If you want to meditate but don’t have time, try coloring
A new wave of psychologists are recommending that if you don’t have time to meditate but want to, try doing a little old school coloring.
A while back I read something about how coloring – old school coloring like back when you were a kid – is the next best thing to meditating. At the time, I called BS.
Meditation takes time to master. It isn’t just sitting cross-legged while chanting “Om” or listening to wind flutes. It requires practice to get your mind in the proper place, and even then not everyone can slow their thoughts down enough to actually meditate.
So when I read that coloring can bring about a similar result, it just seemed too easy. Typically, when things sound too easy, they are.
It turns out, it’s true. Coloring can be as beneficial as meditating.
“I recommend it as a relaxation technique,” psychologist Antoni Martínez told Huffington Post. “We can use it to enter into a more creative, freer state. I recommend it in a quiet environment, even with chill music. Let the color and the lines flow.”
This is apparently nothing new, I’m just late to the game. The practice dates back centuries, and people have been coloring “mandalas” for centuries. Mandalas are believed to be sacred circles reflecting spiritual and ritual beliefs seen in a handful of eastern religions.
There are several forms of mandalas, including some that are formed in nature, but one of the more common types consists of a square with four gates encompassing a circle with a center point. There are many examples of these mandalas, but one use is as a spiritual guidance tool meant to aid in gaining a meditative or trance-like state.
Many even believe that coloring mandalas can provide health benefits, but that could just be the result of relaxing.
“There is a long history of people coloring for mental health reasons,” Michaelis says.
Clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis, co-author of the bestselling adult coloring book Outside the Lines said”Carl Jung used to try to get his patients to color in mandalas at the turn of the last century, as a way of getting people to focus and to allow the subconscious to let go. Now we know it has a lot of other stress-busting qualities as well.”
The act of coloring goes beyond that though, and doesn’t require any spiritual connections. As of July 2015, four of the 20 best selling books on Amazon were adult coloring books and they range in complexity. In July, six of the top 20 were meant for coloring.
What you choose to color isn’t as important as the act. According to research done at Aurora University, it’s simpler than that.
“From choosing colors to the gentle, repetitive motion of your hands as you bring color to paper, coloring can be seen as a form of ‘active mediation.’”
The university even lists a simple step-by-step guide:
- Begin with a smile – This isn’t lip service, smiling can raise your endorphin level even if you aren’t particularly happy at the time.
- Choose your subject – You can color anything you want. It doesn’t have to be mandalas, but the complexity may appeal to you.
- Pick your supplies – If you want to use crayons, go for it. If you prefer colored pencils, markers, or chalk, there is no reason not to. Paint might add a level of aggravation if you aren’t practiced with them though.
- Take your time – Although the study doesn’t specifically mention anything about outside stimuli, it’s probably best to avoid listening to loud music or people talking. So turn the TV off and if you need music (maybe to cancel other noise), make it soothing.
Aurora even has printable mandalas for you to try out and color.
So next time you are stressed out, grab some crayons and take some time to enjoy the simple act of coloring.