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The hottest trend in self-soothing


A unique, and nostalgic, activity has gained quite a bit of attention in recent months.

I’m talking of course about adult coloring books. I first started hearing about them last summer and by the holiday shopping season ads and stories filled my news feed. I LOVED (seriously, I cannot emphasize enough just how much) coloring and drawing as a little girl, so the idea that this was now an acceptable past time for me 30+ years after I first used a crayon was exciting.

In addition to being just plain fun, there are many reasons to believe this activity has mental health benefits.

According to this article in Psych Central, part of soothing our stress comes from calming our amygdala, the part of our brain that alerts us to danger and gives us a panicked feeling. Problem is, if this area is overactive we might feel highly stressed even when we’re actually not being threatened, and that can lead to anxiety and levels of stress seen in other mental illnesses. Focusing on something like coloring an image can have a centering effect that gives your amygdala some time off, experts suggest.

Other experts note that when you color, you’re using both hemispheres of your brain. On one hand it’s a very creative activity, but behind that creative action is a focus on a strategy, whether or not you realize it at the time. You’re also making color choices as part of that strategy, and practicing fine motor skills.

Now where did I leave those crayons…
young dana washington post

Engaging in coloring and art projects before bedtime can also help you sleep. Many authorities on sleep and circadian rhythm advise against using your mobile phone, computer, or watching TV within an hour or more of bedtime, because their screens and deeply engaging content have a stimulating effect. Like reading, coloring could be a great non-technology activity to help you wind down before your head hits the pillow.

Of course there’s something to be said for any activity that reminds you of back when you were a kid and had far fewer worries on your mind. We might not have realized it at the time, but being picked last for dodgeball or not being invited to the popular kid’s birthday party was small potatoes compared to the stressors we’d face in college, careers, relationships, raising kids, or caring for aging parents.

So not just because I used to love it so much as a kid, but also because I struggle with mild to moderate anxiety, I’m anxious (see what I did there?) to give it a try. Have you gotten in on this latest trend in mental health? Let me know how it turned out by leaving a comment.

For more on this topic, check out some of these articles:

Self-Soothing: Calming the Amygdala and Reducing the Effects of Trauma
The Therapeutic Science Of Adult Coloring Books: How This Childhood Pastime Helps Adults Relieve Stress
Coloring books for adults: we asked therapists for their opinions
7 Reasons Adult Coloring Books Are Great for Your Mental, Emotional and Intellectual Health
Anti-Stress Coloring Books for Adults: The Latest Way to Relax
Will a coloring book help you sleep better?
Why adult coloring books are good for you

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Dana joined the iCarol team in 2013 after 12 years of direct service and administrative duties in the Helpline Industry. You'll find her presenting Webinars, Tweeting, Blogging, Facebooking, and producing other materials to help others learn more about iCarol.

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