As one of the most universal pastimes from childhood, coloring was once reserved for classrooms, after school groups and busy-work for high-energy preschoolers. But now, the trend of adult coloring books have opened up the pages to an additional generation of artists. Available in every type of book, theme, and design, carving out even five minutes of your day to do nothing by stay-within-the-lines has numerous benefits for your happiness, mental state, and overall health. If you’re still rolling your eyes at the idea (we feel ya), consider these advantages you may gain simply by re-introducing yourself to crayons:

They give you a much-needed moment of calm

Between the demands of our jobs, our responsibilities at home and that precious time we have to ourselves, many professionals feel overworked and exhausted. It’s easy to run from one task to another, without taking a second to collect your thoughts, think or even breathe. When you implement a coloring book practice into your schedule, color and energy expert Linda Lauren says it can serve as a form of meditation, providing a much-needed sense of calm. Through her practice, she’s seen 180-degree turn arounds with busy folks when they created a ritual of coloring. “More and more people discovered that coloring in these books was a form of self-therapy and helped them to deal with the anxiety of a highly changing technical world,” she shares. “Coloring becomes a form of escapism, not to mention, it’s fun.” 

They help manage stress

The best advice for managing stress usually feels counterproductive to how we’re feeling. After all, when you feel like you have a million items to complete, taking a break doesn’t seem to make sense, right? Wrong, according to career coach and journaling instructor, Cheryl Lynch Simpson. In fact, a study in Art Therapy, the journal of the Art Therapy Association, indicates that coloring geometric patterns (think: mandalas) can help lower stress and anxiety levels. In her experience, Simpson says her students find relief quickly as they slow down and breathe deeper. “Coloring, especially that involving visual patterns, is repetitive by nature which helps distract us from our worries. Coloring is also tapping into our creative abilities, though at a different intensity level than other creative activities,” she explains. To test it, count your heart rates per minute before you start to color, and then again after you finish. You’ll be surprised by how much calmer you feel. 

They stimulate the right side of our brains.

Depending on your industry, you use one side of your brain over the other. However, figuring out to engage both sides frequently will make you more productive and a more efficient professional, according to psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva, M.D. When we color, we put our creative right side into overdrive, giving the logical left side a cool down. Then, when we return to the next task, both areas are signaling and working in cohesion. “When a person stimulates parts of the brain that are involved with creativity, the brain begins to make connections from one side to the next,” she explains. “The more the right side of the brain is utilized, such as when one takes breaks and colors, the more the left side will recruit parts of the right side to help problem solve, be more analytical, and develop new ideas.”

They enhance communication

Sure, it would probably be difficult to focus on mixing the right shade of blue and green for your ocean while also having a complicated, heated conference call. But, any time you spend focusing on the task at hand, you’re giving your mind a hiatus from its chaotic state. Especially if you’re having trouble communicating to a colleague, a loved one or even your manager, try coloring for a half-hour so you can step away from the issue and discover a solution. “When we meditate we learn to respond to people and situations, which is with reason; rather than react to them, which is with emotion. That can allow for a clearer understanding of how we are communicating with others,” Lauren shares.

They provide an outlet for emotional expression.

Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed, frustrated, disappointed or flat-out sad, it can be tricky to put those emotions into words. By coloring, you give yourself — and your mind — an additional outlet to express and release what’s weighing you down. As Simpson explains, translating this grief through color can be a way to process your thoughts and understand your feelings. “Hold a person, situation, problem, or conflict in mind when attempting to do this and making color selections based on which you feel evoke the feeling you want to express,” she recommends. 

They force us to disconnect

Fess up: now that you’ve *almost* finished this article, how many times have you checked your phone? Opened a new tab on your laptop? Responded to a text? With connection at our fingertips 24/7, distraction isn’t merely a possibility, it’s a constant. That’s why coloring can give tech-addicted professionals a chance to put the screen down and tune-in to a different scene. As chef, nutritionist and master reiki healer, Serena Poon recommends the break as a way to lower stress, sure, but also to make us more successful. “Research has shown that detaching mentally from work can aid in overall productivity and well-being. I truly believe that mindfulness practice could benefit everyone in their personal and professional lives,” she continues.”Taking up the practice of coloring in an adult coloring book is just one way to add stress relief and focus on your day-to-day.”

Originally published on Ladders.

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