Therapy in Color

An increasing number of adults are handling stress by engaging with art. Specifically, art in the form of coloring books. But while some may consider this to be a temporary fad, the psychology behind it is much deeper. Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate Jordan Gaines Lewis explains the appeal of coloring books to adults, and why they work, in a piece for New York Magazine’s The Science of Us blog.

Creative engagement is a major stress-reliever for many people. If you are artistically inclined, whether it be in the visual arts, music, or literature, you already know this. However, just because one lacks artistic training doesn’t mean that this great feeling can’t be experienced. So many adults are spending time with an open coloring books because it allows us to exercise our creative muscle, as long as we can hold a coloring pencil. Lewis cites psychologist Barry Kaufman, who says that the act of completing something is rewarding and satisfying.

Studies also show that there are health benefits to incorporating some degree of creativity into your lifestyle. Those that engage creatively, one Yale Researcher finds, may be able to distract themselves from chronic pain. Colorers were also released earlier from hospitals, as their creative activities took their mind off of the immediately stressful surroundings.

Is coloring a productive way to relieve stress?
Is coloring a productive way to relieve stress?

Lewis also suggests that coloring books work wonders for adults’ mental health because of the relatively minor decisions involved. When we’re tasked with making major decisions at work and in our relationships, we can begin to suffer from decision-fatigue, which can wear on our decision-making abilities. When coloring, the simple decision of which color goes where is a welcome change. It’s like giving your mind a walk!

For those who argue that coloring isn’t worth it because it isn’t a productive activity, Lewis points a study that reveals some of the benefits of the intrinsic value of engaging with our artistic side.

Whether or not coloring books fade out is one thing. But for now, they’re here to stay. Maybe a drawing and a set of pencils is just what one of your clients may need for the time being.