By Brenda Smith
Whether you find them fun, therapeutic, or just plain infantile, adult coloring books are flying off shelves at book stores, hobby shops, and on line. Adult coloring books made up half of the top ten best sellers on Amazon in late 2015. And the craze shows no sign of slowing.
“It’s relaxing, and that’s a good thing,” says Delisa Rapp, LCSW and Art therapist at St. Luke’s Healthcare in Boise, Idaho.
In these days of long work hours, deadlines, traffic and other stressors, Rapp says it’s beneficial to have an activity that clears the head. She says coloring the designs can be a stress reliever and creative outlet for adults, whose lives are otherwise programmed. Coloring is a break from the all-consuming “screen time” that many adults face during the day. And for many, it brings back memories and feelings of the simpler time of childhood.
Adult coloring books are a very different experience than the cartoon character books on the children’s aisle. These designs are highly intricate, requiring patience, focus and a steady hand.
“It’s hard to think of anything else when you are focused on these detailed designs,” Rapp says.
Rapp endorses the use of the adult coloring books for relaxation of some cancer patients in treatment at the Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise. And she says that coloring can be a good activity to help adults and children refocus and switch gears when transitioning from one situation to another.
Mandalas make up one segment of the adult coloring market. The circular designs, in their Asian tradition, represent the universe, and are used in Hindu and Buddhist culture to facilitate meditation.
Other popular designs feature geometric patterns, animals, plants and flowers, and other scenes from nature.
While critics say the adult coloring craze demonstrates the further “infantilization” of adults, Rapp responds that this kind of creative outlet, be it coloring or knitting or other hobbies, has its place.
But it’s not for everyone.
If you are a TYPE A personality, the coloring books may cause MORE stress, rather than less, Rapp says. People who are Type A perfectionists may feel anxiety about coloring in the lines, choosing the colors, finishing the entire design, and basically do it all “right.” If that is you, Rapp says, it’s best to skip the coloring books and find another way to relax.