The Benefits of Coloring for Stress Relief (2023)

Coloring is relaxing and may reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. But the benefits of coloring are not the same as art therapy or creating art.

A surprising trend in relaxation products in the last few years has been the explosion of coloring books for adults.

But is coloring just a fun activity?

Or does coloring deliver stress relief and other mental health benefits?

How does it compare to creating your own art or even to art therapy?

Benefits of Coloring: Stress Relief and Better Sleep

Though coloring has generally been seen as an activity for children, book publishers have now cleverly marketed coloring as an acceptable adult activity.

Coloring enthusiasts claim that coloring makes them feel calmer, mentally clearer, happier, and more relaxed.

When engaged in their hobby, “colorists,” as they call themselves, say that their worries temporarily fade away.

This is not surprising when you consider that all arts and crafts hobbies have the power to induce the state of flow and focus the mind similarly to meditation.

Alarge study on knitters, for example, found that80% of those with depression felthappier when they knitted.

" The first blockbuster adult coloring book, Art-Thérapie: 100 Coloriages Anti-Stress, sold 3.5 million copies.

There are few daily activities that can improve your mood, productivity, andability to cope with stress as much asgetting enough high-quality sleep — and coloring before you go to bed canhelp.

Unfortunately, exposure to the blue light emitted by the electronic devices you may use significantly reduces the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, contributing to insomnia.

This makes coloring a much better pre-bedtime ritual than answering emails, binge-watching, catching up on social media, or doomscrolling.

Coloring and Stress Relief: What the Research Shows

There hasn’t been much research yet on the benefits of coloring.

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(Video) Mayo Clinic Minute: Benefits of Coloring

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But most of the research that has been done has used a particular type of design called a mandala.

Mandalas are circular designs with concentric shapes that have universal spiritual significance.

The Benefits of Coloring for Stress Relief (2)

They originated in India and mean “sacred circles” in Sanskrit.

Buddhist temples,Muslim mosques, and Christian cathedrals allincorporate mandalasinto their architecture.

Renowned psychologist Carl Jung had his patients color mandalas 100 years ago as a tool for relaxation and self-discovery.

The studyCan Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? concluded that coloring a complex geometric pattern induced a meditative state beneficial for those with anxiety.

Research conducted on college students found that coloring pre-drawn patterns significantly reduced signs of stress and depression.

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Traumatic Effects of Chronic Stress on the Brain

A study on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder found that those who spent time coloring mandalas daily showed a decrease in symptoms of trauma, while those who simply drew did not.

The Benefits of Coloring for Stress Relief (3)

Another study confirmed that coloring a mandala reduced anxiety symptoms, but did not find that it induced the same state as mindfulness meditation.

If you are interested in coloring mandalas, you can use existing templates or you caneasily create your own.

Art Is Fun has an easy step-by-step lesson oncreating your own mandalas from scratch.

All you need is a pencil, ruler, and paper.

Why Coloring Is Popular in Stressed-Out France

France has long been consideredthe epicenter of douceur de vivre, “the sweet life.”

So it’s somewhat surprising that the French have become one of the most stressed-out societies on Earth.

France has the highest lifetime rate of major depression among high-income countries.

Psychiatric services are overwhelmed, while one-third of French adults take a psychoactive medication.

(Video) Therapeutic benefits to adult coloring books

Workplace suicides are on the rise and have resulted in lawsuits against major employers.

And now, more people in France are turning not to red wine, but to coloring to relieve their stress.

[Discover the many ways in which the creative process relieves burdensome stress.]

Browse through and you’ll find that coloring books for adults are frequently bestsellers.

The first blockbuster adult coloring book, Art-Thérapie: 100 Coloriages Anti-Stress, sold 3.5 million copies.

And the French have made coloring books trés chic.

The fashion empires of Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel have released their own coloring books.

Does Coloring Qualify as Art Therapy?

Coloring might be fun and relaxing, but can it bestow the same benefits as art therapy?

Art therapyuses the process of creatingart,facilitated by an art therapist, to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Art Therapists For Coloring

Many art therapists including Sarah Deaver, PhD, president of the American Art Therapy Association, have been supportive of the coloring movement.

Some therapists believe that coloring provides the added benefit of taking us back to the simpler times of our childhood.

There’s some evidence that coloring can act as a “gateway activity” to reach people who could benefit from art therapy.

