through the brain. New internal connections are constantly forming. As a result of this, your gray matter is evolving into a far more efficient, stronger, and flexible friend.
The next step is a no-brainer…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 begin working 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 on a par with lifting weights at the gym or devoted yoga practice, coloring does indeed improve your physical well-being.
As subtle as it might seem, the repetitive exercising of fine motor skills (the hand-eye coordination required while laying down color is a prime example) 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 it’s hidden, internal maintenance work in a much more efficient manner. Blood flows easier, the organs become content and happy, and your immune system begins purring along cheerfully.
There is no doubt that coloring relaxes you. You have endless of fun doing it, right? So 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. Color your way into deep, enduring relaxation and watch your health blossom.
Approached with sensitivity and willingness, coloring can be a conduit leading into deep states of meditation.
Coloring is a hobby that needs little conscious effort yet remains thoroughly engaging. It’s a simple and pleasurable way to let you brain take a well-earned rest.
This, of course, doesn’t imply that coloring makes you drowsy or dimwitted. On the contrary. What is often accepted 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 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 pencil or crayon lead the way. Allow yourself the freedom to readily embrace all the joy that will surely come as you sink deeper and deeper into the coloring experience.
By surrendering fully into this pleasurable pastime, the coloring itself begins to encourage a slowdown in the endless rush of thoughts. Eventually enough space forms between the passing thoughts that true awareness begins to emerge.
Do not confuse this emerging inner space with vacuity or void. You, the individual, 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 life.
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 battles with yourself and your unruly thoughts just melt away.
For a time, then, 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 become aware of startling new 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 resides in the realization that in this present moment you are fully and truly alive.