Coloring is one of the most underrated balms for stressful times. It’s easy. It’s convenient. It’s affordable. Best of all, it’s proven to help relieve stress and reduce activity in the amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response.
One 2005 study from the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association found that coloring for 20 minutes reduced anxiety in college students. Another study found that mindfulness art therapy helped relieve symptoms of distress in women with cancer.
While coloring fits easily into existing self-care routines, it can also be an accessible way to add habits of mindfulness, positive affirmations and meditative states into your day.
To enhance your morning routine and help prevent stress from arising, try coloring first thing. Place your coloring supplies on your bedside table. Then, each morning see if you can color for 10 minutes before getting out of bed or reaching for your phone (even better: leave your phone in a drawer out of sight).
Likewise, coloring can be used to help you relax and unwind in the evening. Try turning down overhead lights, playing background music or beats and turning off all devices with screens.
Take 20 minutes (or more) to color as you digest the day and prepare for the act of resting and sleep. This is a good time to mix in affirmations as you color.
No matter the time of day, we all sometimes need a moment to just be, to balance our energy and regain our composure. The following shares a simple process to put this idea into action and launch your own mindful coloring practice.
Before you begin, turn off distractions, such as a phone or computer.
Sit down with your coloring page and favorite colored pencils or crayons and get comfy. Prime your mind with a simple affirmation of gratitude: Thank you. I want to be here.
To bring attention to your body, take three big, full belly breaths and rub your hands together briskly to warm them up.
Shake out your fingers and quickly select a color you’re most drawn to. Then simply start putting color onto the page.
Breathe. Allow your mind to focus on the act of coloring. Feel the crayon or pencil on the paper. Get intrigued by the lines, the shapes, the visual effects you can create.
How does it feel to physically color? What emotions come up as you go? Allow yourself to get absorbed in the experience. There’s nowhere else you need to be.
When you feel finished, take another three big breaths. Repeat an affirmation of gratitude. Clean up your space quietly and store your supplies in the open where you’ll remember to reach for them next time.
You may be surprised at how much can change with a simple new habit of coloring for a few minutes each day.
Mackenzie Bakewell is Founder of ZieBee Media. For a free mindful coloring ebook, visit ZieBee.com/color.