Coloring trends in stress reduction
Adult coloring books are officially a trend. You can find multimedia art products in toy stored not only marketed to children, but targeted to adults. But did you know that this modality has a long history of effective use? Recently, coloring has been identified as a tool used to:
- reduce stress
- gain focus
Recent research on stress relief has shown that art therapy can include many activities that involve fine repetitive motor movements of the hands such as:
These repetitive movements can help you stay focused on the activity at hand which results in positive psychological changes and a relaxation effect on the mind and the body. However, the practice goes back millennia.
A brief history: The therapy of coloring and the mandala
People have been combining colors, forms, and concentration for centuries as an artistic and therapeutic tool. In fact, it started with the mandala. The word “mandala” translated from Sanskrit means “a circle”. But mandala can also be a place (palace) that contains a divine spirit.
When observed geometrically, the mandala represents a journey through which individuals travel with the purpose of reaching the center of divinity.
Back in the day, mandalas started as a geometric figure (circle or square) that people used as a way to visualize the universe, which they saw as an external force of wholeness and integration. Eastern cultures and religions used the practice of centrally designing mandalas to reach their inner center.
Mandalas are one of the oldest manifestations of mastering human art skills. People from different cultures and civilizationscreated these mysterious geometrical forms on paper, sand, wood and stone.
- Navajo Indians created medicine wheels mandalas painted on the sand to show the transitory nature of life.
- Tibetan mandalas represent religious symbols used during meditation.
- The Asian “yin-yang” symbol signifies interdependence and opposition.
Evolving trough history, today there are countless variations of mandalas incorporated in many art classes, therapy programs, meditation courses and books for training focus and relaxation and other creative workshops, proving people with the healing power of mysterious circles.
A coloring book for addiction recovery
So, now…how can you apply ancient practice in a modern context? If you are interested in coloring to relieve stress or as a way to enhance your addiction recovery, we review a new recovery themed coloring book called “Relax & Recover: Coloring and Activity book”. Here, we tell you more about our personal experience while coloring this book. At the end, we invite your questions and feedback in the comments section.
How is Relax & Recover structured?
This coloring book features sobriety and recovery phrases on almost each page! Designed to help people in addiction recovery, Relax & Recover includes:
- anniversary celebration pages
- connect-the-dot activities
- crossword puzzles featuring the 12 Promises, 12 Steps and 12 Rewards of Alcoholics Anonymous
- custom-designed mandalas
- gratitude lists
- word searches
Coloring Relax & Recover: Our first-hand experience
To review an adult coloring book, you should do it right – by taking the time to color the book and experiencing the effects on ourselves. So, we gathered our small team, and set up the rules:
- Each participant will take a look into the coloring book and leaf through the pages.
- Each participant will state her first impression of the book.
- Each participant will choose what s/he wants to color.
- Each participant will share her/his feelings before, during and after coloring.
- While one participant is working on the coloring book, others observe.
Here are our results.
First participant: Vava
For the most professional criticism of a coloring book for adults, we started with a graphic designer and photographer, Varvara. Having created many meticulous addiction infographics, Vava was the first to touch and color this book.
…..First impression: I don’t like it… it’s too much, there are too many pictures on low quality paper, and there’s no connection between them. What’s the point of the mazes?
…..Before coloring: I’m stressed out, I couldn’t find solution for this problem.
…..During coloring: I must finish this image.
…..After coloring: 5-10 minutes after finishing: I got an idea for my design problem.
Even though Varvara was initially critical of Relax & Recover, this book actually helped her very much. Being nervous and stressed, Vava came to a dead end not knowing how to solve a problem in her designs. She chose to color the number 8 because it was the most geometrical image of all – whole page of even numbers of circles, triangles and squares.
While she was coloring, on several occasions she said that she couldn’t leave the page unfinished because she would become more anxious and nervous. In realiyy, Vava directed all of her focus on one thing: finishing coloring the image. After one hour of constant coloring, she had finished the image and went to lunch, but came back immediately because she found a solution for her designs.
So, the geometrical images can result in some amazing effects! Coloring puts you on the path of completing the work you have started. Not only that, coloring may activate the unconscious parts of our brains and help us solve problems without active intention.
POSSIBLE USES IN ADDICTION RECOVERY:
This could be a relapse prevention tool or ongoing accompaniment to 12 Step work. Maybe when people in addiction recovery start feeling cravings, they can focus on coloring the images to help them focus on finishing the image, instead of staying with the cravings.
Second participant: Maria
Our creative mandala lover, Maria was the most exited about the whole coloring project. Practicing meditation and yoga, she has colored many images before this one!
…..First impression: I love it! I like all images. The paper is a bit rigid, but I don’t mind it.
…..Before coloring: I’m tired… I need to focus!
…..During coloring: I love these flowers, they are so relaxing.
…..After coloring: Now I’m complete.
Maria chose only flower mandalas because those are the ones that make her happy. Mixing cold and warm colors, her flowers came out perfect. We could all see the relaxed expression Maria got on her face.
Third participant: Lydia
As a former teacher, Lydia found the whole coloring project inspiring and creative. She shared the same initial criticism as Vava: there are too many pictures stuffed in one place without connection.
…..First impression: I like the idea of coloring book for people in recovery, but there are too many
…..images in one place. The coloring book would be better if they are divided into sections.
…..Before coloring: I’m a little bit edgy and stressed.
…..During coloring: Not a thought in her mind.
…..After coloring: Definitely relaxed!
Lydia colored a variety of images starting with the number 10, the drops of life, and finishing with a flower mandala. Each picture had a different meaning for her, so she had a different reaction to each.
For instance, she noticed that if you want to gain more focus you should start coloring the bigger parts of the mandala first, and move towards the smaller parts. Starting from out and moving to the center, the center of you, can help you find the center of your inner self. Also, she was the only adult who enjoyed connecting the dots because they reminded her of childhood activity books.
As a side note, Lydia found a mistake: The word search #3 doesn’t contain the listed hidden words. This is publisher’s mistake.
Fourth participant: Theo
The youngest of us all, Theo is only 6 years old who was thrilled that we allowed him to experience the effects of Relax & Recover. While his thoughts were not officially recorded, he was enthusiastic and enjoyed 10 minutes of quiet engagement with the book.
Since Theo is a child, we didn’t want to confuse him with questions about his feelings before, during and after coloring…We just let him color. He liked to connect the dots activity together with Lydia. Actually, Theo was the only one who chose to solve one of the mazes, and he did it correctly because he started from the end. What a smart child!
As another sidenote: The mazes are so easy that a first grader can do them. In the next edition, please give us more difficult ones.
Who should buy it?
This coloring book is designed for people in addiction recovery. But, everyone who wants to use coloring as a relaxation tool may try it. Moreover, if you have a loved one in recovery, Relax & Recover is a great gift for motivation and relaxation.
Got any questions?
If you like to relax with this coloring book, you can get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Relax-Recover-Coloring-Activity-Book/dp/1536880299/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471644315&sr=8-1&keywords=relax+and+recover
We also encourage you to post your questions and experiences with this book in the section below. We’ll try to answer in a personal and prompt manner.