The Truth About Adult Colouring
Carl Jung and the Monks
A common misconception holds that adult colouring is a modern trend. In truth, it's more like a revived practice or one that's spreading to the West. In the past, this activity was considered to be recreation only meant for children, but that was a very Western notion. In the East, for centuries, people have used design and colours to help them relax and meditate. One example is Tibetan Sand Art. This ancient art, which is also known as “sand mandalas,” are drawn by Buddhist monks using different shades of dyed sand to create images in breathtaking detail.
In the 20th century, Carl Jung became one of the first psychologists to give the idea some serious thought. The famous Swiss thinker was the founder of analytic psychology and used mandalas as a part of patients' treatment. Just to be clear, mandalas are flexible designs but generally include something concentric and repetitive. He believed they helped with relaxation and the self-discovery of a person's total self.
Despite the fact that colour and drawing (and blending those two elements together) have long histories in sacred rituals and therapy, modern criticism persists. Almost everyone who enjoys this hobby has a story to tell about meeting with disapproval. Enthusiasts are often told the activity is childish or, a waste of time and money. They're even told that there are better ways for grownups to create art or feel better about themselves.
Therapists, in general, are concerned about unrealistic expectations. Most feel that colouring books for adults are not real therapy, though it can be used in conjunction with conventional psychiatric treatments. Another concern voiced by professionals is that people don't take into account the fact that this hobby is not a cure for every ailment and definitely not the only coping strategy for serious trauma. A final gripe most critics have against it is that colouring for adults is a multi-million dollar business. They feel the hype is a sales gimmick that doesn't come clean about the limitations of the hobby.
Meet the Artists
Contrary to what the most paranoid of critics may fear, a grownup in the throes of colour and crayons is not a sign of a lesser intellect. Among the ranks of adult colouring enthusiasts are professionals like architects, business owners and teachers. No less important, there are also students, parents and patients suffering from PTSD or illness. Among those who report a positive experience, the main benefit that keeps showing up is relaxation and a sense of calm.
This Is What Scientists Discovered
Several scientific studies have been done on the subject. After being asked to participate in artistic experiments, groups were either questioned or had their brains tested. Here are some of the most interesting results.
- Overthinking is a trigger for anxiety and depression. Colouring keeps the mind from floating to the future (anxiety) or dredging up the past (often associated with depression)
- It can relax the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fear and stress
- Individuals who are not particularly artistic can create stunning art and feel a sense of achievement
- Colouring can be viewed as a kind of meditation, since it also involves similar qualities like mindfulness and tranquility
- When the hobby replaces electronic bedtime activities, it aids sleep. Bright screens from cellphones and laptops tend to wake up the brain
- Colouring maintains manual dexterity of the hands, something that fades with age
- It fosters self-expression
- Mood improvement
Create Your Own
You Can Do It for Free
One thing that makes this “craze” so viral is that it's easy to start with. It's fun to buy a colouring book or cellphone app but anyone can start out free, if they choose. For some, drawing their own images is a new level of creativity and meditation, especially when it's a mandala. However, this is not for everyone. Some people just appreciate the freedom of colouring a beautiful image without needing to create it first.
The Artists and Critics Are Both Right
As long as the colouring-in craze continues, there will be two camps. The artists versus the critics. Undoubtedly, positive things flow from this hobby. This is a stressful world at best and adult colouring provides a cheap, non-addictive coping strategy that cannot be discounted. On the other hand, the critics do have valid claims. Yes, this hobby must be viewed within context and with realistic expectations. Yes, it cannot replace medicine or serious therapy. However, at the end of the day, the critics need to understand that if somebody wants to spend a few dollars (or more) on a colouring book and add blue to some Smurf, then it's that person's choice. There's no shame in this hobby. On the contrary, it's an ancient art that deserves some reviving!
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit