Why coloring is good for your soul

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Teen girls coloring mandalas at Camp Weloki for girls

Why are so many adults and teenagers starting to spend time coloring? In a word, stress. Recent data shows that stress levels continue to rise for Americans, with higher average levels for women and millennials. The top three sources of stress are money, work, and family responsibilities, with resultant mental health- symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. So how can filling in coloring books be so good for your soul? In a word, mindfulness.

Mindfulness means being fully present in the moment. Several disciplines can cultivate this state of being, including yoga, tai chi, and meditation. Some people still have reservations about these practices, and also find them to be hard to carry out. Coloring carries no such baggage.

When you sit down to color, especially filling in the intricate mandala pictures, you put your full attention on your work. Best case is to turn off all distractions, i.e. the TV, radio, phone, and tablets so that you can fully focus on the act of coloring without any interruptions. The single-minded act of filling in complex patterns brings you fully into the present moment, and any worries or negative thoughts drift away. Any time you are in fear or worry, you are living in the future, and that is why mindfulness brings such peace of mind.

Adult coloring books seem to have replaced spending time in nature. Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Most folks these days can’t seem to find the time to be outdoors, kids included, so people are hungry for the calming effects we used to receive from nature. We are more likely to listen to a nature sound CD than we are to actually sit and listen to a stream or watch a sunset.

I’m all for adults taking time out of their busy lives to relax, get quiet, and practice mindfulness. We all need to unplug in order to recharge our batteries, even if that sounds counter-intuitive. So turn off all of your electronics, pull up a chair to the kitchen table, and go back in time to your childhood when you could sit for hours just coloring pictures. Being mindful can be that simple and enjoyable.

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