In the last decade, the craze for coloring books for adults has drawn many people back to a hobby they enjoyed as kids. Ironically, adult coloring books were how the activity began in the first place.
A TIME article traced the beginnings back to the 1600’s when an early variation on coloring books may have been illustrations for two volumes of a descriptive poem by Michael Drayton. At the time, it seems the activity was more for artistic training than fun as outline books taught people how to use watercolors.
The rise of children’s coloring books came in the second half of the 19th century with the invention of lithography, and by 1960s they were firmly entrenched with the introduction of wax crayons.
And now, they’re back for adults, in a big way. One of the artists that fueled its resurgence is coloring books author Wendy Piersall. She creates books that combine the beauty of the world with intricate, imaginative designs such as Coloring Flower Mandalas, Coloring Animal Mandalas, Coloring Dream Mandalas and Coloring Ocean Mandalas.
When asked about the recent increase in popularity for adults she said they do it because it’s fun. “Also, the popularity has likely taken some of the stigma away from what is traditionally considered a kids’ activity. With so many beautiful coloring books with art drawn with adult tastes in mind, it’s an easy sell to pick up a childhood hobby and jump back in.”
But Piersall’s top theory about why the concept is so hot today? Because it can be a major stress-buster and tension reliever.
And health care professionals agree. In an article on the Cleveland Clinic’s website, clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea, Psy.D. cited three reasons adult coloring can be calming:
- Attention flows away from ourselves. A simple act, such as coloring, takes your attention away from yourself and onto the present-moment event. He said in that way, it’s very much like a meditative exercise.
- It relaxes the brain. When thoughts are focused on a simple activity, your brain tends to relax. “We are not disturbed by our own thoughts and appraisals,” he said. “The difficulties of life evaporate from our awareness, and both our bodies and our brains may find this rewarding.”
- Low stakes make it pleasurable. The fact that the outcome of coloring is predictable also can be relaxing. “It is hard to screw up coloring, and, even if you do, there is no real consequence. As result, adult coloring can be a wonderful lark, rather than an arduous test of our capacities.
Those same benefits apply to seniors. The main theory behind why coloring has so many of the same benefits as meditation, it because of concentration. When you meditate, you sit in silence and concentrate on one thing. When you color, you concentrate on just one thing: keeping your colored pencil inside the lines
Given these similarities, it is not surprising to find that there have been studies showing that coloring can help to preserve brain function. The more in the habit you are of concentrating, the sharper your brain stays.
Coloring is also a great activity for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Patients with cognitive loss often become very disoriented and confused. Coloring is very soothing and calming and it reminds seniors of childhood, which is important because the long-term memories are often the ones left even after the short-term memories are gone.
When you are considering activities for nursing homes, different factors come into play. Not only is it important to consider any physical limitations, but cognitive abilities as well. Thankfully, several fun and engaging activities, such as games, gardening, and ice cream socials, are perfect for nursing home residents.