A book published by Johanna Basford (called Secret Garden) has sold over 1.4 million copies – so, what kind of book is this? It’s a colouring book. Filled with black and white drawings of flowers, trees and birds the book’s USP is that it is designed for adults.
This book is not the first of its kind, and there are even groups in Australia where adults can get together and colour, like a knitting circle. There is no competitiveness, it is simply an opportunity to be creative.
When we colour, we are making creative decisions. We are choosing which colours to use and we are concentrating to make sure we don’t go outside the lines. When we do this, our minds can be freed up to let us be more creative.
Letting your mind wander like this is a form of play. Surprisingly, play is important in all stages of life. It allows us to practice spontaneity and relieve stress. It also helps us to maintain brain function – in terms of colouring in, you are essentially problem solving. Play can also help us develop coping skills as it keeps our mindset flexible.
Some people even believe colouring in has meditative properties. Colouring intricate patterns keeps our minds focused but free, similar to how it is when you meditate.
A study from 2009 found that when participants doodled, they retained more from a list of random names. Researchers suspect that doodling may help the brain stay active by engaging its ‘default networks’. These areas maintain a low level of activity in the cerebral cortex when external stimuli are absent.
Colouring in is sometimes used in art therapy, thought to help patients cope with stress and anxiety. You can find out more on our art therapy page.