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Coloring Mindfully

I have a new bedtime ritual: Coloring.

I don’t mean the kind of coloring you did as a kid (although I’ll be the first to admit that I love grabbing some scratch paper, clutching a crayon in my fist like a 3-year-old, and drawing bizarre animals that never existed).

I mean the kind of coloring meant to promote mindfulness.

It’s a thing now, and I honestly couldn’t be more excited about it. I’ve always loved coloring, but felt silly collecting Crayola coloring books meant for small children, with simple, cartoonish animal designs and paper so thin that using anything but thick, brightly colored crayons means ripped pages or bleeding ink.

It didn’t stop me from doing it anyway, of course. For the past couple of years, when I’ve been very stressed or stuck in a cycle of negative, intrusive thoughts that I can’t break out of any other way, I’ve grabbed a coloring book and breezed through a few pages.

Turns out, those instincts may not be too far off. Psychologists have long turned to coloring or sketching repetitive, complex designs as a relaxation method, and new coloring books geared toward adults are beginning to do the same. These adult coloring books have much more complex designs than those for children, from flowers and animals to celebrities to abstract art and mandalas. They also tend to come on good, thick paper so coloring fans can explore different media like markers and colored pencils in addition to crayons.

Some of them are even designed with mindfulness in mind. Coloring (and doodling) can provide an activity that can help focus the mind and keep it from wandering, which is great for mindfulness beginners like me. I’ve been interested in mindfulness meditation since my therapist first suggested it, but I can’t seem to keep my mind quiet and focused.

So when I saw a selection of adult coloring books among the magazines in my local grocery store, I figured I’d give one a try. I chose one with complex floral designs, and got some of the markers I’ve wanted but had no excuse to buy — 20 in bright colors, and an eight-pack of metallic markers because of course I’m going to buy metallic markers.

Every night since Saturday, I’ve added a little bit to the first page in the book. It’s hideous, because I know nothing about colors, but it’s fun.

I don’t know if it’s helping my mental health, but I feel like it’s helping me prepare for bed. My goal is to stick with it for at least a few months, to see if I notice any changes in my stress and anxiety levels. I hope I do, but even if I don’t, it’s relaxing and it gives me something to do when I’m watching TV or listening to an audio book.

Photo by eekim

Coloring Mindfully

Kyla Cathey

Kyla Cathey is a freelance writer from Galt, California who has been overcoming OCD for the past year, after struggling with it for much of her life.

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APA Reference
Cathey, K. (2016). Coloring Mindfully. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Jan 2016
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