What kinds of coloring books did you like
most when you were a kid? Flowers? Animals? Superheroes? Well, in the past year, you must’ve noticed
a sudden surge of coloring books lining store shelves and appearing on online catalogues. But these coloring books aren’t for kids,
they’re made for adults – maybe you’ve even gotten a couple for yourself. But the important question is- why is this
phenomenon happening all of a sudden, and why now? Our fast-paced and increasingly complicated
modern society has brought with it new levels of stress that all human beings are having
a hard time dealing with, no matter their age, status, or occupation. Competitive environments, punitive work cultures
and the constant need to keep up with the breakneck pace of the 21st-century lifestyle
are just some of the few stresses that all of us have to face every single day. For years now, people have looked for the
ultimate panacea against all stressful factors. Now, people are starting to think that it
can be found through art. It’s true- the very act of painting and
drawing is seen to have therapeutic effects on the human body. And this is not without reason – since the
dawn of humankind, art has always been an instrument for self-expression and symbolism,
a means of group interaction, conflict resolution, and diagnosis. Further on, ancient cultures used art to develop
stronger relationships with their deities, believing that being in good graces with their
gods would keep them away from all kinds of harm and disease. Eventually, art itself became a critical part
of the healing process – Navaho medicine men used sand paintings to cure disease, for example. In Traditional Chinese painting there was
no place for war, violence, or death, as it was thought to cultivate one’s character
and nurture the soul. Art was never for the sake of painting alone
– the objects or scenes must be brought to life and contain a sort of energy and beauty. Painting and calligraphy was thought to have
immense power- with the ability to rejuvenate an artist by bringing him or her closer to
a higher moral standard or the complete opposite. Art used solely for therapy, of course, is
a much more modern concept. In 1942, British artist Adrian Hill originated
the term art therapy. While he was recovering from tuberculosis,
he discovered the benefits of coloring and painting as therapeutic processes. At its very core, it’s the active process
of creation that provides pleasure and relaxation, not the finished product itself. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is the use of art as a form of psychotherapy for people who are experiencing
trauma or illness, seeking personal development, or struggling to deal with the day-to-day
act of living. People develop and improve their cognitive
abilities through creating art, and experiencing the pleasure and relaxation that the process
provides them. It helps them cope with and manage the things
they experience in their lives that threaten or pressure them. Since the mid-20th century, hospitals and
mental health facilities have begun including art therapy programs to promote emotional,
developmental, and cognitive growth. Even today, it is still an important tool
for assessment, communication, and treatment for children and adults especially after a
research was done in 2005 that proved that the subjects’ anxiety levels dropped when
they started coloring. It was discovered that just like meditation,
coloring also helps one to focus solely on the task at hand while not really thinking
of anything. The tranquility that people search for is
found in this process when they contain themselves in their bubble of safety as they color. While coloring was recognized as a form of
therapy, it was found that what happens in the brain during this process is the normalization
of a very active amygdala; a part of the brain in the limbic system that is responsible for
the control fear and anxiety, and the fight-or-flight response to a threatening stimulus. As the amygdala is expected to react discordantly
to stress, colouring and the calm approach of doing an activity like this can dismiss
that reaction or response so the brain can have its well-deserved rest.. On the other hand, while the limbic system
benefits from art therapy, the frontal lobe does as well. The frontal lobe is associated with reward,
attention, short-term memory tasks, planning, and motivation, or the “central executive” of the brain Thinking of ways to combine and balance complex
colour schemes to achieve an aesthetically pleasing result is a way to enhance our focus,
concentration, and organizational skills. Nielsen bookscan estimates that some 12 million
were sold in 2015 – a dramatic increase from the 1 million sold the year before. Perhaps it also provides a bit of nostalgia,
reminding people of their childhood, and simpler times. And even if it just feels like they are just
the latest trend or fad, they can indeed be fun and therapeutic for people, regardless
of age, and it doesn’t require a lot of money or effort to enjoy.