Markers and Mandalas and Coloring Books, Oh My!


coloring booksIf you have gone into any bookstore or big box craft shop lately or looked on Pinterest, you have seen them: the rows and rows of adult coloring books, in all shapes and sizes, with geometric stained glass windows and Hindu mandala designs, all begging for your individual time and attention. There are even themed coloring books that cater to your personal hobbies of gardening, traveling or indulging in afternoon tea. If your interest can be captured and if you have the time to try it, the new coloring craze can move you to a welcome state of relaxation and stress release.

Art, such as this, allows you to speak without words. It can be an outlet for the aforementioned stress or a way to increase your self-esteem and confidence, a place to focus when you are overwhelmed, or begin to heal those innermost feelings that seem to dissipate when you just allow yourself to experience calm and serenity. It can be a hobby where you as the “colorist” design images and imaginative landscapes to capture your ideal world or engage in aesthetic expression. Coloring isn’t new, of course; it is an old school creative tool. Children have been doing this for years! Even psychologist Carl Jung used coloring over 100 years ago to help his patients access their subconscious, increase self-knowledge and achieve a calmer state of mind. It seems to take us back to a simpler time, usually those carefree and happy times of childhood where responsibilities were almost nonexistent and finding joy was the only goal. Its meditative and mindful qualities allow you to “just be in the moment” and celebrate the enjoyment of that single achievement. Yes, coloring allows you to pause and temporarily escape. It gives the amygdala, the part of the brain that alerts us to danger and keeps us in a “fight or flight” mode, some much needed time off!

Although there are some mental health professionals who dislike it when the coloring book phenomenon is referred to as “therapy” or “art therapy”, there are others who recognize its benefits and encourage their clients to participate. Regardless of which side of the argument you are on, the simple relaxation benefits to both adults and children can be quite amazing. Some of the benefits lauded on coloring include allowing self-expression when words are not available, a reduction in daily stress and anxiety, an opportunity to focus on the moment, an increase in concentration and focus, the ability to engage in a creative process, an increase in coping abilities, a pleasant way to relax, a welcome break from electronic devices, an opportunity to be playful and childlike, a mood booster, a chance to let go of our inhibitions, a gateway to inner wisdom and intentional creativity, a means of self-empowerment, and a way to fight insomnia.

If these are some of the benefits for adults, imagine how this can affect our children! Coloring requires your child to use both hemispheres of his brain, allowing him to be both creative and strategic. When coloring, your child practices fine motor skills and learns to make choices, as with the color used. He learns confidence and coordination. When a child focuses on this, he experiences being centered, not anxious, panicked or stressed. Coloring is also a way for your child to wind down after a busy day and prepare for sleep. His creativity is stimulated and the possibility of failure is almost non-existent. Coloring can help a child increase his sense of self-control and self-acceptance along with his ability to problem-solve and organize. Negative thoughts are replaced by more pleasant ones when he is “in the coloring zone.” Coloring detailed pictures requires your child to use the frontal lobes in his brain, thus activating the higher levels and functions of the brain. Coloring is fun and playful and what child does not want to play?

When we or our children engage in intentional creativity such as coloring, we experience a powerful wash of calm and relaxation. August 2nd is National Coloring Book Day ( What a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with your children, have some fun and take a break from your electronics!

Karlene Edgemon works as MLJ Adoptions’ Director of Social Services. Throughout her 25 year social services career, Karlene has been able to watch adoption transform the lives of children and she is always brainstorming new ways to support adoptive families before, during and after their adoption.