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Adult coloring books marketed for stress relief

July 8, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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As a consumer market, crafting has ever-changing trends, so enthusiasts like me are always inspired to buy new materials. Go figure. Some past trends have included knitting with ruffle yarn and using chalkboard paint on everyday surfaces like notebooks and mason jars.

But the newest trend in crafting is coloring books for adults. The books offer more intricate patterns than you’d see in a child’s book, and they’re being marketed as stress-reducing interventions for those who need some downtime.

In fact, adult coloring has its own Facebook page, and I’ve even seen the book collections advertised in late-night television commercials. NBC News recently reported that in France, adult coloring books are outselling cookbooks.

Use in treatment

Many behavioral health treatment centers offer art, music and other creative experiences as therapeutic interventions, encouraging healing, expression and individualization. One of the great things about art is that it has a low barrier to engagement since really anyone can be creative. Although it’s difficult for researchers to define art’s optimal therapeutic uses, neuroscience tells us that creative activities can be genuinely helpful in healthcare.

As the adult coloring book trend peaks, let’s examine some of the reasons why your staff and your patients might be into it:

1. It can be meditative. Repeated motions of pencil strokes are often rhythmic and in a quiet space, produce a satisfying white noise as the pencil scrapes over the surface of the paper. There’s a natural stress-reducing effect associated with coloring, especially since pencil and paper is refreshingly low-tech. Consider coloring as a way for your patients—and your clinical team—to unplug.

2. It’s tactile. The feel of a crayon held in the writing position is a near universal experience. The wrapper is smooth in your hand, and there’s a certain stickiness where the crayon wax scrubs off onto the paper. The sensation of touch is also ignited with some of the high-quality colored pencils and alcohol markers, but crayons have the richest sensual texture.

3. Coloring is very low on the scale of artistic commitment. What I mean is, it’s easy to pick up or put down a coloring page—unlike a watercolor painting, for example, where you might need to work quickly and would stress out a bit if the paint begins to dry while you’re still doing a technique. Also, the ultimate turnaround on a coloring project can be as short as you like. Whereas a song might require weeks of writing, recording and mixing before you get to the end product, when you color, it’s for the sake of the experience. It’s less about the final piece. You certainly can share your work, of course, but I believe most people are satisfied by the process rather than the showpiece. Consider the quick set up and clean up, which comes in handy when it’s time to break for group.

Adult coloring is a trend that’s easy to introduce in your treatment center. There are more than 2,000 books available, and you can sometimes find individual pages to print free. Try it. It might turn into your new guilty pleasure.


Julie Miller

Editor in Chief

Julie Miller


Julie Miller has more than 14 years of experience observing, analyzing and reporting on various...

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