Coloring, for example, has beenused to gently ease combat veterans suffering fromPTSD into art therapy.

Art Therapists Against Coloring

Art therapists are health care professionals with backgrounds in both art and psychology or counseling.

They usually have a master’s degree and must complete hundreds of supervised hours working with clients before they get their degree.

So, as you can imagine, not all art therapists are sold on the idea that you can simply color your way to better mental health.

In an interview inThe New Yorker, Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason, questions whetheradults who immerse themselves in childlike activities likecoloring are regressing into safe patterns in order to avoid reality.

She finds an unsettling trendofpeople gravitating toward activities that require minimal effort.

Marygrace Berberian, PhD, program coordinator for the graduate art therapy program at New York University, points out that coloring on your own bypasses an important part of art therapy — the relationship one builds with a trusted therapist.

Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, is a leading international art therapy expert and no fan of the coloring craze either.

(Video) Colouring Benefits from a Registered Psychotherapist / Colouring the Psalms

On Psychology Today, she states:

“The motion of crayon or pencil moving back and forth within premade boundaries is perceived as a form of containment, mastery and mind-numbing escape from the here-and-now.”

She cites numerous proven benefits of creating art, including stress reduction, improved cognitive abilities, increased attention span, and general enhancement of quality of life.

But she firmly contends that coloring is not creative expression, art therapy, or a mindful meditation — it’s just coloring.

As a consumer, you need to be aware that any marketing claims that coloring books are “art therapy” are misleading and should be taken with a grain of salt.

What You Need to Start Coloring

So, while coloring may not be a replacement for art therapy, it’s still a relaxing, enjoyable way to turn off your electronics, focus your mind, and unwind.

A great thing about coloring is that, unlike some hobbies, there is a low barrier to entry.

You can do it anywhere and all you need is a design and some colored pencils.

You canstart by downloading and printing images for free at websites such asSuper Coloring.

They have thousands of free images in just about any category you can imagine.

My favorites are their famous paintings which range from Johannes Vermeer to Andy Warhol.

When you are ready to buy your first coloring book, here are some tips.

Tips on Buying Your First Coloring Book

If you buy online from a site like, read the reviews carefully, especially the negative ones.

Common complaints include things you might not have considered such asit doesn’t lay flat, the pages are surprisingly small, designs are on both sides of the page, and colors bleed through.

Oddly, some books have the pages pre-colored, which defeats their purpose.

There are coloring books for an amazing array of interests — fashion, art masterpieces, dragons, and the world’s most belovedcities.

Even though women buy most coloring books, there are those with more traditionally masculine themes like beer drinking, fishing, and classic cars.

There’s truly something for every taste.

(Video) Health benefits of coloring for adults

Brain-smart tip: Do not use Sharpies or similar markers for coloring. Research shows they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause serious side effects, including brain damage. Crayons or colored pencils are much safer choices.

Coloring for Stress Relief Apps

Some people prone to anxiety may initially find coloring stressful, rather than relaxing, since they worry that they will mess up.

If committing to paper stresses you out, start withdigital coloring.

A few coloring apps to consider include Stress Relief Coloring for Adults, Zen Coloring Book for Adults (Apple), and Coloring Book for Adults (Android).

Once you experience some degree of success, you might find yourself readyto commit to paper.

Coloring Can Be a Social Activity

Coloring has even become a social activity, amodern equivalent of aquilting bee.

You can share your works, get tips, andfind templates to color on one of the many Facebook coloring groups.

These are great places to see what others are doing and to share and showcase your own work.

Many coloring groups have stopped meeting since COVID-19, but you can still find coloring groups that meet virtually on Meetup.

Dover Publications, a leader inadult coloring books since 1970,has declared August 2nd “National Coloring Book Day.”

For more information on coloring, including free coloring pages, tips, giveaways, and contests, you can sign up for their coloring newsletter.

Coloring for Stress Relief: Take the Next Step

Coloring is no longer an activity just for kids.

It has become a socially acceptable activity for adults as well.

Coloring is a fun way to relieve stress and can provide a welcome break from electronic devices.

There hasn’t been much research on the mental health benefits of coloring.

But a few studies indicate that coloring shows promise for treating stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially when intricate patterns known as mandalas are used.

But, for now, the professional consensus is that coloring is not a substitute for art therapy and that coloring may not provide the same degree of mental health benefits as creating art.

