Why do coloring books relieve stress?
Coloring is such an easy, even mindless activity, that it can be hard to fathom how it could possibly have all the benefits that its supporters say it does. Things that are good for us aren’t supposed to be fun, after all, right? So why is coloring – which seems at first glance like a waste of time or at least a guilty pleasure – so effective at relieving your stress?
There are a lot of fun things that relieve stress. Resorts would go out of business if this weren’t the case. But a lot of the things we do to relax in our modern lives actually have the opposite effect – they increase our stress and make it harder for us to deal with our own lives.
To understand how this is, we need to look at how the brain works. Our feelings of stress come from the amygdala. This is the part of the brain that controls the fight or flight response. Activity in the amygdala can be a good thing. It has kept us alive all these millions of years as a species, after all. And tickling your amygdala can also be a lot of fun, like when we ride roller coasters or take part in zombie runs. Horror films and haunted houses are some of the other ways that we stimulate the amygdala and create the stress response in order to have fun and pleasure.
Fight or Flight Response
The fight or flight response isn’t a bad thing. It feels good to get the heart racing, the adrenaline pumping, and the endorphins flowing. In its own way, it’s a great way to clear your mind of your day-to-day worries and get some rejuvenation. Especially when you get the endorphin release, it helps to lower stress afterwards. But it is not good to be stimulating the fight or flight response all the time, and this is exactly what most kinds of entertainment do.
Movies and TV shows are an example of this. They bombard us with loud noises, flashing lights, and pictures that flicker by too fast for our brains to process them. Every time the picture changes on the TV, our brains have to assess the threat value of the new image. There is a quick moment of stress when the brain is figuring out whether you are in danger, and then it relaxes again once it realizes what is going on. But before it has a chance to relax fully, the scene changes again or there is a loud noise, and the brain has to go through the whole cycle again. Essentially, you are trying to relax in front of the TV but all you are doing is bombarding your brain with stress-creating scenarios. Alas, the movie or TV show is over and you can fully relax.
Or can you? What about those bills you have to pay? What about the thing you have to do for work? What about all the other worries and responsibilities that seem to easily creep up in your mind at different points throughout the day? This is where anti stress coloring books come in. Coloring books help you actually relax, and they do it in a completely different way from most of our modern entertainment. They help you focus in on coloring and clear your mind from all the day-to-day stressors and distractions.
Coloring Reduces the amygdala activity (Decreases Stress)
Coloring books reduce amygdala activity. Basically, they help your brain realize that you are in a safe, predictable environment and that you don’t need to be in fight or flight mode. The activity of coloring takes your mind off all the stressors in your life, so your brain isn’t releasing cortisol or adrenaline in response to your to-do list. The beauty of the coloring page is also therapeutic and helps to signal to your brain that it is okay to relax.
Connect right and left hemispheres
Art in general, and coloring in particular, help to connect the right and left hemispheres of your brain. The right side (the creative side) is engaged with choosing colors and planning out color schemes. The left side (the logical side) is engaged with staying in the lines, following the pattern, and analyzing the design.
Many people suffer from a certain level of dissociation in their brains. You may use your right brain or your left brain predominately, for your job, out of habit, or simply because that is the way you are most comfortable with. As with everything else in your body, the less you use the other side of your brain, the less you are able to use it. Creative types may start to feel like they just aren’t good at logical thinking, and logical types may feel like they just aren’t creative. Strengthening the connections between the right and left hemispheres of your brain can help you come up with creative solutions to problems in your life, can increase your confidence, and can help you think outside the box.
Relax and honor yourself
Coloring is a time for relaxing and honoring yourself. When you take time for self care, you communicate to yourself that you are important. You are worth it. Many of us spend so much of our lives taking care of other people, or meeting deadlines, or constantly being busy. It is easy to forget that we deserve care too. Taking time for yourself helps to reduce stress because it lets you know that you don’t have to be a martyr for everyone else in your life. You have the ability and the right to do things that you enjoy as well.
Take the time to honor yourself by indulging in some beauty and creativity. It’s not just fun – it’s good for your mental health as well.
If you are ready to get coloring, check out our huge selection of adult coloring books! And if you can’t wait for your book to arrive, sign up for our email newsletter and we will send you a free PDF copy of one of our books for you to print out pages and start coloring right away!