Art may not be able to cure disease, but it can surely make coping with it a lot better. Researchers have acknowledged the therapeutic qualities of art for years, and today, art therapy is used to help people express themselves when what they’re feeling is too difficult to put into words
Research shows this form of therapy often has tangible results. One 2006 study, for example, found that mindfulness art therapy for women with depression helped to significantly decrease symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment. Another study from the same year concluded that after only one hour of art therapy, patients of all ages “overwhelmingly expressed comfort” and a desire to continue with the therapy.
Coloring used to be reserved for children and the occasional adult who got to babysit them, but recently, the activity has found a different demographic. What started as a niche hobby has now turned into an international trend, as adult coloring books find themselves on more and more bestsellers’ lists throughout the world. However, while this trend may be a fun way to pass the time
Engaging in the arts is well known to have significantly positive impacts on health. Arts therapy has been used clinically for more than a century as a way of improving people’s physical and emotional well-being in the face of a variety of diagnoses, including cancer, asthma, diabetes, depression and anxiety, and dementia, among others.
“With art therapy, you are trying to get people back into their bodies and feelings by engaging them with materials and in the process of using those materials
Coloring is therapeutic in a similar way: “You are playing, focused on what you’re doing, lost in the flow.” The concentration and focused attention helps brings those engaged in the activity into the present
For those glued to screens for hours every day, coloring can feed the urge to engage in an activity that is perceived as real and concrete, rather than virtual. There is emerging research that putting pen to paper extends benefits that typing and texting do not.
Coloring is inherently directed and restrictive and is, therefore, much more accessible to everyone. But, she says, “I would love it if coloring ultimately becomes a pathway to using your own materials, and visualizing and creating your own images. In my experience, that is where the power is. And that is where the healing is.”