Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Color Me Calm: Art as Stress Therapy

Color Me Calm: Art as Stress Therapy

Recruitment Specialist

We live in a new age of do it yourself (DIY), where the 16th most trafficked website in the United States is Pinterest. Creative outlets for amateurs have blossomed into a whole new marketplace, revamped businesses like Ball Corporation with the increased popularity of mason jars, and spurred a never-ending list of DIY-based blogs and websites. But what if painting, woodworking, and these time-consuming tasks aren't your speed? What ever happened to the days where an art project involved a box of crayons and your favorite coloring book? Never fear! Coloring for adults is here!


You've likely seen them by now: the coloring books targeted at adults currently filling the Amazon bestseller list, featuring such enthralling titles as Unicorns are Jerks. Gorge R.R. Martin is even getting in on the action with a Game of Thrones coloring book set to release this fall. What you might not know is that the people behind this coloring way of life may not just be coloring to re-live their kindergarten glory days (or at least notentirely to re-live being 5 years old).


Coloring can be used as a form of active meditation, a key concept in art therapy. Art therapy is a treatment option for patients diagnosed with cancer, chronic illnesses, and a wide variety of mental health indications, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This isn't a new revolution; Dr. Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology and colleague of Dr. Sigmund Freud, used art therapy with his patients in the early 1900s. However, the primary difference today is that while you can still find a licensed art therapist in your area, you can also explore this creative process in the comfort of your own home (or wherever else you choose--there are plenty of coloring clubs to join if you're more into the group activity scene).


Diverting from the humorous side of the adult-themed coloring book, it's important to note that many are designed specifically for meditative intent. One such example, Creative Therapy: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book, was designed with the cited purpose that, "…everyone can enjoy making something beautiful and calming." How exactly does this work? Psychologist Dr. Alice Domar explains, "It [coloring] engages both sides of your brain in that it's both creative and tactical… It's impossible to worry about dinner or the laundry or anything else when your mind is completely engaged." If you want a more in-depth explanation, there has been a ton of active meditation research in recent years, linking engagement in these mental exercises, like coloring and other forms of art therapy, to changes in cognitive function and even increases in gray matter.


Coloring also has other health applications. Similarly to hobbies like needlepoint, coloring can fine tune motor skills and increase dexterity. Dr. Irit Gil-Ad, head of Tel-Aviv University's Biological Psychiatry research department, suggested its application for patients with neurodegenerative symptoms or motor dysfunction. Author and naturopathic doctor Cathy Wong even suggests the activity as way to curb cigarette cravings.


As more research is being done on the effects of art therapy and coloring on the body, the effect on the mind is clear. Companies have even taken to suggesting coloring books as a method to de-stress employees and recharge their creativity, with research being done to focus on performance-related outcomes. Your move, MMG.

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