I was amazed to discover the latest stress-busting therapy tool – colouring in books for grownups.

I think it makes a lot of sense. And I suspect it also does to all those of you who, like me, find it really challenging to sit still and do our Mindfulness Mediation. Doing something in which you become completely absorbed in the present moment may be less challenging for some of us than doing nothing while attempting to become completely absorbed in the present moment.

Of course, it fits with more active Mindfulness traditions such as walking meditation, or eating a raison while giving it our total and sustained attention. Art therapy has a proven track record. So it could be interesting to combine elements of both.

And it is opposite, and perhaps antidote, to the instant digital everythingness of our lives. It takes time, concentration on what we are doing, and a return to the slower pace that some of us are old enough to have known earlier in our lives. You can download an app in seconds. It takes hours to colour an intricate picture. Or days.

I thought I had made a great discovery but when I started to investigate, I ended up feeling that I may have been the last to know.

Apparently in France colouring books for adults are outselling cookery books. When I read this, my first thought was: “It will not catch on here.” But it seems that I was quite wrong. I went straight on to Amazon to see if they were offering any and found they had 72 pages of them. Yes, 72!

The one that claims to be the No. 1 best seller in the field, The Creative Colouring Book for Grownups (Crafts), has had 92 reader reviews. Another, Secret Garden: an Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book has had 231. Both get mostly five stars.

Some describe themselves as art therapy. There are books of stained glass patterns and flowers and fairies and elves and birds and mandalas and cats and dogs and Christmas themes. There are volumes of Empire fashion, human anatomy, tattoos, and butterflies. You can do your own art nouveau, Book of Kells or Monets. One claims it is anti-boredom. Some say they are “advanced”. Diabolically Detailed comes in a double pack. And I am intrigued (though not personally tempted) to discover there is a Fetish colouring book.

The title that really took my therapist eye was Colour Yourself Calm: A Mindfulness Colouring Book. Apparently it has breathing exercises and other calming suggestions in the front. And I was touched by the reader review that said: “I suffer from anxiety attacks and bi-polar. Since this book has come I’ve spent a lot of time colouring in the pictures and feel so relaxed. Plus time goes so much quicker. Just an amazing book.”

The biggest problem I see is that if it is going to be really mindful, rather than just colouring in for stress reduction, it is going to mean switching off television, the radio, my iPod, my email, my mental “to do” list, my computer screen … all the things that start calling to me when I try to do more conventional Mindfulness meditation.

But I still think I might be on to something.

About Judy Byrne EFT Founding Master

I draw on my 30 plus years' experience as a therapist to help people achieve the change they want in their lives with EFT, an amazing technique involving tapping on points on the meridians. It is both is brilliant in therapy and as a self-help tool. And I have taught EFT both to people who want to learn it to use for themselves and to those who want to take EFT into their therapy practices. I also have qualifications in psychotherapy, hypnosis, EMDR and Mindfulness. These days I evangelize for EFT by writing bout it and talking about it at conferences around the world.
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  1. Hi Judy,

    I love the blog post. I came across Art Therapy recently by accident. I felt the urge to draw and paint, even though I had a belief that I was never really good at art. When I got down to drawing and painting, the creative release I got was enormous.

    The freedom of drawing and filling up white paper with beautiful colours was amazing. I came across this book called “The Creative License”. It urged me to draw and paint, not in order to attain perfection, but in order to get in touch with that feeling of being in the moment while creating.

    Thanks for writing this beautiful post. It resonated with me on every level.

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