The Appeal of Colouring

This year for my best friend’s birthday I bought her a kaleidoscope colouring journal, since she’s an artist I thought it a very apt gift.

Fast-forward a month, we are currently enduring a boring and unproductive week before the second term of academic year 2016/2017 ends, so my wonderful best friend and colleague brings said colour journal and colour pencils to work. YAY!

Since the book’s pages are quite detailed, for better access to colour certain intricacies we enlarged and photocopied a few pages to tide us over until the end of the term. During our colour sessions, we focused on our task which made us immensely happy. In the end, we completed four pages together and all but one of our masterpieces hangs on the wall in the lounge area at work.

What is the appeal of colouring? How is it important to adult health?

Art Therapy ≠ Colouring

Art therapy is a mental health tool that harnesses the process creating artwork to “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem (Dovey 2015).” However, we must not confuse adult colouring book with completing an art therapy session. According to Marygrace Berberian, the Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Graduate Art Therapy Program at New York University, “Colouring itself cannot be called art therapy because art therapy relies on the relationship between the client and the therapist (Dovey 2015).”

Carl Jung first prescribed colouring via Mandalas

A mandala can be defined externally as a schematic visual representation of the universe and internally as a guide for several psychophysical practices in Asian traditions including meditation (Violatti 2013). Mandalas communicate complex philosophical ideas and convey the insights of mystics (Fincher 2017). Hence, they help people discover the way things come to be and their rightful place in the order of things.

Mandala Meanings

In Tibet, mandalas have complex geometrical shapes and are used for meditation. They are sometimes made of sand to emphasize the impermanence of life. When finished, the monks destroy the mandala.

In Asia, the Taoist “yin and yang” symbol is a mandala. The symbol represents Tao (Divine, Universe, God) and the primordial female (Yin) and male (Yang) energy that gives birth to the entire manifested world (Nuit 2017). It shows the coexistence of night and day as well as life and death.

In Yoga practices, the mandala is used to support meditation since its images inspire spiritual growth and self development. Sri Yantra or Chakra is an example which consists of a drawing of nine interlocked triangles in a circle, radiating out from the central point, representing the creation of the Universe and the union of Masculine and Feminine Divine (Nuit 2017).

Jung on the Mandala
“A mandala is the psychological expression of the totality of the self”
— Carl Jung

Carl Jung saw mandalas as symbolic of the inner process by which individuals grow toward fulfilling their potential for completeness. Analysing the mandalas created by his patients, Jung saw a natural process of recalling and resolving inner conflicts which in turn develops harmony and stability of one’s personality. Mandalas are important indicators of the process of personal growth allowing fulfillment of one’s identity and purpose in life.

Benefits of Adult Coloring Books

Stress Relief

Colouring calms fear or stress while stimulating parts of the brain responsible for creativity and logic. Groundbreaking research in 2005 proved anxiety levels dropped when subjects coloured mandalas. Just like meditation, colouring allows us to switch off our brains and focus only on the moment, helping to alleviate anxiety (“Health Benefits Of Adult Coloring Books” 2017).

Focus, Creativity & Intelligence

Adult colouring books are quickly becoming a staple among high-profile business professionals in high-stress industries and creative professionals. Evidence shows that a short colouring session can help improve focus and spur creativity (“Health Benefits Of Adult Coloring Books” 2017).

Additionally, colouring has intellectual benefits through the use of both hemispheres of the brain, so while thinking about the details of the activity we are problem solving, developing organisational skills and utilising fine motor skills.

Social Time

It is a most effective time to bond which was certainly the case for my best friend and I. During our colouring sessions, we listened to music, conversed, laughed and most of all grew happier and freer.

Alternative to Meditation

This is being able to do something without the need for active concentration. In studies, activities like colouring are able to produce a similar effect to meditation in the brain (“Health Benefits Of Adult Coloring Books” 2017).

A Trip down Memory Lane

Colouring brings us back to a care-free time when responsibilities were naught and we did something for the pure joy of it. To reminisce on that time and experience positive emotions is very cathartic and enjoyable (“Health Benefits Of Adult Coloring Books” 2017).


Dovey, Dana. 2015. “The Therapeutic Science Of Adult Coloring Books”. Medical Daily.

Fincher, Susanne. 2017. “Psychology Of The Mandala”. Creatingmandalas.Com.

Fitzpatrick, Kelly. 2017. “Why Adult Coloring Books Are Good For You”. CNN.

“Health Benefits Of Adult Coloring Books | Wellness Mama”. 2017. Wellness Mama®.

Joy, Kayla. 2015. Coloring For Adults: Affordable Art Therapy. Video.

Jung, C. G. 1973. Mandala Symbolism. 1st ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Martinez, Nikki. 2016. “7 Reasons Adult Coloring Books Are Great For Your Mental, Emotional And Intellectual Health”. The Huffington Post.

Nuit, Nataša. 2017. “Mandala Meaning From Aztecs To Jung”. Artof4elements.Com.

Violatti, Cristian. 2013. “Mandala”. Ancient History Encyclopedia.

Wellcome Collection,. 2016. Sand Mandala: Tibetan Buddhist Ritual. Video.