Color Me Happy: The Science Behind Adult Coloring Books

Eleni Spanolios

Adult coloring books have been infiltrating the market for a little over a year now. What began as a niche hobby has skyrocketed into a global trend, and this trend is not losing speed. Book and craft stores alike continue to boast large collections of “adult coloring books” with claims that filling in the images will fill you with relaxation.

Adult Coloring Books, Colored PencilsAdult coloring books are the latest trend to aid in relaxation. Image from Pixabay.

Art therapy is the use of the arts (music, drama, writing, painting, drawing, ect.) to relieve stress and reduce its symptoms for those patients that are suffering, and it usually depends on working with a certain medium. A 2006 survey published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that only one hour of art therapy contributed significantly in reducing seven of eight symptoms measured by the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS). Art therapy is proven to work and is incorporated into many holistic healing plans, but not everyone considers themselves artistic. When asked to do something that requires this skill, an individual can feel stressed and disappointed about the final result. However, coloring acts as a simpler version of art therapy. The drawings are pre-made and the needed tools are easily acquired. There is no right or wrong method nor a very large chance for error. Everyone can do it! Not to mention the beautiful end result every time. So why does smudging color onto a page help us relax?

Many have likened the act of coloring to that of meditation. During the activity, the brain is forced to think solely on the task at hand. By simplifying the train of thought, the mind relaxes. According to Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist and coloring book creator, with less on the mind we are better able to concentrate and feel at ease in our surroundings. In his studies, changes in heart rate and brainwave structure were observed. Another explanation is offered by Dr. Joel Pearson, who believes that the attained mindset is due to the colors and images themselves. He says that the mind is so focused on the colors and happy images that they replace the negative thoughts in our mind.

No matter the reason, the health benefits from coloring are immense, and it should be seen as a dignified activity that any adult, or four-year-old, can enjoy.

Dovey, D. (2015). The Therapeutic Science Of Adult Coloring Books. Retrieved July 22, 2016, from

Edited by: Arselyne Chery and Naomi D’Arbell