Do Mindful Colouring Books Work? The publishing market is flooded with mindful colouring books for adults. No longer the domain of crayons and children, there are now a plethora of mindful colouring books to choose from. Maybe you’ve bought one, or wondered what colouring books have to do with mindfulness? Or perhaps you’re still wondering, do mindful colouring books work? Are they an effective way to increase your mindfulness or just rampant consumerism riding on the mindfulness wave? We round up the research asking ‘Do mindful colouring books work?’ and give you our top 5 mindful colouring tips.
Mindfulness, being aware of what is happening as it happens, or as Jon Kabat Zinn describes it, an awareness developed by paying attention, on purpose, in a particular way without judgement. Traditionally mindfulness practices involve breathing meditations to develop moment to moment awareness. When you learn to meditate it’s usually with a teacher and the practices introduced are guided. Like anything else when you’re learning it for the first time it’s helpful to have someone there to guide you. Mindful colouring books step away from this traditional model, offering an informal alternative. But if you’re colouring without a teacher do mindful colouring books work and can they really live up to the claims to create more mindfulness, reduce stress or have a therapeutic effect?
The Science of colouring
Research consistently demonstrates that regularly practicing mindfulness has a whole raft of health benefits ranging from stress reduction, decreased anxiety and depression to increased happiness amongst others. Can the same be said of colouring?
Researchers Nancy Curry and Tim Kasser, published their work in the Art Therapy Journal of the American Art Therapy Association (2205) also asked the question, do mindful colouring books work? Their research examined the impact of colouring in squares, a blank page and a mandala (a round Buddhist symbol). They found that the mandala and square colouring had the greatest effect on reducing anxiety, suggesting that ‘structured colouring….may induce a meditative state that benefits individuals suffering from anxiety. Freeform, unstructured colouring had no therapeutic benefits suggesting that doodling alone does not cut the mustard when it comes to increasing mindfulness.
Do mindful colouring books work research
Research by Michail Mantzios and Kyriaki Giannou published in Frontiers in Psychology looked at whether guided or unguided colouring, again, using mandalas was more effective. They discovered that the mindfulness guided mandala colouring group performed better than unguided group at decreasing anxiety but there was no change in mindfulness. This suggests that a colouring book with ‘mindfulness’ in the title and nothing else is probably going to have little effect upon your wellbeing or your mindfulness.
So, do mindful colouring books work?
The jury remains out and we can only say that further research is needed to determine the best way to combine mindfulness and colouring. If you’re going to invest in a mindful colouring book here are our top five recommendations.
Top 5 Mindful Colouring Tips
- Look for a colouring book that uses mandala templates
- Seek out mindful colouring books with some kind of guidance of how to be mindful when colouring (if it’s recorded, even better).
- Look out for mindful art classes at art galleries and museums. There are many galleries offering these courses (we worked with the V&A on one) where you’ll be guided by a mindfulness teacher as you colour)
- Take a mindful pause before you begin. Settle in to a gentle breathing rhythm and notice what’s going on for you before you put pen or pencil to paper.
- Notice how you feel physically as you colour. How does it feel to hold the pencil? What kind of pressure are you using with your pen? How are you sitting? What’s your posture like?
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