Adults enjoy coloring too: The mental health benefits from the exercise are similar to those of mindfulness

Children are not the only ones who enjoy coloring books. A study finds that adult coloring books provide mental health benefits, such as decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

A team of researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand examined whether adult coloring books can improve mental health. For the study, they analyzed 115 women who were between the ages of 18 and 36; all of whom came from the said university. Each participant was randomly divided into two groups. One group was given a booklet that contains 10 pictures for coloring, which includes abstract zentangle-style images, animal and nature motifs, and madalas. The other group was given a booklet of puzzles, such as logic puzzles, Sodoku, and word searches. The participants then were asked to accomplish an inventory of their psychological health in terms of depressive symptoms, stress, anxiety, resilience, and mindfulness. The participants colored books or solved puzzles for 10 minutes for seven days. After that, they were asked again to complete the psychological inventory.

The findings of the study revealed that those who did the coloring-in reported differences in their mood. They had lower levels of symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, lead author Jayde Flett said that there are further questions that need to be answered regarding how and why coloring was effective. (Related: Powerful natural ways to relieve stress, anxiety.)

“It is often suggested that colouring-in induces a mindful or meditative state and is linked to reduced activity in the amygdala or changes in brain-wave activity,” said Flett. “But we showed that mindful activity wasn’t the driving factor of change because people who did the puzzles also became more mindful.

“Our findings bode well for the potential psychological benefits of colouring-in. In this way, colouring-in could be considered an act of everyday ‘little c’ creativity, in much the same way as gardening or gourmet cooking,” said Tamlin Conner, one of the authors of the study.

The findings of the study was published in Creativity Research Journal.

Other health benefits of adult coloring books

Aside from reducing symptoms for depression and anxiety, adult coloring books can provide other health benefits. It can help adults de-stress. Coloring activities stimulate both parts of the cerebral hemisphere, enhancing logic and creativity. Logic is used to pick a color for a particular pattern or shape, while choosing to mix and match colors activates the creative side of the brain. Coloring pages for adults also transports them to their childhood, when they were free of stress. This in turn brings back happy memories and helps them feel relaxed, optimistic, and energetic. Moreover, coloring is similar to meditation or the art of doing nothing and de-concentrating. This also helps them relax and reduce the chatter in their brains. Coloring pages and books for adults can easily help produce the same meditative state. Furthermore, coloring for adults can be a therapy for diseases. A patient with epilepsy has been reported to have become more relaxed and calm since she started coloring, alleviating her epileptic attacks.

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