HealthZette

Get Your Crayons, Parents, and Start Coloring

Why this isn't kids' stuff any more (though some have their doubts)

Walk into virtually any bookstore — you can’t miss them. They are front and center and while interesting, today’s array of new coloring books also appear to have many of us confused as to why these items are making a comeback.

But these aren’t your children’s coloring books.

Adult coloring books are topping book lists across the nation. Among the top five books in the New York Times’ games and activities section this week, all are adult coloring books. On Amazon, where top-selling books are ranked by number of sales and updated hourly, many in the top 10 are again these ubiquitous adult coloring books.

If you get an invite to an adult coloring party in 2016 — sure, go ahead and lift an eyebrow. But you may want to take these coloring books and crayons (or colored pencils) in stride. They may be just what the doctor ordered.

“With the stress we experience from being online and on our smartphones nonstop, I think the slow and repetitive process of coloring answers our need to unplug,” said Flora Morris Brown, author of “Color Your Life Happy: Create Your Unique Path.”

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Besides the intensified need to reduce, unplug, de-stress and relieve anxiety, which many claim coloring will help accomplish, there is some science behind all of this.

“Neuroscience tells us we need alpha waves to keep stress and anxiety low,” said Angela Sarafin, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Washington, D.C. “Our society is heavily geared toward language and logic, which require the faster beta wave activity. Unfortunately, beta waves in their efficiency cause us to lose flexibility and creativity because the focus is ‘get it done now, as quickly as possible.'”

Related: Armed With Art

As a result, she added, we are more tired and more likely to experience depression and anxiety.

“Experience shows that any physical activity carried out at a constant speed has a calming effect, provided that such an activity does not require strenuous effort,” said John Vespasian, the author of several books about “rational” living. “It is the same reason people go on hikes or ride their bikes for long periods of time. Coloring is a similar alternative as the motion of the crayon or colored pencil moves across the paper to create something appealing to the creator.”

Being able to concentrate on something in one’s personal space has a calming effect, he added.

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Coloring books for adults are certainly not new, noted Flora Morris Brown, an author, speaker, radio host and book coach.

“Before the current avalanche of coloring books was created for adults, (parents) found relaxation in investing in ones created for kids,” she said.

Not everyone buys into the concept, however. Some modern art therapists and psychologists believe the loudest proponents for the practice are the coloring book publishers themselves.

Cathy Malchiodi, an art therapist and research psychologist, doesn’t doubt people may feel better after a coloring session. But in an article for Psychology Today earlier this year entitled “Are You Having a Relationship with an Adult Coloring Book?” she wrote, “The fact that the concepts of meditation and mindfulness are being used to describe coloring pre-made designs is, in fact, insulting to these practices that have deep cultural, and spiritual foundations.”

Malchiodi maintains that art therapy, or creating your own art versus coloring someone else’s, offers greater benefits to our mental and physical health. Art therapy has been shown in numerous studies to be helpful for those dealing with a variety of conditions, such as cancer, depression, dementia, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Still, as these books remain at the top of several best-seller lists. and as more adult coloring books flood the market, adults are finding some benefit in beautifying the blank pages. Either that — or there’s a good pile of adult coloring books stacking up somewhere for the kids.