Why Coloring Relieves Stress (and Is a Perfect Activity for Introverts)

Being an introvert can be stressful. This isn’t something new or revolutionary: we all know it’s true. From work, to hanging with friends, to basic chores like grocery shopping, our world can be exhausting. Despite the stress it may cause, interacting with others is an unavoidable experience.

At times, I wish I could return to an earlier state of mind: when I was young and creative and could rely on others to protect and guide me through this world. I’m sure I’m not alone in that fantasy when feelings of being overwhelmed cloud our thoughts.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to relieve stress. For some, it might be video games. For others, it might be meditation. For me, it is through the escapism that is adult coloring books.

For a short time, I worked as a bookseller, and it was right before the big adult coloring book boom took place in the book world. There wasn’t much out there in terms of creative engagement for adults. Then, with just one interview on the Today show with Scottish artist Johanna Bamford (creator of the Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, and Lost Ocean coloring books), coloring books were suddenly all the rage. Millions of adults were asking for them, craving the relief and release that adult coloring books are known to provide.

But what is the real allure behind coloring, and is there a science to why we enjoy it so much? When we start filling in these black and white images, how does our brain react? The science behind the adult coloring book craze is surprisingly simple—and these books can be the perfect companion for an introvert.

The Psychology of Art Therapy

Art therapy is a form of counseling that focuses on using art to heal and understand psychological processes. The American Art Therapy Association defines the practice as: “Art therapists use art media, and often the verbal processing of produced imagery, to help people resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.” This form of therapy is said to have the unique ability to unlock emotional expression through non-verbal communication. Although coloring is not considered an official form of art therapy, the act of coloring mimics many of the same benefits as other forms of art.

For those who suffer from mental illness, adult coloring may be especially beneficial in relieving symptoms. The President of PTSD Survivors of America, Erin Maynard, told the Lancaster Bee that coloring helps those that are suffering from PTSD immensely. The amygdala—the center of our brain responsible for emotional response and fear—is hyperactive in the brains of PTSD survivors, and coloring helps reduce the amygdala’s activity by shifting our brain’s focus to fine motor skills. Similarly, the brain’s ability to enter into a meditative state can be achieved with coloring, by allowing us to focus on a specific task, relax, and be “in the moment.”

In simpler terms: coloring offers some serious stress relief. Even if artistic ability seems to be absent, “colorists” need not worry on being limited by their lack of experience. Coloring is simply filling in the lines, choosing colors, and engaging with different designs on the paper. Some even believe that coloring goes beyond the meditative state into activating childhood memories and bringing us an absence of worry in that moment.

Coloring + Introverts = The Perfect Combination

When thinking about stress relief, it’s important to note that typical stress techniques may not work for everyone. According to the Applied Psychology Online Program at USC, one of the most common myths about stress is that “the most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones.”

Don’t fall for this mistake! Instead, branch out and try something new to see if it works for you. Adult coloring worked wonders for me, and I believe it is worth trying. Plus, one of the greatest benefits of coloring is the minimal amount of effort needed to perform it. Unlike actual meditation, “colorists” don’t need to seek out a peaceful location to achieve the full effect. Instead, they can be anywhere, as long as they have their book and coloring utensils.

If you’re experiencing stress at work, take a short break, find a quiet spot, and color away until your mind is at ease. If you don’t feel like going out on a Saturday night, stay home alone, color, and recharge. Even for a quiet night in with friends, a movie, popcorn, and some coloring can make for the perfect introvert friend-date.

Introverts now have the benefit of a coloring book made just for us. Introvert Dreams, a coloring book journey for introverts, is the collaborative creation of three introverts, author Andre Sólo, Jenn Granneman (founder of this website), and artist Maxeem Konrardy. They teamed up to create 90 colorable pages just for introverts. The best part about the book? It isn’t just for coloring, but it tells the story of an introvert’s journey through her inner fantasy world. Follow a lone introvert explorer and her cat as they cross a vast, beautiful dreamscape in search of a wish-granting fallen star. Introvert Dreams is available now—find out more here.

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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert  retina_favicon1

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