Conscious Cat Sunday: Why Coloring Books Are Good For Your Mental Health

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Adult coloring books are winding up on bestseller lists around the world, and it turns out that coloring is more than just a fun way to pass the time. Studies show that the structured, rhythmic motion of coloring eases you into a meditative state, which allows you to push negative thoughts and worries out of your mind, and which induces a profound sense of relaxation. Coloring is also a great way to explore your creativity. Spending 15 minutes coloring an image can give you a sense of having accomplished something beautiful, and that can carry over into other parts of your life.

I’d been wanting to give coloring a try, so when Margaret Gates Root, the founder of the Feline Nutrition Foundation, sent me a copy of her first adult coloring book, Color Cats, I ordered a set of gel pens, and got to work. And I had a blast. (And so did Allegra and Ruby. Batting gel pens all over the place is great kitty entertainment!)

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Coloring brought back lovely childhood memories. I also enjoyed using a different aspect of my creative self. It was very apparent to me that coloring uses a different part of my brain than writing does. Even though writing usually comes fairly effortlessly to me, coloring seemed to just flow without me having to put any thought into it. I wanted to learn a little more about what the brain actually does when you’re coloring. What I came across in my research  made me even more excited about coloring.

Dr. Joel Pearson, a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, says that concentrating on coloring an image may help replace negative thoughts and images with positive ones. Studies have found that playing the computer game Tetris can help people with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder.) Pearson thinks that coloring might work in similar ways.  “You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color,” Pearson told Nine MSN. “It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well.”

Color Cats features 32 whimsical drawings. They are presented as single-sided images in landscape view, with the binding at the top of the images. This means they’re friendly for right or left-handed colorists, and there’s no binding to get in the way. You can view thumbnails of all 32 drawings or download sample pages at colorcats.org.

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You can see my first attempt at coloring above. Unfortunately, making one of the cats a tortie did not quite turn out the way I had intended. I blame the fact that my set of pens had no shades of brown in it, and blending the gel pens didn’t work too well. Then again, it could be that I just need a lot more practice – Ruby certainly seems to think so!

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Everyone’s a critic

Have you tried coloring? What has your experience been?

Color Cats is available from Amazon with free shipping for Prime members.

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23 Comments on Conscious Cat Sunday: Why Coloring Books Are Good For Your Mental Health

  1. Joanne
    December 21, 2015 at 8:18 pm (2 years ago)

    We began to color when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My mom and sisters would color while spending time together to help us during the difficult time. Thanks for sharing this Ingrid.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 22, 2015 at 6:50 am (2 years ago)

      I love the idea of both of you coloring together to help you cope, Joanne.

      Reply
  2. Debi
    December 20, 2015 at 11:49 pm (2 years ago)

    Recently bought some coloring books and pens to give my friend for her birthday. She loves them. May try it myself soon.

    Reply
  3. Melissa & Mudpie
    December 20, 2015 at 8:34 pm (2 years ago)

    I have this book and I love it! One of my New Year’s resolutions is to start coloring again…I loved it so much as a little girl!

    Reply
  4. Sally Bahner
    December 20, 2015 at 7:36 pm (2 years ago)

    I am an unabashed coloring addict. I started about 10 years ago — a friend turned me on and we even did a few classes together. Then I got away from it and when I returned earlier this year, the market had just exploded. I have many books, all different designs and themes, plus collections of pencils, markers, gel pens. The various Facebook groups have tons of members and offer lots of neat tips and downloads. The cats and coloring niche is huge too. I hope you don’t mind me posting a link to an article I wrote that mentions several cat-related coloring books. (I’ve also written several other articles about the adult coloring phenomenon.) https://exclusivelycats.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/cats-and-coloring-no-better-combination/
    I led a class for my local adult ed group this fall and will lead a couple of classes at my library this winter — such a great way to de-stress and relax!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 21, 2015 at 7:06 am (2 years ago)

      I guess I’m late to the party, Sally! I love that you’re teaching classes.

      Reply
  5. Nancy Dloughy
    December 20, 2015 at 7:09 pm (2 years ago)

    I love to color! I haven’t done it in a long time, though. I had a ton of coloring books and my Crayola crayons when I was a kid. I would love to get the coloring book and gel pens that you got, Ingrid. I need SOME way to relax and take my mind off of the bad things going on in my life. Coloring always relaxed me a LOT. I also like to use colored pencils and crayons, too. But they HAVE to be Crayola! When I was a kid, I used to use the crayon to outline the lines in the parts I was coloring. And then, I would lightly color in the interior. It always looked awesome! I don’t know if I described that right, but I hope you understand what I was trying to say! Coloring books rock!

