Mindful coloring is a thing, who knew? When I think of coloring, I think fondly of my childhood holidays. When I was little my mother and grandmother would take my siblings and I away every winter holiday. We would visit a seaside town in South Africa called Hermanus. The winters were cold, windy and wet, but my mother always came prepared. She would create these little baskets for each of us, filled with coloring books, pencils, crayons and stickers. Each night we would make a fire and we would all sit around the coffee table drinking hot chocolate. While we would color, my mother and grandmother read. These holidays were always peaceful, calm and relaxing. Looking back I didn’t realize that mindfulness and colouring are a match made in heaven.
Mindfulness is a quality and “way of being” you can bring into any activity. Mindfulness colouring is the purposeful act of paying attention and consciously developing openness and curiosity to colouring. You make colouring a mindful activity when you use the act of colouring to switch off the nagging thoughts in your mind and focus on the task at hand. Mindful colouring has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve your mood and can be used as an alternative to “old fashioned” meditation.
I still love to colour. There is no need to be artistic and there are no rules, because trust me, I cant even draw a stick man. It is simple to do, and can be done anywhere. Colouring makes me feel safe and content. Mindfulness colouring is a gentle activity, the action of colouring focuses the brain, blocks out unpleasant experiences and can give you the chance to take a step back from the chaos of your thoughts and feelings. Then when you feel ready you can approach life with more clarity.
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” ~Georgia O’Keeffe
“Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” ~Wassily Kandinsky
When we concentrate while coloring mindfully we replace thoughts with a state of peace and calm. For many people, this alternative to meditation is easier to achieve. Creative activities have proven benefits from managing our emotions better to improving work performance. Everyone needs a calm moment now and then so why not try coloring for yourself?
Research has shown that coloring can induce a meditative state which is beneficial to individuals suffering with anxiety and depression. When we color we focus on a specific activity and not on our worries. Coloring also stimulates the imagination and takes you back to your childhood, a place usually free of panic and stress. Some evenings instead of watching series or scrolling through social media I take out my coloring book and color. Come bedtime I have less stress and I am super relaxed.
How many of you struggle to sit still and meditate? I sure did. Coloring mindfully is a great way to start your meditation journey. By definition, meditation is the act of focusing your attention on simple tasks that require repetitive motion. Coloring is repetitive and brings you to the present moment. While you color, you induce a “trance like state” from the moment you choose a colour to work with to the movement of your pencil on paper. For a moment everything stops and you are left to enjoy the activity before you.
While we color we activate different areas of the brain. Coloring incorporates both logic and creativity, stimulates motor-skills and coordination. While you colour your brain changes from using beta waves which are highly focused on tasks to alpha waves which are associated with relaxation. Color also has an effect on cognitive function. Using different colors when you mindfully color stimulates different modes of thinking and feeling and can even improve memory.
Personally, this sums up mindfulness colouring for me. Just last week I was a wreck. Its January, the holidays have ended, money is tight and I was worrying about the future. Very anxious and slightly depressed I found it difficult to concentrate on work. I then decided to take out my mandala colouring book. I told myself that I was not going to think about anything else except focus on completing one of the pictures. With each colour I chose and the closer I came to completing the mandala, the better I felt.
Firstly, the act of colouring itself allowed me to push aside my negative thinking, and I immediately felt calmer. Secondly, once I had completed the mandala I felt a sense of pride – they really do look beautiful. Once I was out of my anxious state I was able to rationalize my thinking with my clear mind. My worries weren’t overwhelming and I could continue my day normally.
In my town we have a colouring club. Every week people get together to colour and have fun. We use different mediums to colour, we are given weekly tips and tricks, and some of my friends sell supplies and their artwork. The best part is there is no pressure. It doesn’t matter what you do or how well you do it, its an opportunity to meet like minded people, relax and have a laugh. I also found my colouring club to be one of the fun things to do with friends. Have a glass of wine and go wild!
I know its sometimes easier to just scroll through your phone while you sitting at a restaurant or waiting for your kids at school. However, its also terribly bad for you. Technology has been directly linked to stress, anxiety and depression and can really mess with your focus. Next time try mindfulness and colouring instead – besides colouring can be downright enjoyable, and can give you that much needed “me time”. I find it is the one hobby I have that I can take everywhere. I have taken my colouring book while I travel, to picnics, and even to a coffee shop when I need a “time out”.
Coloring is now an acceptable adult activity, it’s also an affordable, drug-free way to get rid of stress and anxiety. Unlike other hobbies it’s easy to get started and you can buy your tools anywhere.
Coloring reduces stress because it induces a meditative state. Many people fear meditation or feel uncomfortable sitting in moments of silence and contemplation. However, when we partake in an activity that requires silence, but we have something to do in that silence it makes us more comfortable.
Coloring enables us to focus on one thing for a long period of time, and when this happens it feels like you “zone out”. When we concentrate on coloring in this way we push our fears, worries and thoughts aside, giving us time to relax and be calm.
The act of coloring also elicits positive childhood memories and allows people to be taken back to a simpler time where they had less worry and were more carefree.
“ANXIETY – Mindfulness does not remove us from our difficulties, but instead brings us even closer toward them. But it is this new perspective that allows these same difficulties to unwind and untangle.”
-Andy From Headspace
Another important aspect of mindful colouring is being aware of how colour influences your feelings and emotions. Ancient civilisations such as Egypt and China used colour therapy to heal people. Colour is an important tool that we can use to influence our mood. Often your feelings about colour are personal and deeply rooted in your experience and culture. Some colours give us a sense of serenity while others can induce rage or signify passion.
Sir Isaac Newton was the genius who discovered that when pure white light was passed through a prism, it separated into all of the visible colours. Colour in its purest form is energy, a wavelength with its own magnetic frequency. It is believed that these wavelengths affect the brain and body in many different ways. Using the right color, and the correct selection and placement can seriously affect your feelings, attention, and behavior.
While coloring, use colors that resonate with you. When I feel stressed out, I often find that I color with blues, purple and green. When I feel more upbeat my color choices change and I prefer to use reds, oranges and yellow. You can use color in any way you wish. Whether you prefer to channel a feeling using a specific color or whether you feel that using a color could help enhance your mood, it does not matter. Just have fun!
When we mindfully colour it is not a tool we use to avoid our issues or repress thinking. Rather, it is a tool we can use when we feel overwhelmed or burdened by our feelings and emotions. Like meditation, it gives us an opportunity to calm the mind and reevaluate our thinking. Worrying all the time is not helpful, actually worrying is the problem. We cannot solve our problems successfully when we are in a constant state of panic. Problem solving comes naturally to a still mind. So next time you feel stuck, depressed or anxious grab your coloring book and get stuck in. If you’d like to try some more fun mindfulness exercises take a look at this blog post here.