Answering a gazillion emails, making countless phone calls, running from one deadline to another… all of this can make your workday a little too hectic to handle! If you find yourself not having even ten minutes to spare to sit and eat your meal in peace, you need to majorly de-stress. No, don’t even think of touching your phone and going on Instagram to check out who made their wedding announcement (that will only stress you further).
Take a deep breath, the answer to your call is art.
As a school-going girl, with the amount of academic load we had, there was only one thing that calmed me down: art. The stroke of the brush and pure joy of playing with colours made me forget my impending doom. As a grown adult too, doodles on every page of my diary released my stress at work and helped me focus better on the task at hand.
Art is a meditative practice that puts you in ‘the zone’, with similar benefits of meditation, helping you to take your mind off of daily struggles and issues, lowering your blood pressure, pulse rate and breathing rate, and making you mindful of the present moment. The creative process helps to create new relationships and foster existing ones in a positive, productive environment.
When people express themselves through art, it can help them with depression, anxiety, or cancer, too. Also, doing so has been linked to improved memory, reasoning, and resilience in people. You don’t have to be Picasso to enjoy the benefits of what art does to you. “It’s the process, not the product,” says Megan Carleton, an art therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), in an article.
Recent research from Drexel University invited 39 adults to make art for 45 minutes in any way they pleased, using simple materials like markers, modelling clay and collage supplies. To assess the effects of this creative exercise on the participants’ stress levels the research team tested their levels of the hormone “cortisol”, a marker of stress, both before and after the art-making session. They found that 75% of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered during the time they made art.
In a separate study by the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, researchers found that when people doodle while listening to dull information, they’re more likely to remember that information and stay focused (don’t be apologetic the next time you’re found doodling in the middle of a meeting).
While art therapy in itself is a distinct field and art therapists are trained and educated in both art and psychology, you don’t have to consult a licensed art therapist about reaping the benefits of making art, you are the best judge of how the process is affecting you.
There are multiple ways you can begin art to release stress, like keeping a visual journal, a sketchbook to draw your fleeting thoughts and ideas, doodling, drawing shapes or painting your mood. Colouring is the easiest, lesser daunting solution at work if you’re intimidated by blank pages. Take a cue from your childhood, the memory of holding crayons and scribbling cartoons — get an adult colouring book for yourself.
Adult colouring books have been growing in popularity in recent years. Fortunately, there have been many published ones with various themes. The reason these books are so popular is simple, they’re fun. They bring us back to our childhood, awakening feelings of carelessness, of a child’s innocent and unconcerned mind. The act of concentrating on the colours alone and determining their combinations gives you something to focus on other than the stresses of your daily life.
Though the first commercially successful adult colouring books were published in 2012 and 2013, they made a comeback in the West with Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford’s book Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book, which sold more than 13 million copies. Internationally, themes of nature, abstracts and mandalas are favourite, fuelled by celebrities who found the books to be meditative. The craze for colouring tools became so immense that, in March 2016, Faber Castell announced that it had to work overtime to meet the growing demand.
Research in 2005 proved anxiety levels dropped when subjects coloured mandalas, which are round frames with geometric patterns inside. It also showed that those participants who are more guarded find a lot of tranquillity in colouring an image. It feels safer, and it creates containment around their process.
Want to fill in some pages? Keep in mind, the process is more effective when colouring solo. Here are some colouring books to help you out.
1. Enchanted Forest: An Inky Adventure & Colouring Book by Johanna Basford
Features hidden objects, fun mazes, castles, treasure chests, and other magical elements
2. The Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-stress Art Therapy for Busy People by Emma Farrarons
A practical exercise in mindfulness that draws on your creativity and hones your focus
3. Dream Cities: Colouring For Mindfulness by Rosie Goodwin and Alice Chadwick
Create a fabulous world of imaginary cities.
4. Colour Me Good Eddie Redmayne by Mel Elliott
The actor Eddie Redmayne, who has appeared in films such as, My Week with Marilyn and The Theory of Everything, now available for you to scribble on.
5. Shakuntala and Her Magic Box by Subadra Kalyanaraman
A Madhubani themed colouring book for grown-ups with each page entirely hand-drawn
6. The Jaya Colouring book by Devdutt Pattanaik
Based on the author’s bestselling retelling of the Mahabharata.
You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Kommunity where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities. Join now.