I am rarely ahead of the curve on anything. I still haven’t watched a single episode of Mad Men, I have no clue why Orange Is The New Black, and the only Housewives I know are my friends who are stay-at-home moms.
So, when I started seeing all the posts on social media over the last year about the benefits of coloring as meditation, I smiled quietly inside as I heard a voice in my head say, “yup,” while my wanna-be hipster started jumping up and down like a cheerleader.
Coloring as meditation is something I have been doing for many years. I even offered it as a component of a self-care fair during graduate school. (I even got our Dean to color a mandala!) I offered it because I knew of its benefits. I suggested it because I know it as a path to self-care and inner calm. I know these things, not because of a research study, but because I had been practicing this kind of meditation and self-care for a while, and it was one of the strongest, most-beloved tools in my toolbox. But, I’ll bet you’d be surprised to learn where I originally got the idea.
Years ago – I really don’t remember when, though I imagine somebody could look it up – I watched The Osbournes on TV. It was a favorite pastime for my ex-husband and I to see what Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly and Jack were up to. The episodes always proved entertaining. I loved it. Unlike today when I barely turn the TV on, back then I had my favorite shows, and The Osbournes was one of them.
Much to my surprise, on one episode in particular I watched Ozzy pick up some marvelous looking markers from his kitchen counter and promptly sit down at a bar stool to do what looked like coloring. My brain said this, possibly out loud:
Ozzy Osbourne is sitting in his kitchen, coloring. Ozzy. Osbourne.
Perhaps he was doing original art, the camera never showed us. For me, I saw markers which meant Ozzy was coloring. And as he was coloring, I watched his whole body look calm and peaceful, even as the mayhem swirled in the kitchen around him. In that moment, I remember thinking to myself,
“God, I miss coloring!”
That sentiment was immediately followed by,
“That looks so awesome – to just sit and color.”
Soon after that episode aired I found some markers in a drawer and decided to start doodling. I enjoyed feeling the markers in my hand, watching the surge of color pour onto the page, and seeing the simple little doodles come to life in front of me. It was fun! More than fun, though, it felt good.
At the time, I didn’t explain it as something “healthy,” “meditative” or “peaceful.” Coloring was something to do that felt more productive than just watching TV. In fact, I often did it in front of the TV, which actually allowed me to slowly give up almost all TV in general. Coloring wasn’t an escape though (TV was the escape). Coloring was me moving TOWARD something… toward something fabulous, calming, and expressive. Coloring was a way for me to get in touch with myself again. What started out as a passive hobby soon became a deliberate choice.
A little while later, I found one of my old coloring books from when I was in elementary school or maybe high school. It was barely used, but it was intricate and detailed. It was what I now call an “adult coloring book.” Unfortunately, sometimes the word “adult” has a very different connotation, but there were very few other ways I could think of to explain myself. So, “adult coloring book” it was, and I started searching them out in crafts stores and online. (Thankfully both Google and Amazon understood what I meant!)
Back when I first started coloring, there were very few books available, but there were some. Not as many as today of course, but enough. I found two main resources for coloring books on Amazon and became a loyal customer. I started to build a collection.
I would spend hours each week, calmly sitting in a chair with my markers, coloring. I also started creating art for other people in my life to share my passion and creativity. I colored and colored, and colored some more. My collection grew, and I found myself with so many options, across so many areas of interest, that I started cataloging my work. I then went shopping for even better markers. I started playing with shading and backgrounds. I found my inner artist come to life through coloring. More importantly, I found great peace and a sense of calm as I sat and quietly filled in the empty space between the lines with deep rich color.
It wasn’t long before I started creating my own designs, mandalas, specifically, that I could color. My coloring had become more than a refuge, it was an outlet, and I loved it. I colored straight through my divorce and graduate school. It provided me with a sense of joy, creativity, and calm whenever I took my markers out. Coloring was good for me. More importantly, coloring was fun.
I could never have known so many years ago that coloring would become what it has today. I only knew that it helped me find peace, quiet, and joy at the end of my busy days. I shared it with those that were interested, and kept seeking out new coloring books that sparked my curiosity.
Today, I use coloring very deliberately, and I have clients who do the same (sometimes it’s their homework!). Recently when I noticed my stress levels had gotten unmanageably high, I pulled out my markers, sat down in a comfy chair, and I colored. Within three days of doing this repeatedly, my sleep improved and my mood lifted.
If you haven’t tried coloring yet – may I suggest you take a page out of Ozzy Osbourne’s book and find a little time in your day for this wonderful creative outlet. It just might bring you calm in the midst of chaos. At the very least, you’ll get to feel like a kid again, and there’s nothing wrong with that.