I’ve fond memories as a child of lost time spent doodling and colouring in colouring books. Colouring books were a regular feature in my family of origin. They’d find their way into bags and the back seats of cars on our way to church on Sundays and keep us children occupied as the hours of the church service clocked up and our energies waned. Colouring blunted the boredom of the ranting church minister and I loved the focus and concentration that colouring offered and the resulting colour explosion was always delightful.
At an early age a certain kind of confidence emerged from taking a black and white illustration and becoming the curator and creator of its new colour makeover. Years later when I was mother to a young child colouring books became a staple play activity. As soon as her tiny fingers could hold a crayon and pencil securely my daughter learnt to colour. Aida would spend countless hours on our living room floor colouring away to her hearts content. And it was this same child some twenty something years later who handed me an exquisite colouring book at Christmas last year called, The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt by Johanna Basford
Turns out that Colouring books are back on the market aimed at adults in a big way. Remembering my own memories about colouring what I loved most was the simplicity surrounding the activity. It’s a relatively cost effective activity. It requires little instruction and no one telling you what colours to use whilst it gives the child or adult permission and freedom to pick and have their way with colours they personally want to work with.
There’s something grounding and calming about colouring inside the lines but also a certain wildness and liberation when we stray outside the lines. A positive colouring experience becomes an even more enjoyable activity once you have the right tools, which are minimum: a good, solid illustration to colour in and your pack of colouring pencils, crayons or felt tips.
In 2011 I used this concept of colouring to design a coaching template designed to measure your overall satisfaction with your work and personal life. The Wheel of Life Tree Audit uses colouring to rate your levels of satisfaction across core life and work areas and then set goals to extend and improve satisfaction in key areas. I designed an activity that would engage both the right and left brains, one that would provide a colour snapshot of your life through the lens of colour. You can download the Wheel Of Life template here or the Wheel of Life Tree Playbook & Life Audit here or find a copy in my book Be Your Own Best Life Coach
Research is now bringing to light the many benefits of colouring already known in the alternative medicine world of colour therapy. Colouring reduces stress, the activity conjures up an almost Zen like mindfulness and working with certain colours can be soothing and calming.
Colouring is kinesthetic, a creative activity that moves the body and ignites the intricate and exploratory nature of the creative mind. I like the slow, gradual build up colouring brings to the page or an illustration. I enjoy the repetitive rhythm and the gradual, slow release of energy
Personally I’m drawn to the primal nature of colouring. Before most children experiment and learn to draw, they colour. Colouring predates drawing and writing. I use colouring now as a form of stress release but also as a working meditation. In a recent blog post creativity coach Jamie Ridler wrote about the additional benefits she derives from colouring and being creative, “Don’t be surprised if a sudden moment of clarity arrives while you’re colouring, doodling or beading.”
Being a writer I sit using words all day so an activity like colouring gets me to use my hands in a different kind of way. It breaks up routine patterns and ways of thinking. It gives my mind and thoughts breathing space to go in new and different directions. It’s possible to generate hits of dopamine when colouring in the same way we get that initial surge when we land on Facebook or other forms of social media or reach for that bar of chocolate.
Have fun with colouring. Notice that colours generated onto the page can extend into colours you wear, colours you notice other people wear and becoming more aware and present to the colours alive and visible in your environment and in nature.
Crayons are my favourite colouring instruments and have a smooth, effortless like movement across the page. Pencils are great but require greater pressure and attending to so make sure you have a sharpener to hand. Also be aware that pencil colour can sometimes be faint and watery like and not as bold and robust as the colour tones of crayons.
There are many different ways to have fun with colouring. From colouring books, to collages to taking photo’s of scenes with similar colours and tones. Having a range of great colours to hand helps when colouring. Using one colour can be extremely gratifying and helps to order the mind. And it’s worth remembering that colouring just for the sake of it can be a worthwhile reward and satisfying way of passing time.