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Are coloring pages therapeutic?

Are coloring pages therapeutic?

Coloring pages have become increasingly popular in recent years as a relaxing and creative hobby for both children and adults. But can simply coloring within the lines of a pre-drawn picture actually provide therapeutic benefits? Here we’ll explore the evidence behind the therapeutic potential of coloring pages.

Some key questions we’ll answer include:

– What is the history and origin of adult coloring books and pages?
– How does coloring influence mood, stress levels, and mental health?
– Are there cognitive benefits to coloring for children and adults?
– What makes coloring pages therapeutic versus just a leisure activity?
– Should coloring be recommended by mental health professionals?

The History of Coloring Books and Pages

While coloring books have been around since the 1880s for children, the early 2000s saw a resurgence of coloring books geared specifically towards adults. These detailed intricate designs were aimed at allowing adults to channel their inner creativity and relieve stress.

Some key events in the history of adult coloring books include:

2005 Johanna Basford self-publishes the first adult coloring book, Secret Garden
2011 Laurence King begins publishing adult coloring books
2012 Dover Publishing launches their Creative Haven series with over 100 titles
2015 Adult coloring books reach peak mainstream popularity as one of Amazon’s best selling books

The appeal of adult coloring took off rapidly, with coloring pages offering adults a nostalgic childhood activity now adapted as a relaxing hobby and creative outlet. While initially geared towards women, coloring books soon expanded to a broad audience.

How Coloring Influences Mood and Stress

So what exactly makes coloring so relaxing and calming for both kids and adults? Here are some of the key benefits coloring can have on mood, stress levels, and mental health:

Promotes mindfulness The focused repetition of coloring allows relaxing of the mind similar to meditation
Releases negative thoughts The flow state attained from coloring minimizes rumination and dwelling on problems
Reduces anxiety Coloring stabilizes emotions and lowering an anxious person’s heart rate
Creates positive feelings Coloring boosts serotonin and dopamine levels, bringing about a sense of well-being

Multiple studies have shown coloring can significantly reduce anxiety, fear, and depression. One study found anxiety levels dropped over 70% after just one hour of coloring.

Coloring essentially helps the mind switch from an anxious state to a calmer more relaxed mode. The repetitive nature offers a healthy distraction, reducing negative thoughts.

Cognitive Benefits of Coloring

Coloring offers benefits beyond just improved mental health – it may enhance cognitive abilities as well. Here are some of the key cognitive benefits associated with coloring:

Improves focus The act of coloring can help train sustained attention for extended time periods
Activates creativity Coloring unlocks latent creativity as individuals choose colors and patterns
Enhances coordination Carefully controlling crayons or pencils builds hand-eye coordination
Develops motor skills Gripping and manipulating coloring implements strengthens fine motor skills

Studies show that for children, coloring helps develop visuo-spatial skills needed for math and science. Coloring intricate patterns can also keep the mind engaged similar to certain puzzles.

Adults can benefit cognitively as well – coloring forces focus and provides a mental break from technology overuse. Switching off devices to color may help improve concentration and mental acuity.

What Makes Coloring Therapeutic?

We’ve covered many benefits of coloring, but how is coloring considered therapeutic versus just a fun leisure activity? Here are the key factors that make coloring a therapeutic tool:

Structured format Coloring offers a template that induces calm rather than a blank page causing anxiety
Self-expression Individuals can infuse coloring with personal meaning through color choices and styles
Self-direction Colorers have freedom within the boundaries of each page to be creative
Rewarding results A finished coloring page provides an achievable sense of accomplishment

Having some constraints via a pre-drawn image prevents creative paralysis. Yet the range for self-expression and imagination exists within every page. This balance helps produce a deeply satisfying mind-body activity.

Art therapy principles show self-directed activities that tap creativity and promote mindfulness aid healing. Coloring perfectly combines these elements.

Should Mental Health Experts Recommend Coloring?

Coloring books are now commonplace on the shelves of bookstores, showing their mass appeal. Should mental health professionals also consider coloring as a therapeutic tool?

Here are some pros and cons for recommending coloring to patients:

Pros Cons
Coloring is widely accessible Lacks research proving long-term benefits
It’s a low-cost therapeutic aid May seem like a childish recommendation
Easy way to reduce anxiety Not helpful for those wanting personal insights
Self-administered treatment Requires active participation for benefits

Providing anxious or depressed patients with a coloring book and pack of markers can offer an immediate mood-boosting treatment, creating motivation to continue with further therapy. It also gives patients an empowering coping tool they can self-manage.

However, coloring alone may not provide deep psychological breakthroughs – the focus is on emotional stabilization versus inner reflection. And consistent practice is required for sustained benefits.


Coloring is certainly more than just a nostalgic childhood pastime. The surge in adult coloring books shows it provides joy and relaxation across all ages.

Studies substantiate coloring’s therapeutic effects – it can rapidly reduce stress, anxiety, fear and develop important cognitive faculties. The structured format promotes focused self-expression and creativity within achievable boundaries.

While no panacea, coloring’s portability, low cost and intuitive ease of use make it a promising complementary therapy. Consider keeping a coloring book handy for those times you need an accessible tool to find some zen and balance.