I’m an introvert who likes to color. I’m not talking about the coloring kids do with crayons in preschool, but grown-up coloring. You know, when you get out your nice colored pencils, sip a glass of wine, and color beautiful images in a book made just for adults. No Disney princesses or monster trucks here.
Like millions of other adults, I’ve fallen in love with coloring books―so much so that I created my own coloring book for introverts. Anybody can color, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or whatever-vert, but I’d be willing to bet that many colorers are introverted. That’s because coloring can be really good for introverts:
1. You can color alone, at home, in your pajamas, while Netflix plays in the background. This is probably the most obvious reason why coloring is good for introverts. Introverts need plenty of quiet downtime to feel energized and sane, because our brains are wired differently than the brains of extroverts. Simply put, introverts generally just don’t feel as rewarded as extroverts when they, say, make small talk with strangers at a cocktail party or go clubbing on a Saturday night. In fact, introverts may find certain levels of stimulation to be tiring and punishing. While extroverts get a “buzz” from being in fast-paced, exciting environments, introverts may find those same situations to be exhausting. That’s why introverts enjoy being alone―hanging out at home, in comfortable surroundings, where the level of stimulation is just right. Coloring is the perfect companion to an introvert’s night in.
2. It helps you de-stress. Interestingly, one of the first psychologists to use coloring as a relaxation technique was Carl G. Jung in the early 20th century. He had patients color mandalas, which are circular designs with concentric shapes that originated in India. Coincidentally, Jung was also the first person to define introversion; in his now classic text, Psychological Types, he described it as “inwardly directed psychic energy.”
When Jung prescribed coloring for his stressed-out patients, he didn’t understand the science behind what he was doing, but he was on to something: coloring calms your mind and helps focus your thoughts. When you color, areas on both sides of your brain are activated, according to psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala. “The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors,” she told the Huffington Post. “This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.”
In other words, coloring relaxes you because when you focus on a particular activity, you pay attention to it and not to your worries. It’s not easy being an introvert: we daily battle “people” overload, our own worries, misconceptions people have about us. What introvert couldn’t use a break from stress?
3. Coloring takes you back to a simpler time―your childhood. We can all probably remember a time when our teacher or some other adult passed out a coloring sheet and markers and let us go to town. Would we color the sky blue like it’s supposed to be or would we do something crazy, like purple with orange stripes? There was no one to stop us from coloring our page however we wanted. Today, as adults, coloring can bring us back to that simpler time, which was probably a time when we had less stress. For introverts, it may also have been a time when our imagination roamed free―before anyone told us to “quit wasting time daydreaming” and “get out of your head.”
4. Coloring can help control negative thoughts. Both introverts and extroverts can struggle with reoccurring negative thoughts. But introverts tend to spend more time reflecting and analyzing, which can make us more prone to having negative thoughts take over our mind. But there’s good news for colorers. Dr. Joel Pearson, a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, believes focusing on coloring an image may facilitate the replacement of negative thoughts with happier ones. “You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color,” Pearson told Nine MSN. “It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. … Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.” So when you can’t stop your mind from replaying a clip of something embarrassing you said, or when you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming social event, coloring can help you take your mind off it.
5. Coloring meet ups make it easier to make friends. All across the U.S. (and probably in other countries, too), you can join groups of people who get together at coffee shops, restaurants, and bars to color. I know hanging out with a big group of strangers sounds as anti-introvert as it gets, but if you’re an introvert looking to make more friends, coloring groups can be a great place to start. Think about it. These are people who:
- Share a common interest.
- Might be an introvert like you.
- Probably want to focus more on their coloring page than on talking to you.
Plus, joining a coloring group takes some of the awkwardness out of meeting new people, because you’ll automatically have something to talk to other people about: their favorite coloring books, how long they’ve been coloring, etc. And when you’re sick of talking, you can become engrossed in the page your book and hopefully other people will let you just be.
6. Coloring allows you to be social without having to talk much. I recently found myself unexpectedly having to spend a week with my boyfriend’s parents’ house. I was grateful to them for letting us crash there, but night after night of family time (and little privacy) got hard for this solitude-loving introvert. After stopping in a bookstore, I found the perfect solution: a new coloring book. I got out my coloring book after dinner, when everyone was sitting around making small talk and watching TV. That way, I could sit in the same room as them but I didn’t have to talk as much, because they all recognized that my attention was elsewhere. Of course, I still threw in a few comments every now and then, so I wasn’t completely ignoring them. Plus, having something else to focus on made small talk less draining. Coloring might be the perfect solution for you whenever you have to attend a big family gathering, as you sit around with your family in a food coma and don’t want to talk much.
If you’re an introvert who likes to color, check out the coloring book I created called Introvert Dreams. It’s the first coloring book with an introvert theme, and it tells the story of an introvert and her cat as they journey through her inner dream world. It touches on themes I think introverts will relate to: relishing solitude, feeling overwhelmed by people, and seeking true connection. You can order it on Amazon now.
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