How Adult Colouring Books Can Help Relieve Your Anxiety

If you’ve been to a bookstore recently, you’ll know that adult colouring books are all the rage. As ppl with no chill try to find some, colouring books claiming “mindfulness”, “art-therapy”, and “anti-stress” have become the new ‘thing’ in pop-psychology.

Louise Sherwin-Stark, Managing Director of Sales & Products at Hachette Australia & New Zealand says publishers are struggling to keep up with demand. 
“According to Bookscan, 560,000 adult colouring books have already been sold in Australia this year… and Hachette Australia plan to sell half a million by the end of the year.”
Popular titles like the Secret Garden and its sequel Enchanted Forest, both by Johanna Basford, hold spots in the top ten on Amazon’s 2015 Best-Sellers, and have done for months.
So, what’s with the book boom? Why are we suddenly so crazy about colouring and staying between the lines? And what can it do for you? Here’s the lowdown.
Colouring books are nothing new, in fact, kids that aren’t on iPads still colour regularly. For adults, 2012 marked the release a Ryan Gosling Colouring Book – a popular stocking filler at the time – and in the same year, Hachette France published psychedelic adult colouring book series, Art Thérapie – 100 Coloriages Anti-Stress touting anti-stress benefits, which has sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide. Ka-ching. 
Evidently, marketing these books as feel-good tools has seen the trend really take off – but how does it actually work?
One of the most popular claims is that colouring promotes “mindfulness”, which isn’t some new age BS, but an age old principle found in Buddhism and other eastern philosophical practices. At its core, mindfulness is about living in the present and being self-aware. Rather than blocking out negative and stressful thoughts, being mindful gets you to purposely focus your attention on enjoying the moment, the surrounds and how your body feels. It’s powerful, perspective-changing stuff.
Art Therapy is something different again. Technically, you’re supposed to work with a qualified art therapist who introduces you to different art-making activities and encourages you to create your own art, from which you can reflect and gain insight.
While these books aren’t “Art Therapy” in the professional sense of the word, Dr Sheridan Linnell, Senior Lecturer of Master of Art Therapy at the University of Western Sydney respects how they can be therapeutic, self-soothing, and help people achieve “a state of mindfulness”. She’ll even go as far as to say that they may be considered popular adaptations of some of the principles of Art Therapy.
With colouring, “the repetition of the activity requires a certain light kind of attention to being in the present, which can be supportive for people who might be struggling with anxiety and other issues,” she offers, “but some people need more help than that, and they can see an Art Therapist.”
Joel Moore, author of recently released Mulga’s Magical Colouring Book, believes that the adult colouring movement has come about because people want a change of pace: “These days, we are so hectic and busy and spend way too much time on screen, so I think peeps love getting back to basics and properly chilling with a soothing session of colouring…The fact that it’s a thing that was enjoyed as a youngster is probably comforting in some kind of way as well,” he says.
Dr Linnell agrees – saying that the appeal of colouring for many adults may just be that it reminds them of childhood and play; simpler times when the sum of their responsibilities was staying between the lines and choosing the right colour. The thing is not to be too prescriptive with it, she advises. Do if for as long as you have time for, but there’s no need to make it a chore. Colour whatever you like, whether that’s hipster animals with beards, geometric shapes or cutesy floral things, and her last piece of advice: “While there’s usefulness in discipline in life, don’t live your whole life between the lines.” Y’heard it here.
Images: supplied.