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Relax with a good (coloring) book

Have you heard of the latest health craze to promote relaxation and decrease the effects of stress? It is coloring, like kids do in coloring books, only it is for adults. Just google “coloring books for adults” and a plethora of options that can be purchased online through Amazon and other sites will entice even the most reluctant grown-up into retrying a childhood pastime.

Think about what a child looks like immersed in a coloring book. He or she is fully engaged in the process with head down, and hand slowly moving the crayon back and forth in a slow rhythm. The rest of the body usually is motionless because of the relaxation process going on. Remember what you felt like as a kid when you used your Crayolas and filled bright color between the black lines.

In the pediatric health clinic where I work, we often offer coloring pages to kids who have become restless or bored in the exam rooms. Current studies show that we should be offering this option to adults too, as a way to decrease stress. The amygdala is a part of the brain responsible for anxiety and alerting the fight or flight response. Coloring a picture slows down this part of the brain and soothes the body into a more peaceful mode. In a world filled with fast paced media and multitasking, the simplistic art method of coloring can slow us down and has been found to be a healing activity.

One old art form recently popularized is the mandala. The word mandala means sacred circle, and mandalas were seen in the past in places of worship. Symmetrical pieces of nature such as snowflakes serve as design inspiration for the orderly symmetrical designs within a mandala. The process of coloring a mandala is done in a specific sequence depending on the personal intent.

Starting from the outside and coloring toward the inside is a means of going within oneself. The opposite: coloring from the middle and extending outward is a way of connecting to the greater outer world. The mandala must be finished in one sitting for maximum healing benefits as it is an unbroken circle and should be done in an unbroken time period rather than in multiple fragmented sittings.

Mandala coloring books are found in bookstores and online and there are millions of patterns that can be created from combinations of various mandalas. Should creating an especially meaningful mandala bring you joy when you look at it, consider creating a Lively water bottle with your mandala image on it. Then as you partake of the healthful practice of drinking water, you can receive the healing benefits of your mandala each time you raise it to your lips. Also check-out the Lively Water Bottles designed by maze artist Matthew Haussler; they can be solved using a dry erase marker, which easily wipes clean using a sponge or dishwasher. Art and health integrate through the simple creative process of coloring, and what an easy and joyful way to boost our mind-body balance and achieve better health.
Lisa Radville