Color as a Therapy
Much has been written already about why we like coloring books. There are numerous articles and studies on how coloring influences our brains, how this is a method of practicing mindfulness and so on. There is a big trend now with adult coloring books. You see them down the aisles at supermarkets, chain stores, bookstores… I’d like to throw in some of my ideas, too, coming from my background as an artist and a pharmacist.
I’ll begin by saying that color is not something that moves all of us. Some people might be more attuned to music, sounds. Some people like reading, and so on. But for those of us who like colors and coloring books, it all seems to be rooted in our childhood. So if your inner child craves color, let it run freely. Also, I’d like to mention that if you yourself have a child that likes colors and playing with them, let them develop skills in that direction. It might lead them to something good later in life.
So, my idea is that no matter what your age is, wether you are 3 or 93, the mere fact that you are holding a pencil in your hand triggers ATTENTION in your brain. What kind of attention? Attention towards something you enjoy or feel passionate about: creating something colorful. What does attention do to our brains? It goes to a special place inside there, called amygdala, where emotions and anxiety and stress are all boiling and fighting and competing against each other.
Calm versus stressed.
Anxious versus fearless.
Confident versus doubtful.
What will a pleasurable activity do to that little place in your brain? It will distract it from the tumult of negative thoughts and fears, stress or anger and redirect it towards feelings of well being and calmness. It’s pretty simple. It’s kind of the same trick that we play to our kids when they cry: we steer their attention away, we show them a funny toy, something that will make them forget about their little anguish. See, our brains are just some big babies!
Coloring books help the children develop a better attention span, also. The more they enjoy working on their art project, the better their brain learns to keep the focus on one task. In a world with constant distractions, TV, media, stressful jobs, having a keen mind and a sharp focus is much needed.
If you were able to observe yourself while coloring, you would notice that your breathing rhythm becomes more regulated, your pulse slows down and you lose track of time. It is basically the same process we go through when we meditate or pray. It is a form of mindfulness meditation. You can read more about this subject, here and here.
Now, another thing to mention is that attention goes hand in hand with… PATIENCE. Because you have to repeatedly rub the pencil against the paper surface, in order to fill in the blank spaces, you have to keep that constant motion, so that you achieve a final result. Which will come, but it’s not immediate. Some of us, at some point, especially when we get tired, tend to cut corners and speed it up. But just as the heart slows down, your mind has to calm down and go with the flow. One detail at a time, until you build the big picture. If you are too tired, learn to take a break and then come back.
Going back to the art itself, there are many ways to hold the pencil, and there are many ways to actually use the pencil to create strokes. That, combined with the fact that we can use blenders to mix the colors (I talked about blenders a bit in this article), gives you a countless array of methods to play with your pencils. I will talk about this in my next article, and then I will start a series of discussions about how we perceive colors, their temperature, and what interpretations we give to each color.
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Thanks for reading!
And by the way, I added more pages to my Alpha-Bet-a-Coloring Book! I’m up at letter “H” and going to post more soon! Feel free to check my “Free Coloring Pages” section to get the updated book.
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