By Kay B. Wills
Coloring is an activity that we tend to associate with children. As we age, we set aside our crayons and colored pencils in favor of more respectable utensils such as pens and highlighters, eventually resulting in the use of tablets and smart phones. However, coloring books for adults have seen an unprecedented ascent to the top of the bestseller lists, and as it turns out, can be beneficial in helping stress through meditation.
Mindful meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward changing our inner selves, but instead enables us to become more aware of what is happening moment to moment. The sitting practice of mindfulness gives us the opportunity to be present with ourselves just as we are. This, in turn, can result in teaching us how not to escape but relish in the experience of simply being alive.
Studies are also showing the benefits of coloring in the senior population, which incorporates vision and fine motor skills along with logic and creativity. Books with a de-stressing effect for seniors include those with patterns and shapes, such as mandalas, over the popular titles that incorporate landscapes.
There are a vast amount of choices for utensils depending on the desired end effect. For shading purposes, colored pencils would be best. The old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ definitely applies to colored pencils since prices vary among brands and tend to make a difference in your project. If you are new to coloring books, and do not want to invest a large amount, then start with a set by Sargent or Faber-Castell. For established hobbyists, consider treating yourself to a set by Prismacolor, Derwent, or Kohinoor. Whichever set you decide, always strive for the most color choices possible with a high pencil count.
If vibrant dense color is preferred, then look to markers and gel pens. Fiskars and Tekwriter are excellent brands to sample in gel pens with long lasting color and no bleed through. For markers, there are two brands that reign supreme and that is Sharpie and Bic. Always buy the ultra fine tip for coloring in small areas, and be advised that most markers do bleed through.
With the many coloring books available to order online, and those at local craft and hobby stores, there is something for everyone’s taste. For beautiful line art drawings on heavy weight paper, try Johanna Basford’s “Secret Garden” and “Enchanted Forest” or Millie Marotta’s “Tropical World” and “Animal Kingdom”. Virginia-based art therapist Lacy Mucklow and illustrator Angela Porter’s “Color Me Stress Free” and “Color Me Happy” calm your mind through patterns and mandalas.
With the fast paced lifestyles that most of us create, we tend to live focusing on what event happens next, instead of enjoying the here and now. Although coloring for an hour in the evening may not eliminate our worries, it will relieve us from the stress of the day by helping the brain’s ability to focus, aid in making decisions, and regulating emotions.