Have you ever noticed how peaceful and relaxed children appear when they are coloring? Well… most children at least.
Even though you may not have picked up a coloring book for ages, you should consider giving it a try once again. Not for nostalgia, but for your health.
It turns out that our old childhood pastime, coloring, can actually be quite therapeutic for adults (and children).
Coloring has been found to be an excellent way to destress, fight anxiety, or even help you sleep at night.
This doesn’t mean you have to go color your favorite Disney princess or superhero to unwind at the end of a long day. Unless that’s your thing of course.
There are, in actuality, adult coloring books. These coloring books have a higher level of detail and complexity. That way you can enjoy the mental health benefits of coloring without feeling like you are going back to 1st grade.
Coloring mandalas, are one of the best options for adult coloring. This is because mandalas appeal to our natural attraction to order, symmetry, and circles…I’ll talk more about this in detail this later on.
Just a heads up: at the end of this article you will find a pdf download that contains a compilation of free mandala coloring pages. I put them together just for you.
They are a great opportunity to try and see if mandala coloring is something you like without having to spend any money (if you have a printer). With that said, let’s move on to explain how coloring is beneficial to your health.
The Healing Power of Art Therapy
Art therapy has been shown to be a helpful coping mechanism for several conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, dementia, and stress. Several my clients have also said that coloring helps them fall asleep at night.
One study in 2008 found that “art making is a means of receiving a creative high.” When we are affected by this creative high, we become relaxed, less stressed, and conscious of the present moment. This mindset is the key to mental health.
In a sense, this creative high is similar to a meditative state of mind. Like meditation, it can make you feel aware, relaxed, and focused.
When we color, we activate regions of the brain that are involved in vision and fine motor skills, says psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala. It’s a combination of logic and creativity. Coloring allows us to shut out thoughts and focus on the present moment. This is perhaps what makes it so relaxing and similar to meditation.
But some art therapists claim that coloring is not art because there is no creative input required. Art therapists like Donna Betts, president of the board of the American Art Therapy Association, refuse to use it in their practice because they claim that coloring is not art–there is no creative element.
But don’t you need creativity for color selection, shading, and color pattern design?
Whatever you believe, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is what works for you.
You see, the there is one major problem with Betts’ opposition to coloring: self-judgment.
Coloring Can Be a Better Option Than Creating Art From Scratch
Don’t get me wrong, creating art from scratch is very beneficial and therapeutic. But it’s not for everyone.
For those who have problems with self-judgment (negative thoughts) and are not confident in their artistic abilities, coloring is a much better option.
Once we have a concept of what is good quality, we tend to compare ourselves to the best-of-the-best. This can lead to negative thoughts about us or our capabilities.
In other words, self-judgement.
Self-judgement is destructive to the effects of art therapy, and can stress you out even more!
It forces us to focus on the quality of our art rather than enjoying the activity and being in the moment.
Adult coloring can provide all of the benefits of art therapy but also prevents self-judgement.
“It’s like the difference between listening to music versus learning how to play an instrument,” Donna Betts, president of the board of the American Art Therapy Association told The Guardian. “Listening to music is something easy that everyone can do, but playing an instrument is a whole other skillset.”
Yes Betts is against coloring as a therapy, but her comment supported my point.
While it may be extremely satisfying to play an instrument (as an avid guitarist, I know), it can frustrating at times because I cannot play what I my mind wants me to play. When this happens, I find myself feeling negative about my abilities because I compare myself to professional guitarists.
When listening to music, however, I am able to fully relax and listen. Self-judgment free.
Some like to make music while others simply like to sit back and enjoy the sound of it.
That is what separates coloring and creating art from scratch.
But you shouldn’t pick up any adult coloring book. If you are going to give adult coloring a try for the de-stressing and relaxing effects, you may have the best results with coloring mandalas.
Why Color Mandalas?
Humans have always had a fascination with circles (and spirals).
They can be seen almost everywhere: the spiral of the Milky Way, the orbit of the planets, as a milestone in the artistic development of children, and even in the golden ratio.
There is something soothing about the circle (and spiral).
And that’s exactly what the mandala is: a circular design.
Sanskrit for “sacred circle,” the mandala has been used for thousands of years as a spiritual practice and for spiritual art.
Even the psychology legend, Carl Gustav Jung, saw something special in mandalas and studied them extensively. Jung believed that “mandalas denoted a unification of opposites, served as expressions of the self, and represented the sum of who we are.”
Whatever it is, there is something about the mandala and its patterns. Since mandalas are thought to naturally promote relaxation and awareness, they are a perfect match for adult coloring.
To prove my point, check out these two images, and you tell me which would be more relaxing to color:
I get uneasy and feel anxious just thinking about coloring the image on the right (B). Not to mention that it reminds me of being forced to color in my elementary school days.
Think Mandala Coloring Will Help You?
If you are like me and think that mandala coloring would be a great way to relax or destress, then you should totally pick up a mandala coloring book and some nice colored pencils. Colored pencils work the best because you can easily color in small, detailed sections. Markers and crayons are just too fat for adult coloring.
There are tons of mandala coloring books out there though. So to make things easier for you, here are my 2 of my favorite mandala coloring books and colored pencils to go along with them:
Or if you want to save some money, check out my collection of 11 free mandala coloring pages that I have put together for you. Simply enter your email below to get the pdf download link. This helps keep bots and spammers at bay.
Plus, when you sign up, you will also get access to our natural health newsletter. And don’t worry, I never spam… I hate it too.
Mandala coloring is a great way for you to relax, melt away stress & anxiety, help you sleep at night, or even fight off depression.
When I get clients who really should meditate but are resistant to it for some reason, I always suggest mandala coloring. This helps them get into a meditative state without sitting in a room while trying to fight off thoughts. Usually after a couple months of coloring, these clients are willing to give meditation a try—once they realize how therapeutic relaxing activities can be.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you have tried mandala coloring and tell me what you think of it. Or you can even suggest other relaxing activities that people can try. I would love to hear about your experiences and read about what you think!