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(Video) I Tested an Anxiety Relief Coloring Book *yikes*


What are the benefits of Colouring for stress? ›

Coloring is a healthy way to relieve stress. It calms the brain and helps your body relax. This can improve sleep and fatigue while decreasing body aches, heart rate, respiration, and feelings of depression and anxiety.

How does drawing or coloring relieve stress? ›

How Can Drawing and Painting Reduce Stress? Studies that were done on art and active creativity's impact on the brain show that dopamine levels often increased in patients who had newly creative outlets. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that often is low in patients with anxiety, depression, and excessive stress.

What are the benefits of coloring and painting? ›

Coloring and drawing both help kids improve fine motor skills. They also train the brain to focus. For parents and teachers, these inexpensive activities require limited preparation and are well-suited to travel (particularly relevant with winter breaks approaching).

How does coloring reduce stress in kids? ›

It has the capability to relax the fear center of your brain by reducing the thoughts of a restless mind. In addition to its relaxation benefit, it gets those creative juices flowing through color choices that will make your picture come to life. It also makes for a great activity before bed.

What are the benefits of color for mental health? ›

Studies have shown that blue and green can create a calming atmosphere; orange and yellow can stimulate appetite; red and pink can inspire passion and energy; while purple can boost creativity and productivity.

What is a color to express stress? ›

According to color psychologists, the most stressful and anxiety-inducing color is 'red'. Red room ideas can be too intense for some people – could your red decor be one of the reasons why your friends hate your house? It reminds us of danger and is a color that makes you angry.

Does looking at art relieve stress? ›

There's evidence that looking at paintings can reduce stress and anxiety. A researcher wants to know if this phenomenon can help surgery patients heal. Gentle landscape artworks bring calm to the viewer. Pablo Picasso once said, "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

How does coloring help with emotional development? ›

One of the most important benefits to coloring is the calming effect it has on children. Coloring has been shown to benefit emotional health by allowing children to process their feelings, especially for unpleasant or confusing emotions.

What drawing helps with stress? ›

The practice of coloring mandala drawings has been shown to reduce anxiety levels significantly. The researchers measured anxiety levels both before and after the drawing activities and found significant reductions in stress in the coloring groups.

Does coloring help drawing? ›

Coloring helps develop fine motor skills

and the drawing precision a child begins to develop over time, coloring is a great way to help children build fine motor skills and hand strength. In developing these muscles, you set your child up for improved writing skills and endurance.

What are the benefits of drawing? ›

7 Great Benefits of Painting & Drawing
  • Improve Communication Skills. Some people may find it difficult to express themselves properly in front of people. ...
  • Enhance Creativity. ...
  • Increase Emotional Intelligence. ...
  • Improve memory. ...
  • Problem Solving Skills. ...
  • Self-esteem Booster. ...
  • Reduces Stress.

What are the psychological benefits of coloring for kids? ›

Patience, Relaxation, and Self-Esteem – Coloring can help children learn the skill of patience. It allows them to be relaxed and comfortable while creating a piece of art. Through coloring, children can benefit from processing their feelings, frustrations and emotions.

How do colors affect anxiety? ›

Avoiding colors that can induce anxiety is a good start. Stay away from bright, bold, and intense colors. Colors like red and orange increase anxiety and stress, sometimes even fear. Red and orange are associated with an emergency that can elicit images of emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens on.

Is colouring a mindfulness? ›

Much like other mindfulness activities, coloring directs our conscious attention away from ourselves and into the present moment.

What skills does colouring develop? ›

Coloring develops hand strength, visual perceptual skills, and precision skills in grasp. It's the first time many of us express creativity and produce something we are proud of. It boosts confidence, develops understanding of cause and effect, and increases attention spans.

What color helps the brain? ›

Orange. Orange lifts the mood, acting as a welcoming color for learners that helps improve neural function. Some theorists have argued that an environment rich in orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, stimulating mental activity.

How do colors affect the brain? ›

There are three main colors that affect you, those colors being red, blue, and yellow. Red makes you feel strong emotions, blue makes you feel calmer emotions, and yellow brings feelings of happiness because it's often compared in people's minds to the sun.

