I’ve become a big fan of adult colouring books. I now have several which I rotate through depending on my mood.
But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, it wasn’t until I spent a half-hour colouring one day in group therapy, that I rediscovered the joy of colouring. The group facilitator brought us a variety of colouring pages and markers. To see a roomful of adults sit down and colour away so joyfully, and peacefully, was life changing.
Everyone in that room suffered from poor mental health. Everyone in that room was dealing with their own responses to shame and stigma. Yet here we all were sharing this childhood activity with no qualms, no sense of being judged. It was both liberating and sobering – liberating because we had the freedom to engage in this activity even if only for a short while, sobering because we each recognized that in some way, outside of that room, we’d be judged for engaging in this activity.
Fortunately for us all, there followed a boom in the availability of adult colouring books which removed the stigma we were concerned with.
And with that boom, another coping tool was made available to me.
How does colouring help me cope?
My colouring is a mindful activity. My attention is centred on the colouring, deliberately and non-judgmentally, in the present moment.
During my colouring, my mind will wander back to the past, or forward to the future. Whenever it does, I see where it went, make note of it if I wish, let go of whatever thought I was having and return to my colouring. By doing this, I’m learning how to let go of possibly threatening thoughts, learning to treat thoughts as only thoughts, learning that thoughts are not facts. The only fact in that moment is the drawing that I’m colouring.
I don’t rush the colouring. I work on an area for a time and then I set it aside. I find myself returning to it whenever I feel distress, enjoying the soothing effect of the precise movements of the pencil, the growth of the colour on the paper. In these times, the distress abates and I can view the source of the distress calmly, without fear.
Similarly, what I colour will reflect my mood. If my mind is overly chaotic, I will choose to colour a mandala, the precision and symmetry of which helps to calm me. If I’m calm, I will often colour a less symmetrical design knowing that my calmness won’t be disturbed.
I can’t overstate how beneficial this is to me, to have an activity to fall back on should things start to overwhelm or disturb. Try it yourself.