As a paper enthusiast, I’m always looking for fun ways to enjoy and utilize paper. So when I discovered that Domtar supplied paper for one of the country’s fastest growing trends, coloring books for adults, I was thrilled. The idea itself is simple. You need a quick stress relief without much commotion? Reach for your crayons and paper.
In a world that seems to be loaded with stress, today’s consumers are channeling their inner child and remembering what it’s like to color inside the lines, (or outside the lines for the rebels) and in the process creating advantageous side effects like lower blood pressure. According to most psychologists, coloring books offer adults “permission” to go back to those childlike moments and relax. It seems like preschool did have all the answers: we need coloring, snacks and naps for inner peace.
For illustrator Millie Marotta, whose book Animal Kingdom has seen much success, coloring books perform a simple mission of relaxation and focus. By directing your artistic energy on paper, your mind is forced to shift to the art and forget about your daily stresses.
“I think a huge part of what’s making them so popular is that it’s such an absorbing, relaxing activity. It’s easily accessible,” Marotta says. “You can spend five minutes or five hours, depending on your schedule. It’s an engaging activity that makes you focus your mind on what you’re doing, so it’s easy to switch off your mind from everyday worry and stress. … We all did it as children, so it’s familiar and comfortable.”
I decided to take the challenge myself. Never one to turn down the chance for an artistic expression, I made my way to the book section of Target and grabbed a copy of Color Me Happy – the Zen edition. I felt my excitement ignite as I pilfered through the colored pencils and gel markers. I thought to myself, “By George, these folks are on to something!”
Later that evening, I sat down and spread my coloring book out with colored pencils in tow. I chose an intricate design of an exotic bird perching on a branch of a flowering tree. Almost instantly, my attention was engaged and my stress level decreased. I began thinking unconventionally, almost like a child, and decided that my bird would have pink and yellow feathers. And all the blooming flowers? Sapphire. If I colored outside of the lines, that made it all the more fun. There was no right or wrong way to tackle it.
And this result would be of no surprise to most art therapists. According to their research, both sides of the brain are involved when coloring. The right brain, the creative side, is used to select colors. The left side, the analytical half, helps decide what pattern of colors to use and form a final image. During the process, serotonin is released and people naturally feel calmer.
I was sold on the idea, like so many other people. And it seems the adult coloring book trend is showing no signs of slowing down. During the week of August 16th alone, book publishers saw a 20% spike in sales. In fact, almost half of the titles on Amazon’s bestseller list are comprised of adult coloring books. And some books like Secret Garden by Johanna Basford, have remained a top seller two years after the initial publication.
Next time you find yourself coiling up with tension, do yourself a favor, and reach for your crayons. Scribble, doodle or bring out your secret Vincent Van Gogh. All that’s required is a relaxed state of mind. And besides, who says that kids get to have all the fun?