What are the benefits of coloring for high school students? ›

Psychologist Gloria M. Ayala says both logic and creativity are activated in the brain during coloring. Doodle Notes use these benefits of coloring along with the seemingly mindless activity of doodling to increase relaxation, learning, memory, focus and retention in students.

What color light reduces stress? ›

1. Blue light. According to a 2017 study in the scientific journal PLOS ONE (9), blue lighting “accelerates the relaxation process after stress in comparison with conventional white lighting.” This study found that stressed people immersed in blue light relaxed three times as quickly as in white light.

How to relieve stress and anxiety? ›

Reduce Stress in 10 Minutes and Improve Your Well-Being
  1. Be active—Take a dance break! ...
  2. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
  3. Write three things you are grateful for.
  4. Check in with yourself—take time to ask yourself how you are feeling.
  5. Laugh!

What color represents stress and anxiety? ›

The study found that people with or anxiety were more likely to associate their mood with the color gray, while preferred yellow.

Why is art calming and relaxing? ›

Studies also show that creating art stimulates the release of dopamine. This chemical is released when we do something pleasurable, and it basically makes us feel happier. Increased levels of this feel-good neurotransmitter can be very helpful if you are battling anxiety or depression.

How art helps us overcome stress and depression? ›

Depression and Art Therapy

Art therapy provides an individual who is feeling pressured or overwhelmed with an opportunity to slow down and explore the issues that are occurring in their life. It provides them with a way to manage their behavior, reduce anxiety, process feelings, and destress.

How to relieve stress? ›

  1. Get active. Virtually any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever. ...
  2. Meditate. ...
  3. Laugh more. ...
  4. Connect with others. ...
  5. Assert yourself. ...
  6. Try yoga. ...
  7. Get enough sleep. ...
  8. Keep a journal.

Why is color important in emotion? ›

The human brain associates warm colors—such as red, orange, and yellow—with a range of feelings, including passion, comfort, anger, and power. Cool colors—such as blue, green, and purple—have the opposite effect, creating a calming atmosphere that counteracts feelings of anxiety.

How can color express emotion? ›

Warm colors like red, yellow and orange evoke higher arousal emotions, such as love, passion, happiness, and anger. Cool colors, like blue, green and purple are linked to calmness, sadness and indifference. Colors can trigger these arousal states and emotions.

Why do colors create emotions? ›

While some color preferences do come from culture, others are learned through experiences. As we encounter situations in our daily life, our memory is shaped by some of these experiences and our brain associates emotions to them. Because colors are present in our environment, an emotion-color association takes place.

How does drawing help with emotions? ›

Drawing is a simple tool that children can use to depict their thoughts and feelings in a non-verbal manner. A drawing distraction task may be more effective in elevating mood than a verbal distraction task because drawing not only distracts but also provides pleasure from creating something (White, 1959).

Does drawing make you happier? ›

When you are head down mixing paint or drawing lines, your stress levels lower and you are left feeling mentally clear and calm. Creating art also provides a distraction, giving your brain a break from your usual thoughts.

How does drawing help your brain? ›

Not only is drawing a form of literacy, it also helps your memory! A study from Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology found that participants that doodled were 29% more likely to remember mundane information. IT MAKES YOU HAPPY: When you draw, you release Serotonin, Endorphins, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine.

Is coloring a form of art therapy? ›

Colouring isn't art therapy, partly because of the format or process. With colouring, the person is using another individual's designs and simply adding the colours. With real art therapy in Singapore, the person is encouraged to create his or her own designs.

Does color affect mood in art? ›

Colour has both intuitive and symbolic-representational significance. Colours which evoke a positive feeling in the artist can conjure a positive mood; or the converse approach may be used to depict negative moods.

Does coloring make you more creative? ›

Increased creativity, artistic skills, and observational skills are some of the other benefits you'll enjoy. Advancing in your coloring experience and working with more complex coloring page designs can help you improve your artistic skills. Creativity and critical thinking are important skills to have in our society.

How drawing helps you in your daily life? ›

It gives us a new tool for communication

Without a doubt, scratching and drawing also stimulates us to express our ideas, feelings, and ways of seeing life, and it encourages and increases our creativity. You may want to tell a very special person how much you love them or feel about them.

What are 3 benefits of doing art? ›

Relieving stress, training your brain and providing opportunities to connect and socialise with others are some of the many benefits of art that you may not know. There are many studies shown that creating art can benefit your mental health and improve brain elasticity.

