I wonder why they’ve suddenly become so popular. Maybe stress has something to do with it. Art therapist Susanne Fincher says coloring is a way to “lift the mood, reduce anxiety and relieve stress.” Psychologist Antoni Martinez recommends coloring as a relaxation technique, an alternative to meditation. Maybe they’re right. With all the time we spend on our computers, pads and smart phones, we’re overloaded with digital activities. We need the occasional old-fashioned simplicity of a colored pencil and a piece of paper.
That wasn’t what I was thinking when I bought my adult coloring book. No, what made me a ready target for the coloring book craze came from my memories of the happy hours I spent as a child, sprawled on the floor with a coloring book and a jumbo box of crayons.
Every Christmas Eve my sister and I had a couple of new coloring books under the tree. No matter what other gifts we received, Sue and I were already on the floor trying out our new coloring books while Mom was still gathering up the discarded ribbons and paper.
Those simple coloring books bore little resemblance however to what’s now being sold for adults. The new coloring books are gorgeous. Here are a few examples:
A Small Act of Defiance
The coloring book I chose this summer is filled with beautiful art nouveau animal designs.
I do agree with Ms. Fincher and Dr. Martinez; coloring is a nice way to unwind. But for me, the real payoff is something quite different. Sitting down to color feels to me like a small act of defiance. Let me explain:
When I was a child, like all children, I spent hours in aimless activity. I ran around for the sheer joy of it. I built block towers and knocked them down. I dressed my dolls, and I dug in the sand, never wondering why. Play is not a purposeful activity, at least not from the child’s point of view.
Now that I’m an adult, everything has a purpose. True, most of the obligations in my life are self-imposed. I’m the one who chooses to wash the dishes and fold the laundry. I choose to work on my novel and to get some exercise most days. I’m the one who chooses to eat nourishing food instead of cake and ice cream. (Yes, I shout without great conviction. I want to eat my veggies.)
The trouble is, sometimes I’m all too aware of the obligatory aspect of those activities. So then, feeling tired and somewhat rebellious, I stick my fingers in my ears to tune out the annoying cry of my to-do list. I take out my coloring book, and I lay down some color … for absolutely no reason at all.
Simply because I want to.