Friday, October 14, 2016

Coloring for stress relief--is there any scientific basis?

A Google Image search for "mandala"

Over the past few years, the adult coloring book market has increased dramatically.  Coloring is not just for kids anymore!  Many adults are enjoying the meditative state that coloring complex designs can bring.  But is there any scientific basis to this effect?

Scholars in the field of Art Therapy have been looking into the scientific background of coloring in order to discover how and why it might affect stress levels.  For example:

  • Scholars van der Vennet and Serice (2012) found that coloring mandalas (traditionally Indian or Sanskrit, but now the term denotes any geometric pattern that replicates the universe) was more effective at stress relief than coloring plaid patterns or plain sheets of paper.  LINK.
  • Kersten and van der Vennet (2010) studied how students chose different types of color (warm or cool) to color mandalas, and whether that might correlate with their stress levels.  LINK.
  • Curry and Kasser (2005) also studied undergraduates, and found that coloring pre-illustrated patterns was more effective than working on blank sheets of paper in reducing anxiety levels.  LINK.
Overall, it seems that there is at least a correlation between coloring and a reduction in stress and anxiety levels, although there is definitely room for more research in this area!   

You can find more sources (both popular and scholarly) on our Study Breaks Research Guide.  Enjoy!

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