    Reply
  6. Diana
    December 20, 2015 at 3:40 pm (2 years ago)

    I tried coloring but it hurt my hand too much. I’m on the computer all day at work so coloring not an option. But I love the adult coloring Apps in the App Store. This might be a viable option for those that don’t want to put a lot of stress on their hands.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 20, 2015 at 5:52 pm (2 years ago)

      I’ll have to check out some of those apps, Diana!

      Reply
      • Diana
        December 20, 2015 at 8:42 pm (2 years ago)

        Hi Ingrid,

        Two of my favorite free apps are Color Therapy-free Stress Relieving Coloring a Books for Adults and Adult Coloring Book. They both offer a lot of free updates with new pictures.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          December 21, 2015 at 7:04 am (2 years ago)

          Thanks, Diana!

          Reply
  7. Jeannie
    December 20, 2015 at 2:20 pm (2 years ago)

    I just got a couple and some colored pencils, I am looking forward to trying them out, they have some beautiful ones out there

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 20, 2015 at 5:53 pm (2 years ago)

      Let me know how you like it, Jeannie!

      Reply
  8. Sue Brandes
    December 20, 2015 at 9:08 am (2 years ago)

    I love coloring. I haven’t seen any adult coloring books yet.

    Reply
    • Diana
      December 21, 2015 at 5:51 am (2 years ago)

      Sue, I’ve seen them in the major bookstores and also craft stores like Michaels/ Joanne’s. Amazon Aldo has them. FYI.

      Reply
  9. Janine
    December 20, 2015 at 8:33 am (2 years ago)

    I recently discovered coloring again too. I have tried everything to clear my mind and relax and nothing has helped me in the past. But coloring did it. My mind goes blank, I feel calm and nothing else matters. My overactive brain thanks me.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 20, 2015 at 5:53 pm (2 years ago)

      It is amazing how well it works, isn’t it, Jasmine.

      Reply
  10. Stephanie B
    December 20, 2015 at 8:04 am (2 years ago)

    I have a dozen of the adult Coloring books. I love them and the designs in them. I have managed to do a few pages with my colored pencils, my preferred medium, and need to find more time to do more. Love your cat book. Want it.

    Reply
  11. Nancy Faulkner
    December 20, 2015 at 7:48 am (2 years ago)

    Just purchased the coloring book & pen set that Ingrid got. I remember spending time coloring. The hard part was selecting a color.

    I heard that adult coloring was good for you. Thought I give it a try.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 20, 2015 at 5:54 pm (2 years ago)

      Have fun, Nancy!

      Reply
  12. Diane Ricciardi Stewart
    December 20, 2015 at 7:23 am (2 years ago)

    I have always loved coloring — mainly using colored pencils. . . I added this (and a few others) to my wish list !! ♥♥♥

    Reply
  13. Lorri
    December 20, 2015 at 1:12 am (2 years ago)

    Coloring was a major source of therapy for me when my vestibular system was destroyed by gentamicin (I have no sense of balance anymore, that’s why I’m a wobbler). One of the strangest things I experienced was my eye-hand coordination became really bad, because my depth perception was out of whack — this is because the vestibular system also cancels out the small movements of your eyes when you breathe, when your heart beats, when you scratch somewhere, and when you walk.

    Coloring let me practice eye-hand coordination, and coloring optical illusions and mandalas helped me regain my depth perception and ability to focus. This was a sort of physical therapy I came up with on my own — when I told the Dizziness & Balance Center I was getting therapy through, they were intrigued and started trying it with other vestibular loss patients.

    I don’t know how anyone else felt about it, but I saw a vast improvement! I was able to focus on words again, so I could read again. I could watch TV again. It helped the oscillopsia (where your eyes and vision move with every move you make, and you can’t ignore it anymore because no vestibular system) and I believe made it so I could drive again.

    Coloring — it ain’t just for pre-schoolers anymore!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 20, 2015 at 7:38 am (2 years ago)

      What an amazing testament to the power of coloring, Lorri. Thank you for sharing!

      Reply

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