Okay, many of us loved coloring books as a child but did you know there has been a whole craze of adult coloring books for years? I mean an absolute explosion of every type of coloring book you could possibly think of – which we’ll get into in a moment. But for now, let’s just dive into the basic idea of adult coloring books and how they can be used to calm anxiety.
What is this adult coloring book stuff you speak of?
Before you think that you couldn’t possibly be caught coloring, know that there is actual science behind the calming effects of art therapy, coloring books included! Taking time to color can help calm anxiety, it can relieve emotional distress and help melt away daily stress.
Pack your coloring book with you wherever you go and consider it an important part of your wellness plan. Better yet, get your friends and coworkers involved! Some college classrooms are even offering coloring books as a tool to help pay better attention to lectures for students who have difficulty focusing or sitting still. This is a perfect opportunity to think outside of the box.
Before you can begin your coloring book adventure, you must first discover what kind of coloring book speaks to you.
So many kinds of awesomeness!
Take some time to browse different kinds of adult coloring books to get an idea of what is available.
Our brains enjoy exploring patterns. If you haven’t discovered the following two categories I recommend checking them out.
- Zentangle: One of my all-time favorite types of coloring books involves Zentangle (R) or Zentangle-Inspired Art. These are patterns that are considered exercises for the brain when you are drawing them, I find them just as comforting coloring them. There is something about the repetition that pulls your thoughts away from stressors and forces you to focus on the patterns in front of you.
- Mandalas: In a similar fashion, you will find hours of peace coloring mandalas. The main difference between these types of coloring books is that mandalas are always a centered shape, usually round or oblong, with small patterns filling the shape.
Language is a powerful tool so it makes sense that coloring books with words or phrases would be popular. Words can heal, affirm, and remind you to believe in yourself. They can also help you purge negative thoughts or feelings or help you process your emotions. There are two main categories to consider when exploring adult coloring books with words.
- Inspirational: Coloring inspiring words is a popular pastime for many. There are variations between just the word itself or as part of a whole theme. This is helpful when trying to encourage yourself or create (or sustain) positivity. Coloring words like, “believe” or “dream” or phrases like, “you’ve got this” can be just the thing to drill a positive message into your brain while you practice accepting the message.
- Adult Words: A friend of mine shared her experience with her favorite coloring book full of swear words. Yes, those are out there! And it makes sense, sometimes a girl just needs to purge anger and frustration right? Practice using different colors or more aggressive coloring styles if you want to purge before moving on to the more inspirational stuff. Whatever works, right?
So there are the obvious themes that have been around forever and are part of the kids coloring book categories too: animals, flowers, and people. Aside from these well-known types are some not-so-well-known ones. Let’s explore some of these.
- Locations and Buildings: Landscapes and architecture are some very interesting coloring experiences. I personally love nature-themed ones but every now and then a girl just wants to color something different, like an interesting building or city-scape or a scene from an unexpected location.
- Art-Inspired: Anything art-inspired is a popular theme. There are some with a particular art genre or style and others with a more abstract theme.
- Tattoo Art: Another favorite of mine is a coloring book of tattoos. If you aren’t sure what you feel like coloring this is a good one because the styles are so different that you are sure to find something that suits you for each coloring session or mood.
- Eras: I saw a 1990s-themed coloring book that I thought was very cool and reminded me of some favorite items and styles I had as a teen. You are bound to find many era-themed coloring books as well.
- Adult-Themed: There are so many adult-themed coloring books that I can’t even begin to list them all but here are a few that made me laugh. Books for stoners, how much adulting sucks, one for BDSM (like I said, something for everyone!) and some that claim to be the dirtiest or most offensive. I’ll let you find whatever tickles your fancy while I invite you into my coloring book world.
Where do I get these wonderful books?
You can find adult coloring books absolutely everywhere now. (I was going to make one years ago and didn’t get around to it. I totally missed the boat!). Some of the places I go to get them are:
- Book stores – like Barnes and Noble.
- Big box stores – like Walmart and Fred Meyer.
- Craft stores – they tend to have a huge selection at Craft Warehouse.
- Dollar Stores – a little known place to get smaller coloring books is at local dollar stores. They have them for kids and adults!
- Online – you can order them from Amazon but you can also find some that you can just print on demand so you can share or color them over and over.
You don’t have to look far to find them but try being adventurous as you get more familiar with them and see what kind of crazy ones you can find.
Welcome to my coloring book world!
I have already told you about some of my favorite adult coloring books but I didn’t tell you yet how I use them. There are the obvious places, you know, home, the car, the bathroom (just kidding!) but the one that sticks out the most to me was the first time I brought my coloring books out into the world with me.
At this time I was still very new to adult coloring books and decided that my grad school residency was a perfect place to try out coloring books with friends. This turned out to be a lot of fun as I explained to my housemates and visitors that I would leave my coloring books and colored pencils out in the living room and they were welcome to help themselves at any time.
Everyone was curious and looked at the books but they were all a little shy at first, and of course, we needed to get settled to begin another 8-day residency near Puget Sound. A few days in I spent some time coloring at the end of the day and as we had our usual get-togethers I continued coloring as people gathered. Curiosity got the best of some and they joined me in this very calming and ice-breaking experience. As an introvert, this seemed like a perfect thing to help me socialize while also relieving my social anxiety because I do so love being around people but I am just awkward and anxious about it for a while. I’m sure some of you can relate.
The point here is that your coloring books are so portable and you can choose whatever type of coloring instrument you like, crayons, colored pencils, markers, and the like. You can be as simple or complex as you like. Sometimes I’m feeling fancy and I’ll add some shading and other times I’m impatient and just want to color the damn thing already (and eventually I end up adding some shading as my anxiety lessens). This is an opportunity to do you the way you need to be who you are. Just get in there, no judgment, no concern about making beautiful art, this is an exercise in wellness and taking control of your own life. Go, girl!
Your coloring book world!
I hope by now you are sold on the awesomeness of adult coloring books (who said adulting can’t be fun?). Along with the stress-reducing effects, it is a wonderful way to bring friends together and get in touch with your inner child.
Speaking of your inner child, coloring with your children is another great bonding experience and gives you a perfect opportunity to discuss the importance of wellness and mental health tools. Maybe just use their coloring books when you do!
I would love to hear about your own experiences. Where you take your coloring books?