June 01, 2017
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One of the hottest trends over the past few years has been coloring books designed for adults, with subject matter covering everything from nature to mandalas to pop culture (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alien included).
But do they have any actual therapeutic benefits? Or is it another trend that will fade along with desktop Zen gardens and squeeze balls?
“Coloring can be meditative and stress-relieving,” said Joe Scarce, a board certified art therapist and instructor of art therapy at UT. “The popularity of these books points to our being stuck on a screen all day. It takes the screen away and replaces it with something tactile.”
The adult coloring book trend is commonly traced to 2013 when U.K.-based illustrator Johanna Basford released Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book, which has since sold millions of copies worldwide. Mainstream publishers, noticing a nascent trend, were soon releasing their own coloring books aimed at an adult audience.
At the peak of their popularity in 2015, 12 million adult coloring books were sold (up from 1 million in 2014), according to Nielsen Bookscan. And though sales have since declined and leveled off, adult coloring books are still wildly popular.
Scarce said part of the appeal of these books is that coloring books help make art more accessible by giving people a starting point (i.e. no dreaded blank slate).
Coloring can help take our minds off problems we are trying to solve, said Cynthia Gangi, UT assistant professor of psychology, sometimes leading us to a solution.
“Sometimes when we think too much about a problem, we lead ourselves astray,” said Gangi. “When we distract ourselves, our mind does the calculations on its own, sometimes more effectively. Thus, we can arrive at a better answer.”
Gangi echoed Scarce’s observation that coloring can be a great stress reliever.
“The things that have an adverse effect on our health are often the little daily hassles we all experience due to the fact they are chronic,” she said. “So while other forms of therapy might be more appropriate for dealing with major trauma, people might find relief from the daily grind in coloring.”
Need an a little stress relief? Pick up your colored pencils, pens or Crayons and get to work on the following pages.
By Kiley Mallard
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