Colouring books for adults: Mindfulness and meditation?

Kettlemag, Books, Colouring, Sian Bradley
Written by sianabigail

We all remember colouring books as kids, trying really hard to keep inside the lines and making animals multi-coloured. They served as entertainment, to keep our growing minds distracted and engaged whilst learning how to be a little bit gentler with our fourth pencil set.  


Now, perhaps in an ode to our younger self, colouring books aren’t just for little people, they are for fully grown adult folk too. Unless you have been walking blindly through book or stationary stores lately, you have probably noticed the shelves filled with adult colouring books.

There has been a fascinating surge in popularity of these books, with a massive 6 being in the top 20 of Amazon’s bestseller list. These books are usually marketed as being able to alleviate stress and aid mindfulness.

A simple idea

I’ve always been a lover of art and books, so for me this was a perfect combination to invest in. After much deliberation against the sea of ‘adventures’ and inky drawings, I purchased Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom – a colouring book adventure. This just so happens to be number 3 in the bestsellers, and includes beautiful and intricately detailed drawings of animals and insects.

It’s a simple idea, that the same activity that occupied us as children, will be able to calm us down now. People who suffer from anxiety or stress can take some time away from their whirring brain and get lost in swirls of colours.

As someone who often feels stressed out and anxious, this sounded like a great escape. So, I purchased some cute little pencils and dived in.

Pattern and detail

I love it. I can say that hands down, it’s a very enjoyable experience, taking time to piece together bright pictures completely empties your mind of any nagging thoughts. Of course, this isn’t any new information for me, as I have always enjoyed it. However, this new breed of colouring is tailored to suit our mature minds, and there’s really a focus on patterns and repetative details, to soothe our tired brains. 

These books remove the stress of having to create your own designs or drawings if you have artist block, but still leave enough room for your creative juices to flow. As well as this, they leave blank spaces for us to ink lines from our own imagination.

The science behind it

There’s a whole science behind the effectiveness of these books, with claims that the task of staying between the lines, helps us switch our brain waves from pressurised and stressful (beta) to an ‘alpha’ state of relaxation.  We are focusing on one simple task, allowing us to enter a state similar to that of meditation.

I feel that for anyone who is searching for a way to relax should pick up a book and devote their thoughts to nothing beyond that page.

Anything which can help an adult to express themselves in an innocent and almost childlike manner is great, because it’s promoting healthy regression.

Also, there is a direct link between colour and our emotions. We could use our pictures as a tool to realise our own feelings- such as noticing we are using a lot of blue, or even to help release these negative emotions.

Therapeutic, but not therapy

This being said, I think marketing them as self-therapy paves the way to an over-arching assumption of what the books can achieve.

In other words, they are therapeutic but not therapy.

I highly recommend you give in to your nostalgic side and sit down, turn off your phone, the TV and your laptop. Pick a set of your favourite colours, and let your art blossom across the page. What was that problem again?