It’s back-to-school time again. If you have kids or grandkids, you have probably made at least one trip to your local department store for school supplies. Pens, paper and, of course, crayons and colored pencils have no doubt graced the bottom of your shopping cart. All those supplies for creativity are great for the kids, but what about you? Did you know that the simple act of coloring has been shown to be good for the brain? Several studies prove the stress-relieving power of this simple act and of art therapy in general.
Coloring and the Brain
So what is actually going on when we color that would contribute to a reduction in stress and anxiety? According to experts, coloring is similar to meditation, and can produce the same effects.
“You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color,” says Dr. Joel Pearson, a neuroscientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, in a recent interview. “It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. … Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”
Other studies have shown without a doubt that any form of art therapy can help brain-related disorders. One Japanese investigation showed marked improvement in quality of life and vitality in Alzheimer’s patients after 12 weeks of art therapy in general.
Coloring Can Help Cancer-Related Stress
In addition, several studies since the early 2000’s have shown that art therapy techniques in
general can also help with the stress and anxiety that inevitably comes with cancer. The most comprehensive so far was a 2011 meta-analysis that looked at 27 studies and data from roughly 1,600 participants. Most of the participants had breast cancer or leukemia and were involved in traditional cancer treatments.
The majority of the programs studied offered music, art and/or dance opportunities. And even though most of these programs did not include individual counseling, the participants in these programs overwhelmingly reported less depression, less anxiety, less pain and better quality of life than those who were not provided with art therapy opportunities.
In addition, a 2006 study conducted at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania looked specifically at mindfulness art therapy (MBAT) for women who were undergoing traditional treatment for a variety of cancers. Across the board, the women showed a decrease in stress and anxiety-related symptoms after participating in MBAT for two months.
Finally, another study conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago found that anxiety levels in adult cancer patients went down significantly and the participants “enthusiastically wanted to continue with the therapy” after just one one-hour session!
“People with cancer very often feel like their body has been taken over by the cancer. They feel overwhelmed,” said music therapist Joke Bradt in an interview on the subject for Reuters. “To be able to engage in a creative process… that stands in a very stark contrast to sort of passively submitting oneself to cancer treatments.”
Of course, if you are on a Healthy Breast path already, then you know that healing from breast cancer (or preventing it naturally) is in no way a passive journey. On the contrary, the simple act of coloring can an easy, inexpensive and regular part of your healing routine and a fun way to reconnect to that little girl inside of you!
So Many Colors to Choose From
So how do you begin? As it turns out, specific kinds of coloring may produce more of a stress-reducing effect.
One of the first studies to dive into the specific effects of different kinds of coloring was a 2005 investigation conducted by Knox College in Illinois. The researchers had close to 100 young adults color in three types of images. One image was a plaid-designed sheet, one was a blank page and the other was an image in the shape of a mandala (a geometric figure that appears in the art of ancient traditions). Interestingly, while the subjects found no stress relief with the plaid and plain papers, anxiety levels dropped significantly as colorers began working on the image of the mandala.
“These findings suggest that structured coloring of a reasonably complex geometric pattern may induce a meditative state that benefits individuals suffering from anxiety,” said the researchers in a paper published the journal Art Therapy.
Other experts explain that concentrating on nature-focused and other inspiring images may help a person replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Makes sense to me!
So dust off those old Crayolas or, even better, treat yourself to a trip to the art store for some shiny new pencils or pens. Then get yourself an adult coloring book (almost any book store, art store and regular department store or pharmacy will have them in stock). Then set aside just a few minutes (10-15 minutes is perfect) to color your way to a calmer you!
Dr. Veronique Desaulniers (“Dr V”) is the founder of Breast Cancer Conqueror.com and The 7 Essentials System ™. This step-by-step guide empowers you with knowledge so you Never Have to Fear Breast Cancer Again! To watch a FREE webinar about the 7 steps for beating breast cancer naturally, Click Here.