Adult coloring books use a childhood activity for therapeutic relaxation

by | Apr 17, 2015 | Life

Allie Langohr
Life Reporter

A new trend based on an old trick may be able to help people de-stress this semester.

Colouring books are making a comeback, but this time, it’s the adults who are cashing in.

Adult colouring books differ from children’s colouring books in the complexity and subject matter of the designs.

For example, adult colouring books feature intricate nature scenes, city landscapes and mandalas that emphasize relaxation and balance. The colouring spaces are smaller, promoting more attention to detail.

The books are available at Indigo stores, as well as online on websites like Companies like Colorama offer package deals including regular size books, pocket-sized books and even colouring utensils.

The rise in colouring books designed and marketed specifically for adults has been beneficial for both therapists and their patients, said Ana Seara, an art therapist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Seara, who has worked with military veterans and palliative patients and their families for 15 years often encourages her patients to use colouring books, but this new trend makes finding suitable images much easier.

“You want to select images that aren’t putting down your residents,” said Seara. “You want to pick images that reflect their age. To hear about these adult colouring books coming out now, it’s great because we’re
always trying to collect these resources.” 

Carly Whitehead, first year child and youth worker at Humber College said colouring books allow her to feel the benefits of art therapy without the pressure of creating something from scratch.

“It takes away the stress of having to draw something first,” said Whitehead. “It’s easier to just colour something in than to think of something to draw and deem it worthy enough to start colouring it in.”

Whitehead started using colouring books as a way of relaxing since taking a therapeutic activities course as part of the Child and Youth Worker program at Humber.

“We did a lot of crafts. At first I thought it was dumb, but as I kept doing it I realized that this is actually really relaxing. It kind of brings you back to when you were a kid,” she said.

Now, simply opening the colouring book and seeing her strokes on the page have an immediate calming effect, especially when trying to fall asleep at night, said Whitehead.

“I feel relaxed and creative. When I’m done, I feel relieved. You feel like you’ve let go of something that was bothering you.”

Jatinder Virk, a second year business management student at Humber, said he usually ends up on YouTube when trying to de-stress, and the new trend brings up fond old memories.

“Colouring books are kind of old school, but really helpful. It was totally out of my mind, but that was a really good time when I used to do it,” he said.

Seara urges using colouring books to explore their de-stressing potential in ways that the user is comfortable with.

“Besides the colouring books, the media you use, whether it be markers, pastels, pencil crayons, all of that should be considered,” said Seara.