September 10, 2020

Coloring for Stress Relief

GoGuardian Team
Student smiling and coloring

Coloring books have become increasingly popular over the years. From online retailers to bookstores to grocery stores, you can find coloring books for all ages with mandala patterns, floral designs, animal prints, and more. This resurgence benefits children, adolescents, and adults because the act of coloring relaxes participants. Psychologist Dr. Nicola Holt and her team discovered in two separate studies how coloring produces cognitive benefits and changes one’s mood. After the participants colored for 20 minutes, they reported feeling calmer and reaching higher levels of mindfulness. Additionally, they were in a flow state. Teachers and parents should encourage coloring to alleviate student stress levels.

The Stress-Relieving Benefits of Coloring

Removing Distractions and Honing One’s Focus

For stress relief, coloring pages can be a great way to calm one’s mind. Focusing on coloring a picture distracts the brain from oneself. As a result, coloring can be a meditative exercise for students. Coloring, similar to writing, enables others to shift their focus from outside thoughts and hone in on the task at hand. The worries of life momentarily evaporate. Neuroscientist and Consulting Neuropsychologist Dr. Stan Rodski authored coloring books tailored to managers and executives who were unable to reach stress relief through meditation or breathing exercises. According to Dr. Rodski, he has witnessed positive changes in his patients’ brain and heart waves through coloring.

Replacing Negative Thoughts

The amygdala causes the fight-or-flight response, which generates stress on our bodies. Piedmont Sixty Plus Manager Susan Gordon reveals how coloring de-stresses participants by lowering the amygdala brain activity. This activity replaces one’s negative thoughts because it alters that part of their brain. Instead, they are focusing on the literal image right in front of them—looking at the edges, shapes, sizes and then choosing to take part in the coloring process.

Removing the Stress of Technology

When choosing a method for reducing stress, it’s important to pick an activity that doesn’t involve technology. For students, checking their phones frequently increases the amount of stress they experience. Some students are bombarded with text messages, social media notifications, and other app notifications. These interruptions may induce stress throughout the day, as opposed to working on class assignments. A simplistic coloring book mitigates the potential for added stress.

Better Sleep Quality

It’s no secret that sleep quality directly affects cognitive functioning and the ability to concentrate. Technology, especially emitting blue light, disrupts a person’s circadian rhythm and causes insomnia. Using electronics at night can reduce the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Conversely, coloring is an alternative bedtime ritual to calm one’s mind right before sleep.

Fun-Filled Activity for Everyone

Compared to knitting, coloring does not require any amount of skill, and anyone can do it. Other forms of stress relief, like meditation, take time and practice. Coloring is a fun-filled solitary or collaborative activity. Students can feel free to color outside or inside the lines, pick their favorite colors, and go at their own speed. Coloring gives students an unstructured time to relax and enjoy themselves or others.

Exercises the Brain

Coloring works both hemispheres of the brain. The left side of the brain controls logic and reasoning, and the right side of the brain operates creativity, self-expression, and the arts. Coloring fosters both aspects of a student’s mind. It combines creativity and focus, utilizing the frontal lobe for concentration and organizing ideas.

Sparks Creativity

Have you ever suffered from writer's block or feel like you can’t concentrate any longer? Sometimes stepping away for a while is the best solution. Coloring breaks will rejuvenate a student’s mind in between assignments. Similar to meditation or mindfulness practices, the freedom of coloring enables a student’s mind to make new connections, create new ideas, or bring about a sense of peace.

Helps with Physical and Mental Health

Coloring is another form of art therapy. For example, the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center and the University of California Irvine Cancer Center offer coloring mandala workshops to cancer survivors. This helps patients work through their emotions and relieve stress caused by traumatic life events. Some health experts recommend coloring for those who want to stop smoking, as it occupies their hands to remove stress. Art therapy is applicable to students because they can express themselves through coloring as a way to share their feelings.

Color Your World

It’s evident that the act of coloring produces profound benefits on participants’ mental states and moods. It’s a great way to relax and unwind from electronics. The task shifts one’s focus from a stressful thought or situation to a soothing activity. Teachers and parents should encourage students to color as a solution to stress, by incorporating it as a fun activity in their routine. Read more helpful resources for educators, parents, and students at the GoGuardian Blog.