How important is drawing from life? ›

Drawing from life is wonderful because you get to fully experience your subject. Compare the difference between drawing from a photograph of a person and drawing that person in real life. If you draw from direct observation, you would get to talk to the person, hear their voice, and learn about their personality.

How does coloring help memory? ›

Colour helps us in memorizing certain information by increasing our attentional level. The role played by colour in enhancing our attention level is undisputable (14,23). The more attention focused on certain stimuli, the more chances of the stimuli to be transferred to a more permanent memory storage (18).

Is Colour psychology important? ›

Color psychology is also widely used in marketing and branding. Marketers see color as an important factor, since color can influence a consumers' emotions and perceptions about goods and services. Logos for companies are important, since the logos can attract more customers.

What is the color of healing? ›

Green is the color of healing; it is beneficial in all healing situations. In the aura green signifies balance, peace and often indicates ability as a healer.

What is the best color for healing? ›

Green is known to be universally healing. It is symbolic for the heart chakra because green light helps with opening our heart.

What color helps with depression? ›

Purple. Soft purple or lilac colors can offer peace and balance. They are quite serene, which means they can be attributed to lowering stress and anxiety levels. It has a very calming effect on people's moods, especially its soft pastel shades.

Is colouring a cognitive skill? ›

Colouring in for developing cognitive skills

Cognitive skills will develop with colouring in such as paying attention to the task. The ability to calmly sit and focus on a task is an essential skill for your child to learn.

Is coloring a sensory activity? ›

Coloring offers sensory input

Coloring with a crayon can be an opportunity to add heavy work through the hands. This sensory feedback is proprioceptive input that “wakes up” the muscles of the hands and can be calming input. Unlike a marker, children can color lightly or very dark by exerting more pressure.

Is coloring cognitive development? ›

Helps bolster creativity and imagination

Colors help children explore their inner creativity and help them understand what each color is and what that color portrays. More importantly, it also helps boost imagination in children by impacting the cognitive and motor skills of children.

Is colouring a good hobby? ›

The Health Benefits of Adult Coloring Books

Despite the fact that coloring and art therapy aren't quite the same thing, coloring does offer a slew of mental benefits. “Coloring definitely has therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus or bring [about] more mindfulness,” says Berberian.

How does Colouring help emotional development? ›

Help relieve stress

It's hard to imagine that children can get stressed, but it does happen, and just like it does for adults, colouring in can have a calming effect. This is particularly helpful in children who struggle to process their negative emotions and frustrations, as colouring in will help them vent.

How does mandala coloring relieve stress? ›

Coloring mandalas is a form of art therapy meant to relieve stress and increase focus while exercising the brain and expressing creativity. “Coloring mandalas allows the brain to enter a peaceful state and to be focused on filling in the geometrical shapes instead of thinking about their worries.”

What skills does coloring develop? ›

Coloring develops hand strength, visual perceptual skills, and precision skills in grasp. It's the first time many of us express creativity and produce something we are proud of. It boosts confidence, develops understanding of cause and effect, and increases attention spans.

How do you use color for emotions? ›

When people are sad they are often said to be “blue”. Jealousy is implied if someone is described as being “green with envy”. Angry people “see red” while yellow is associated with happiness, and in contrast, black and shades of grey have negative connotations.

What is emotional colouring? ›

Introduction. Rendering the emotional coloring of a literary text is an uphill task for a translator. Apart from naming and describing emotions experienced by characters, the author expresses them obliquely through the dialogues, through the way the characters frame sentences, through the words they choose.

Does painting relieve stress? ›

Painting is super effective, so much so that even therapists recommend it to patients struggling with stress and depression. To understand this much better, let's take a look at ways in which painting helps reduce stress. Painting helps take your mind off things – As adults, our day-to-day activities can be exhausting.

Does art help destress? ›

Many people who are artistically inclined say that the creation of their art is a wonderful stress reliever. The creation of art can provide a catharsis for difficult emotions, a distraction from stressful thoughts and experiences, and a chance to get into a state of "flow" that can be restorative in many ways.

What is the coloring form of meditation? ›

The practice of mandala coloring is growing in popularity as a contemplation and meditation technique. It has become popular among adults as well as kids as a relaxing exercise. This simple art therapy, which doesn't require any special skills, can be very relaxing.


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