colouring

The benefits of colouring in for adults

Nadine Baggott

Not just for children colouring in can help adults deal with stress and anxiety. HELLO! Beauty Editor Nadine Baggott takes a look at how it works and what it can do for you.

Are you feeling stressed and anxious? Given that seven out of ten women in the UK (that's about 12 million of us) – according to research by Sanctuary Spa – feel under pressure to be the perfect mum, wife and/or boss and to have a perfect house as well as the perfect face and body, chances are that you are.

Add to that the anxiety caused by comparing your life to everyone else's on social media and you can see why stress-release activities such as yoga and meditation are more popular than ever. But did you know that colouring in is also a way to relax? Lots of celebrities are fans, with Gigi and Bella Hadid, Nigella Lawson, Emma Watson, Alicia Keys and Kirstie Allsopp among those said to be colouring their way to calm.

Colouring in reminds us of childhood, a time when we may have had little stress or anxiety. The benefits are physiological as well as psychological.

"When you colour in you have to concentrate to make sure you don't go outside the lines," says Jenni Trent Hughes, author and life strategist. "It's impossible to do that and to think about deadlines, bills or to-do lists because they require different sides of the brain. Logic, numbers, lists and reasoning work require the left-hand side of the brain, while creativity and colouring in require the right-hand side. So colouring in is a quick and easy way to enter a meditative, yoga-like state."

Also, while tasks such as ironing, cooking and even walking in the countryside still allow your brain to focus on stressful things, colouring in does not.

"In New South Wales, brain scientist Dr Joel Pearson has done a lot of work on the displacement of thought via colouring in," says Jenni. "He has shown that the heart rate calms down and brain waves change to a meditative state, which is when you relax."

Colouring-in books – and there are adult ones – make this form of art therapy available to everyone. The benefits are wide-ranging. Art therapy has been shown to be effective in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, stress, anxiety and dementia, and even in helping people to cope with a cancer diagnosis.

Californian art teacher and author Dr Betty Edwards first postulated the right versus left side of the brain theory 20 years ago. She maintained that we can all draw: as children we draw instinctively and it is merely adult restrictions on creativity and likeness (the idea that a drawing has to look exactly like the thing it represents) that prevent us from doing so as grown-ups.

"We need to plug back in to that childhood feeling of freedom when we draw and colour in," says Jenni. "Colouring books allow us to do that. I tell people to colour for five minutes every other day, just five minutes to relax and de-stress. I know they think it's silly and childish, but it is addictive and so relaxing. They end up colouring for hours.

"It seems to be a shortcut not only to relaxation but to a time when we were rewarded for colouring in and drawing, no matter how bad we were at it – so a time that was free of stress and anxiety, free from judgment and competition."

Jenni firmly believes that colouring in can help ease growing levels of anxiety among young people.

"There is a generation addicted to their phones and iPads. They are digitally stressed and anxious, not simply by the multi-tasking that being plugged in 24/7 requires, but also by the message that social media puts out – that everything is perfect apart from you. For these people, the simple act of colouring in can help them to relax. If you suffer from anxiety and stress, I cannot recommend colouring enough."

The Sanctuary Spa Let Go Colour Me In Candle features a candle with four colouring pencils and a box designed to be coloured in. It is available as a gift when you spend £11 or more on Sanctuary products from larger Boots stores throughout October. Visit sanctuary.com to watch the #LetGo video. 

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