If you were to pull out a flimsy paperback coloring book with a couple of boxes of crayons or colored pencils in the break room, do you think people would whisper or sit with you, asking if you could pass the purple crayon? With the explosion of popularity of adult coloring books during the last three years, odds are you aren’t the only working-age person with a small box of coloring utensils stuffed in a desk drawer or everyday bag.
What Are Adult Coloring Books?
Nielsen Bookscan estimated there were 12 million adult coloring books sold in the United States during 2015. Since then, the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Researchers and art therapists have touted the benefits of coloring for many years. Coloring helps foster self-awareness, develop social skills, increase self-esteem, and reduce anxiety for any age. In a world of non-stop notifications, digital connectedness, and at times, sensory overload, the soothing motions with coloring can be a great way to escape reality for a few minutes.
When you color, the basic repetitive motions relax your amygdala, the fear center in your brain, while engaging a part of the cerebral cortex. The end result, when immersed with no distractions such as text messages or TV on in the background, is a jolt in creativity and more relaxed state of mind.
Where To Start With Adult Coloring Books
With so many options available, don’t let that be a deterrent for a little relaxed and stress-free time. One of the best starting points is the ongoing debate, paper or digital. Personal preference comes into play on this one, whether you prefer the smell of drying ink or the waxy feel of crayon flakes on paper or having the power of many colors a tap away with a stylus.
As with anything else in life, a quick online search will bring up hundreds of results for adult coloring books, both the paper versions of our youth or another app to download to your smartphone or tablet. For research purposes related to this blog post – truly, it was for research – we suggest heading to The Muse for their recommended 21 coloring books, broken into patterns and design, animals, nature, cityscapes, and the fun and slightly ridiculous. If a digital version is handier for your lifestyle, TheColor.com is available for iPhone and Android and features 14, 56, or 192 colors to choose from for your artwork.
There are subscription based coloring book services out there, but we recommend you do some homework as not all are the same and others come with only one or two reviews online. But aside from a subscription or purchasing a coloring book once in awhile, the costs associated with the activity are low. A paperback coloring book can be as low as a few dollars to more than $15 for a hardback or spiral bound version. Crayons, colored pencils, markers, and pens can be purchased almost everywhere, from a corner pharmacy to a big box store, and year-round. A great time to stock up is during August when many stores run back-to-school sales on school supplies, including art tools.
What Type of Adult Coloring Book Should I Choose?
Whatever strikes your fancy! These books have branched out from our early elementary days, covering everything from cities and architecture to comics and manga to humorous ones aimed at adults. Those are ones we would call NSFW (not suitable for work) and wouldn’t recommend coloring in during your time in the break room.
Common best sellers on Amazon come from coloring books focused on designs, both abstract and patterned, floral, owls, and butterflies. But other commonly searched categories included fantasy and science fiction, religious and inspirational, and animals.
Wait, Should I Use Adult Coloring Books?
Spending time working with colors, creating anything perceived as art, and otherwise be artistic can seem limited to those working in marketing, design, and other creative fields. But coloring a few minutes a day can be beneficial to everyone regardless of profession.
The chance to sit and daydream is few and far between once we reach a certain, instead brushed off as silly and unproductive. But open-ended and unconstructed play, or in this case, time, allows the mind to be free to roam wherever. Unexpected associations may form and ideas created which we otherwise may not have. Plus there is the bonus of coloring being a way to experiment without worrying about failure and the consequences should the piece not be perfect.
So should you use adult coloring books? The choice is yours, but we encourage it.
How Does Coloring Make Me Mentally Sharper?
Brain games have also boomed in popularity recently. We’ve all seen the ads for an app or two, marketed to help your brain stay youthful and agile, especially as we grow older. These games focus on cognitive skills, the brain-based functionality needed to carry out any task, simple or complex. To go a little deeper, cognitive skills are mechanisms of how someone learns, remembers, problem solves, and pays attention rather than knowledge itself.
For years, researchers and teachers have known that younger children such as those starting school develop cognitive abilities through coloring. But studies have shown a simple task as coloring in older adults whose cognitive skills have diminished can coax those skills out of retirement.
The action of coloring, while reducing anxiety through its rhythmic motion and promotion of focused thought, stimulates the right side of your brain. The right side is where your best ideas come from. Analytical thinking increases during the activity, but can carry over into other daily tasks. Creativity is ignited. In the end, coloring books for adults can take the infinite choices we have in our daily life and narrow them to what page to color right now and what color to start with.
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