My daughter is currently in the midst of studying for her final senior school exams. It’s a challenging time for her and over the recent holiday period – in amidst the studying – she found herself in a news agents and on a whim purchased a coloring book and pencils.

Never did she (or I) expect that this seemingly random choice would have turned out to be one of the most beneficial relaxation tool. And I have now begun to notice a wave of adult focused coloring books come onto the market .. it’s becoming a fashionable trend!

Carl G. Jüng was one early psychologist who recognised coloring as a relaxation technique in the early 20th century using mandalas: circular drawings originating in India.

Coloring is shown to activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres; incorporating both logic (use of forms) and creativity (choosing, mixing colors). Sitting quietly we keep our hands busy and slip into a more creative and relaxed state.

One study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association explored the idea of ‘coloring as meditation’ in “Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety?” by Nancy A. Curry and Tim Kasser.

The study examined the effectiveness of different types of art activities in the reduction of anxiety. After undergoing a brief anxiety-induction, 84 undergraduate students were randomly assigned to color a mandala, a plaid form, or free-form on a blank piece of paper. Results demonstrated that anxiety levels declined approximately the same for the mandala- and plaid-coloring groups and that both of these groups experienced more reduction in anxiety than did the unstructured-coloring group.

The findings suggest that structured coloring of a reasonably complex geometric pattern may induce a meditative state that benefits individuals suffering from anxiety

In reviewing why the plaid and mandala design might be equally effective (and both better than free-form coloring) for reducing anxiety, some possibilities highlighted were: the mandala and plaid designs was complex enough to require a certain amount of attention to complete, and both provided structure and direction however were not so complex that they required excessive thought or focus.

So .. consider picking up some color pencils today and find a cartoon (humour is a great stress reliever also), mandala or doodle pad for some de-stress time.