Color Me Relaxed: Coloring Helps Combat Stress Among Adults

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 at 9:35 PM

The night before her wedding day, her best friend, and maid of honor, presented her with a gift. Excited, she tore away the wrapping paper to find something she never expected.

A coloring book.

“I was 31 years old,” Health and Physical Education Department chairperson Dr. Laura Miller said.

“I was like, ‘I’m a grown adult. I’m getting married tomorrow. What?’”

Miller and her maid of honor had been best friends since seventh grade. This friend knew the bride-to-be would be incredibly stressed as she anticipated the big day. Miller says she has a type A personality, and even today, her thoughts and worries can often keep her up at night.

But the night before Miller’s wedding, her maid of honor assured her that everything would go smoothly the next day. She convinced Miller it wasn’t such an insane idea to color, explaining how relaxing it could be.

“So I colored in that coloring book the night before my wedding, as a full-grown adult,” Miller said. “And it helped.”

Miller’s friend had bought her a children’s coloring book, but recently the popularity of “adult coloring books” has exploded. While it took until 2012 and 2013 for the “first commercially successful” versions of adult coloring books to be published, according to an article by CNN’s Kelly Fitzpatrick, it’s within the past few months that they have become most popular.

“I’m kind of surprised no one thought of doing that before. It’s a great stress reliever, and it’s a way for people to focus their mind on something that’s enjoyable,” Miller said.

Adult coloring books, unlike children’s ones, have detailed, often intricate patterns. They require those who use them to concentrate, which means other concerns are pushed aside or even forgotten.

“It’s not like it’s a gigantic puppy head. It’s tiny,” Miller said. “It forces your mind to focus on that so you can’t focus on the things that are stressing you out.”

Miller says just the repetitive motion of an enjoyable activity, such as coloring, can bring blood pressure down.

She thinks the children’s coloring books can help. It helped her on her wedding night, it helped occasionally as she was raising her children. When they were younger, she would sometimes sit with them and color.

“If you enjoy what you are coloring and it doesn’t annoy you, it can be beneficial,” Miller said. “[So long as] it’s not Dora the Explorer (and you’re just not into that as a 40-year-old professional or a 20-year-old college student), I think it could certainly be helpful.”

For Edinboro junior, Summer Maas, coloring is a convenient way to relax, even with her especially busy schedule this semester.

“I enjoy art, and rather than whipping out a canvas and making a mess with all of my paint, I find that it’s more practical during the semester to just color in a coloring book,” she said.

Even if she has homework piling up, she can sit down and color for a short time in order to regain her focus. She considers it something that is very therapeutic for herself.

“I personally struggle with keeping my mind blank, so meditation has never worked for me,” Maas said. “But adult coloring books can be a form of meditation: you become so focused on the art you’re creating that you forget about all of your stress.”

“And isn’t that essentially all that meditation is?”

However, sometimes it can be problematic when she has too much school work. “It’s so much more fun to relax and color rather than do homework,” Maas said.

Miller says like any stress relieving activity, coloring can become a distraction if someone prolongs it for too lengthy of a time and avoids work because of it.

“If you are going to color for five hours in a row when you really need to get started on a paper, that’s a problem,” Miller said, “but I think with the coloring book it’s less addictive than when you go on to Facebook or the Internet… and lose hours and chunks of your day.”

“With the coloring book, I think at some point your brain will be like ‘I’ve done enough.’”

The potential distraction is the only thing that Miller thinks could be a problem, but she considers the coloring books to be mostly beneficial.

“I think most people will get a section of something done, have killed a half an hour, but will then be calm and can get something done and focus more when they jump back into their work,” she said.

Looking back on her wedding day, Miller doesn’t think her maid of honor’s idea was so crazy anymore. She is more surprised that people are only now starting to see the benefits of coloring, even as an adult.

“Twenty years later people are catching on,” she said.

Tracy Geibel is the executive editor for The Spectator and she can be reached at

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