4 Reasons You Should Try Coloring

This relaxing pastime can brighten your life and boost your health.

close up of person drawing, coloring an illustration

Updated on March 27, 2023.

While coloring has always been a popular pastime for kids, it’s become a booming business for grown-ups. Thanks largely to an explosion in popularity in 2015, a number of publishing companies and independent publishers now sell adult coloring books via mass marketplaces like Amazon, making them widely available across the country. Today, coloring is a go-to activity for millions, with good reason: It’s not only fun—it may help you stay healthy.

“Coloring appears to be universal—a valuable tool for individuals of all ages,” says Andrea Smith, PhD, a psychologist in Dallas. According to Smith, coloring has the power to ease your mind and boost your mood. Here are four ways that coloring can brighten your life and improve your health.

Tame stress  

On days your brain and body are in high gear, sitting down at some point in the day for even a brief coloring session can clear your mind of added stressors. “Often I’ll recommend coloring to patients as a part of their bedtime routine,” says Smith. Bonus: Making coloring part of your nighttime ritual means you're shutting down electronics, which can affect sleep.

Reduce anxiety

Anxious? Get out the crayons and colored pencils. A 2018 review published in Behavioral Sciences examined the stress-reducing effects of creative activities, including art. Researchers found that stress levels were significantly lowered by engaging in projects like drawing and clay modeling. Some people reported having better results while working on positive subject matter. 

“Engaging in creative therapeutic tasks like coloring can induce relaxation that helps many people feel more in control of their anxiety,” says Smith. “And while coloring might not be the solution,” she says, “it may be one piece of the puzzle that, along with individual therapy, relaxation skills, and medication, can help manage anxiety symptoms.”

Improve focus

If you have a hard time concentrating, taking a break to color may help you return to your task with fresh focus. “Coloring gives us the opportunity to hone in on a simple activity that does not require much planning or strategy,” Smith says. “What's more,” she says, “coloring only requires the brain to work on one thing at a time, thus helping the mind to focus.”

The benefits are so clear that many universities encourage coloring for wellness. The University of Buffalo Division of Athletics, for instance, recommends coloring to its students, not only for better sleep and well-being, but for its boost in motor skills, vision, and focus. 
Increase productivity
“In a world of never-ending to-do lists,” Smith says, “we crave completion but rarely achieve it. And while coloring itself can’t check off your to-dos, it may give you a sense of accomplishment that primes you to get more things done more effectively.

“Coloring provides a task that is fairly easy to accomplish,” she says. “You can take pride, even if it is just a little bit, in the fact that you completed something you started, regardless of the quality level. This builds confidence and increases productivity.”

Article sources open article sources

Year in Books Review 2015. Nielsen Book Scan. 2016.
Child’s Play: Millennium Women Drive Sales of Adult Coloring Books. Nielsen. June 2016.
Curcic, D. Adult Book Sales Statistics. Wordsrated. January 18, 2023.
Flett J, Lie C, Riordan B, Thompson LM. Sharpen Your Pencils: Preliminary Evidence that Adult Coloring Reduces Depressive Symptoms and Anxiety. Creativity Research Journal. 29(4):409-416.
Pham HT, Chuang HL, et al. Electronic Device Use before Bedtime and Sleep Quality among University Students. Healthcare (Basel). 2021;9(9):1091.
Martin L, Oepen R, et al. Creative Arts Interventions for Stress Management and Prevention-A Systematic Review. Behav Sci (Basel). 2018;8(2):28. 
Koo M, Chen HP, et al. Coloring Activities for Anxiety Reduction and Mood Improvement in Taiwanese Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020;2020:6964737.
University of Buffalo Division of Athletics. Benefits of Coloring. May 25, 2020.

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