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Coloring: a simple stress buster

Updated on December 15, 2012
Just opening up my box of colored pencils brightens my mood.
Just opening up my box of colored pencils brightens my mood. | Source

Coloring is emotionally relaxing and mentally refreshing

Many people abandon the act of coloring when they become adults. It's a shame because this simple activity is a wonderful way to take time out from everyday concerns. It can be worked into short time periods or long. The coloring book can have simple forms or intricate ones. And of course, there are many wonderful colors to choose from. I remember having "color days" with friends when I was in my twenties. Two or three of us would get together and color for a few hours and life always seemed lighter afterward.

The right mindset
I once attended a workshop in which we colored mandala designs and then had them "read" by a psychic. To me that took some of the pleasure out of it. I color precisely because I don't expect it to be judged in any way. It's just play with colors, nothing being correct or incorrect. If the result doesn't please me, I can just go on to the next one. It's a stress reliever for me precisely because I'm not an artist so there's no ego attached to the result. It's all about the journey, the absorption in a simple task that blocks out worry and usually has a pleasant end result. I used to think this would not be a good activity for an artist, but an artist friend recently shared that she also colors with her 20-something daughter.

Coloring at work
Coloring has been something I have picked up and dropped at various times in my life. When working on a computer-intensive test-scoring project with a large group of people, we began encountering unpredictable computer down-time. Some people would read--but it required that you drop the book as soon as the computers were back up. Coloring was the solution for me and others took up my example. In fact, even after the computer system had been improved, some of us would take brief color breaks or do a little coloring during lunch.

Coloring Books for Adults

Although children's coloring books work fine, it's often best to stick with non-representational ones. Children are marvelously uninhibited with color choices. They can color a horse purple without hesitation. Adults often find themselves hampered by long association with reality, which could lead them to rarely use some of their favorite colors. Look for books with mushrooms or insects, things that could be any variety of colors. Many adults prefer coloring books made specifically for adults, which usually have more intricate designs that allow for any color choice. Dover publishes a broad line of coloring books, including those for adults. Adult coloring books are available on amazon. Art supply shops will sometimes have them. Oddly, Hobby Lobby doesn't carry a good selection. Yet I recently found some wonderful ones at, of all places, the retail section of a Crackerbarrel restaurant.

The Colors: Pencils, markers, crayons, pastels

Most people color with either crayons or colored pencils. Either way, it's worthwhile to spend a little extra on a good set. Otherwise, what you get are crayons or pencils that are pretty but can't seem to get their colors onto the page. Crayola still rules crayons. I've tried cheaper versions and they don't do the job. They'll turn your relaxing past-time into frustration.

The price of a large set of good colored pencils (not found at Walmart) can be enough to make a person with a limited income faint. Unfortunately, It seems like these larger sets are mostly what I've seen at Hobby Lobby. I'm fairly happy with a set of 50 that I found at an art supply store--back in the children's section--for about $20. They're quality pencils that allow me to apply them either dark or light. My only complaint is that the palette favors warmer colors. Some day I'm going to have one of those expensive sets with all the colors of the rainbow!

Because of my poor memory, I like to use the front or back of a coloring book to color a little with each pencil or crayon and then label the color. It's the only way I can remember just what a color looks like on the page. It can be useful to create a swatch pressing hard and a swatch pressing lightly with the same crayon or pencil to get a feel for its range of effects. Sometimes, to further acquaint myself with all the colors, I sacrifice one design in a coloring book to the goal of using every color.

A versatile Way to Relax

Whether you have ten colors or a hundred, coloring can be a relaxing activity requiring minimal skills and in which the decisions are simple, there is no need to compete, no need to finish and no performance evaluation. It can be done alone or with others. It can be done in the same room as someone watching tv or doing homework. Coloring complements casual conversation with other adults and with children. I encourage everyone to give this simple stress-buster a try.


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    • Jen Pearson profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen Pearson 

      7 years ago from Alabama

      Thanks for sharing how it calms young children, rebekahELLE. You're lucky to be around tots who remind you to stay young and enjoy simple activities.

      Adrienne2, I'm sure you'll find it fun and rewarding!

      It's funny you two should comment today. I was just thinking last night that it's been too long since I've done some coloring. Time to pull out the pencils and books and get lost in colors for a while.

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 

      7 years ago from Atlanta

      Such an unique way to relax. I really like the ideal of coloring as a stress buster, and plan to make it part of my ways to relax. Thank you for sharing!

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      7 years ago from Tampa Bay

      What a wonderful hub! I too have always loved coloring and it is very calming. I work with young children so I am able to sit and color with them at times. I set out a few simple mandala pages when working with an active group of threes and found the most elaborate, beautiful color combinations in their finished product. It is also very calming for a high energy preschooler. It's so nice to see a hub devoted to adults coloring!

    • Jen Pearson profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen Pearson 

      7 years ago from Alabama

      That sounds like an extremely fun class. You may find simple coloring keeps you primed for more elaborate projects.

      You comment reminded me that I had found a book of postcards for coloring at an art store a while back that I forgot to mention in my article. Also, last I knew, the post office sells blank postcards that are great for putting your own art/scribbles on.

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 

      7 years ago

      Jen, what a great article! I just finished a class for making handmade greeting cards and Christmas cards. The instructor provided us with acrylic paints, color pencils and watercolor pencils. What a treat! Didn't work with those since I was 12. Actually, there was no such thing as watercolor pencils at the time. Thanks for the tips. Haven't bought any art materials yet, but your article has inspired me.


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