Are you one of those adults who secretly (or, perhaps, not so privately) unwinds with coloured paper images?
This subject is the focus of an article in the current issue of Psychology Today. The rather reflective subheading is “Buyers may come in for the nostalgia but stay for the inspiration”.
This is not a fad. Years ago I listened to an audio tape called ‘Time Shifting’, in which the author discussed techniques to create more personal time for enjoying life. He spoke of someone who was successful in business, and who often unwound with colouring books.
While many of us would be unlikely to think of revisiting such a traditionally childhood outlet of expression (unless behind closed doors), there is clearly a need, and thus a niche. Indeed, issues available in bookstores feature titles with adult subject matter, including loss, healing, and stress-relief; the publishers are marketing to those “who seek a novel way to relax, clear their minds, and even cope with difficult situations”.
There is not much research into the psychological benefits of colouring. Some believe that it can counter distress which emerges from external pressures beyond one’s control. Colouring is a structured activity which ‘is generally not goal-oriented’. Moreover, it allows one to focus on something manageable, releasing stress.
Another positive perspective suggests that if one is immersed in a project which requires creative thinking, and is feeling stymied, an easy activity like colouring encourages mind wandering, and so can help when returning to tasks. This ‘mental pit stop’ can assist in facing subsequent challenges.
Also, the repetitive nature of the action may help in concentration. A study held in 2009 found that “participants who shaded in shapes while listening to a recorded message remembered more details than those who did not”.
Lastly, there may be a sense of reward in the activity itself. It is, after all, a two-dimensional form of art. There is a sense of affirmation and value in creating something. Combining this this a sense of nostalgia could help explain the appeal to someone beyond their youth. (Being adults, presumably the end products are better quality renditions.)
Perhaps we should go back to those we’ve seen doodling at meetings – the more artistic may have gotten more out of them than we suspected, maybe points we non-doodlers missed.
Colour me curious.