Adult Coloring Books

Grown-ups are staying inside the lines to find some helpful distraction

Written by Angela Silva

You need to unwind; work is stressing you out. But you’re too exhausted to exercise. You’d feel guilty binge-watching another series on Netflix. You’re trying to be healthier, so eating junk is out. You don’t have the dexterity to try a new hobby like knitting or playing the guitar. What should you do to relax?

Enter the newest trend in adult relaxation activities: adult coloring books. They’re taking the country by storm. In 2015 sales rose from 1 million to 12 million copies, and colored pencil sales have followed suit.

It seems like adults have finally found the holy grail of relaxation: something they can mindlessly do to express themselves and distract themselves, with no screens or artistic skill required, but that still gets the mind wandering and creative juices flowing.

So what is it about coloring that promotes such a relaxing state?

Some think it’s the nostalgia of coloring again, like in the days of our youth. Our mind returns to that carefree, no-rules phase and we can temporarily dwell in childhood once again. But as adults, coloring in a coloring book has much more significant implications than when we were children.

New York-based art therapist Nadia Jenefsky says that adults benefit more from coloring books than children.

“For children a lot of times coloring books can inhibit their creativity,” Jenefsky told Quartz.

Children will flourish more by creating from a blank canvas. In contrast, adults usually have little creativity to spare, so coloring an existing image with the control over color selection and combination, while still exercising those artistic and creative muscles, is exactly why coloring books are so appealing.

A study conducted by the University of California in 2012 called “Inspired by Distraction” found that it is this exact combination of structured-yet-mindless activity that actually fosters creative and problem-solving thoughts (just like all of those great ideas you always seem to have in the shower).

While it shouldn’t be a substitute or replacement for professional therapy or counseling services, the stress-reducing and relaxing effects of coloring books have their place in the lives of overworked, burned-out adults everywhere.

From celebrities to your boss at work, nobody is too cool for coloring anymore. So if you’ve noticed the adult coloring book craze but have hesitated before, ask yourself what have you got to lose? Look online for free downloads and printables or pick up a book from almost any department store, grocery store, or probably even your corner gas station, and reclaim your artwork space on the fridge once again.

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