Contemplative Coloring

Jim Shore Angel Coloring BookStep into any bookstore or craft store and chances are good you’ll see a display of coloring books for adults. Coloring designs like mandalas or zendoodles is popular and you can also get books with butterflies and flowers to color. Popular culture isn’t neglected; there are books based on Disney movies, as well as Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. Jim Shore, popular creator of folk art such as his Heartwood Creek Collection of angel figurines, even has an adult coloring book called Jim Shore Angel Coloring Book. So what’s behind the popularity of these adult coloring books?

Titles like The Calm Coloring Book and Color Me Stress Free emphasize the findings of studies that tie coloring to the reduction of anxiety and stress. In an article for The Huffington Post, Elena Santos writes that “The practice generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity.” Psychologist Carl Jung used coloring mandalas as a relaxation technique in the early 20th century, Santos notes, and adds that “coloring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries.” It also takes us back to our childhood, when most of us had less stress. Psychologist Antoni  Martínez is quoted by Santos as stating that coloring allows us to enter “a more creative, freer state,” and connects us “with how we feel, since depending on our mood we choose different colors or intensity.”

Christian publishers have noted the popularity of adult coloring books and are now marketing some specifically for Christians. There is even a Bible called the Inspire Bible, which has space for creative journaling as well as 400 line-art illustrations. Coloring is used like other spiritual practices to help Christians meditate and focus on God. Sybil MacBeth, author of Praying in Color, which used doodling as a method of prayer, has a new book called Pray and Color which includes not only 32 pages to color but also an introduction to fourteen types of prayer.

It’s easy to get started on contemplative coloring. Buy yourself an adult coloring book or search online for free coloring pages. You can Google “adult Christian coloring pages” or “mandalas to color” to get started. After that, it’s just a matter of making the decision: colored pencils, markers, or crayons?

-Debbie Kolacki

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