A UVA Heart & Vascular Center Initiative

Coloring for Stress Relief? Why You Should Give It a Try

Posted February 21, 2017

You may be a little mature for Barbies and Thomas the Train, but there’s one childhood pastime you may want to reconsider. Coloring is making a comeback among adults and there’s a good explanation why.

According to Leslie Hubbard, program director for student learning and initiatives at the UVA Contemplative Sciences Center, activities like coloring actually have a positive impact on your health because they focus the mind on the task at hand and distract you from negative thoughts, which help alleviate stress.

“Neuroscientists are beginning to discover that optimal states of physical and mental health occur when the mind and body are fully present in the moment, not caught in the stress of worrying about the future or thinking about the past,” she says. “Activities such as coloring and knitting provide some of us the optimal conditions to live fully in this moment; they present a natural and organic window for the body and mind to joyously unite in a creative and calm way.”

Achieving this state of mindfulness — being fully present in the moment — requires more than just putting pencil to paper. To get the most out of an activity like coloring, you have to concentrate and prevent your mind wandering, which may be more difficult than it seems.

“Concentration takes practice and cultivation like any other thing in life and some activities are easier to concentrate on than others,” says Hubbard. “Activities that we like, for example, are much easier to concentrate on then activities that we have an aversion to or find challenging.”

If coloring is not your thing, then consider finding another activity you enjoy. “There is no one way to meditate or contemplate,” says Hubbard. Activities such as knitting, walking or cooking can be meditative if you approach them with the core components of meditation in mind: focus, reflection and insight.

“Meditation practice often involves conscious reflection on one’s motivation or intent for practice, such as ‘I want to be more calm and present at work’,” says Hubbard. “When the mind is calm and concentrated, insight will arise on its own. You could say that is the end game of meditation practice is intentionally gaining greater insight into oneself or the world around you.”

Ready to give coloring a try? Print off this image to get started.

Learn more about the impact of stress on your health.


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