How Adult Coloring Books Are Good for Mental, Emotional and Intellectual Health

Remember the simple joy of coloring or drawing when you were a child? Back then, all of us were artists and were happy to spend many an hour drawing, coloring and letting our imaginations run free. For many years, the idea of coloring as a pastime was put away as a childhood thing when we reached a certain age. Then, about six years ago, coloring made a resurgence as a trendy pastime for adults – and as an optimal way to help reduce stress, improve mental health and boost your overall well-being.


“Personally, I think what has made adult coloring books so popular – besides the health benefits – is the nostalgia of the activity,” says Janet McNemar, NHA, MBA, Executive Director at Saunders House in Wynnewood, PA. “There’s a simple, childlike pleasure we gain from coloring that speaks to us beyond the health benefits. It helps distract us from the daily pressures of life and is fun, too.”


Art therapy has long been a tool used to help individuals of all ages and abilities to express themselves, and work through their emotions with beneficial health results. While experts may disagree on whether or not adult coloring books are “true” art therapy, the consensus is that there are many therapeutic benefits to coloring that are backed by science.


It produces the same feelings and experiences as meditating.

Neuroscientist and neuropsychologist Dr. Stan Rodski reports that coloring can elicit a relaxed mindset that allows individuals to remove themselves from worrisome thoughts and instead focus on the present. “Tasks with predictable results, such as coloring or knitting, can often be calming,” he says. To be transparent, Dr. Rodski has created his own line of adult coloring books; however, his findings are based on advanced technology and studies. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Dr. Rodski reports: “The most amazing things occurred – we started seeing changes in heart rate and changes in brainwaves.” He also makes note that “there are three key elements – repetition, pattern and detail – that prompt positive neurological responses in participants. When you have things that you can predict will happen in a certain way, it's calming for us.” 

Coloring reduces stress and anxiety.

Coloring has the ability to relax the brain’s amygdala – the “fear center” that causes our fight-or-flight response. A study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association notes that coloring, especially mandalas or geometric patterns, can help lower anxiety and stress levels. The complexity of the shapes allows the mind to focus narrowly on the task at hand, which helps chase away external forces and worrisome thoughts. This relaxes us, decreases the amount of cortisol our brains produce and sends us into a relaxed state of being. 

It improves vision and motor skills.

Coloring is more than just a fun activity – it fires both sides of our brains, as it turns out. The left side of our brain, which is the more logical and processing side, is stimulated by the idea of forms and patterns – helping us stay within the lines, for example. The right side of our brains rule creativity and imagination, which are stimulated by the mixing and matching of colors. At the same time, the cerebral cortex is involved with vision and fine motor skills, which involves the coordination required to make precise, small movements – a perfect blend of the left and right brain. 

It helps us get a good night’s sleep.

We all know that electronics – which emit blue light wave patterns – can disrupt our sleep patterns and disrupt our ability to get a deep, full night’s sleep. At the same time, having some sort of routine, like reading a book or doing something else relaxing, is a ritual that helps us get into the sleepy state of mind. Coloring, unlike watching a favorite show or reading on a tablet, is a relaxing, electronic-free activity that can help you relax and destress without disrupting your brain waves. 

Coloring improves focus.

Coloring requires you to focus, from choosing what color to use to paying attention to the lines of the pattern to determining what patterns and color schemes will work best with the overall flow. Although this focus is intense, it’s also not stressful – a rare thing, indeed. This focus opens up our frontal lobes, which controls problem solving and organizing, and allows you to compartmentalize all the other things in your brain, like worries, planning and reminiscing. This causes a narrow focus on the present – which, as we’ve mentioned before, produces a meditative-like state that helps us trance out to the benefit of our well-being. 

Getting Started with Adult Coloring Books

Getting started with adult coloring is easy. All you need are two things: a design to color, and something with which to color. You can purchase a coloring book online or in stores, or you can search for free designs available on the internet (search for “coloring pages” to get a wide variety of options). Then, once you have your tools, get started on our path to creativity. Yes, it’s really that simple! 

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Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services, including short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, restorative care, memory care, respite care, for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

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Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.

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