As George Bernard Shaw once said: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Secret Garden, a book by Johanna Basford, has sold more than 1.4m copies and hit the top of Amazon’s bestseller list this month. What is it? Ninety-six pages of black-and-white drawings of flowers, leaves, trees and birds, and its USP is that it’s a colouring book for grown-ups. And it is not the only one of its kind.
Furthermore, it has been reported in the New York Times that in Australia there is even a group for adults to meet up to colour in together, like a knitting circle.
I like the sound of these colouring-in circles because they are not even pretending to do anything useful; people just meet up to play noncompetitively, and for once there isn’t a screen involved. It doesn’t really matter what you bond over; it’s the bonding that is important. Colouring in is not a passive act: you need to make creative decisions about which colours to choose and, while you concentrate on not going over the lines, other parts of your mind may be freed up in ways that allow you to become more creative.
Letting the mind wander from whatever it is you are colouring in is a form of play. Young children often learn best when they are playing, so why shouldn’t we apply that principle to adults too?
As adults we can be in danger of forgetting how to play. Play is crucial at all stages of life; it can be used to practise spontaneity and to relieve stress. It helps to maintain our brain function, whether through solving the problems involved with colouring in, or the social interaction of a board game. Play also stimulates the imagination, helping us to stay flexible and develops a playful state of mind that is useful when coping with stressful situations, such as breaking the ice with strangers.
But if you still aren’t convinced that colouring in might be good for you, claims have been made that it can be a tool to help meditation. Mandala Coloring Meditation is a website that offers you free mandalas to colour in. A mandala is apparently a “sacred circle of light and energy” that can help to centre you and “heal your mind, body and spirit”. I’m not very comfortable with that type of non-specific language but it might be that we get some of the benefits that meditation has been proven to give us through colouring in these intricate circular patterns, or indeed, any image that we are drawn to.
A study was undertaken in 2009 to see if subjects retained more from a list of random names being read aloud if they doodled at the same time. The researchers had suspected doodling might help the brain to remain active by engaging its “default networks” – these are regions that maintain a low level of activity in the cerebral cortex when outside stimuli are absent. In a surprise quiz given later, subjects who doodled while listening to the list remembered 29% more of the names than those who didn’t doodle. And the doodling they were doing? They were shading printed shapes – in other words, colouring in.
Pass the Crayola…
Curated from www.theguardian.com