Unlid those felt tips pens and get out those pencils, as it seems that reliving your childhood through coloring-in books might be good for your mental health. A new study from the University of Otago in New Zealand has found that coloring books can decrease levels of depressive symptoms and anxiety.
Inspired by coloring books’ recent rise in popularity, the study was led by Dr Jayde Flett, and involved 115 women aged 18-36. Some participants were given books to color in for at least 10 minutes a day for a week, whilst others were given puzzle books to fill out.
The researchers found that those who spent time coloring reported lower levels of depression and anxiety after a week than those who did puzzles.
Flett told the New Zealand Herald that further research needs to take place to work out what makes tasks like coloring so beneficial. “It is often suggested that coloring-in induces a mindful or meditative state and is linked to reduced activity in the amygdala or changes in brain-wave activity,” she said.
“But we showed that mindful activity wasn’t the driving factor of change because people who did the puzzles also became more mindful.”
Co-author Dr Tamlin Conner shared that the findings are important for understanding the psychological benefits of coloring. She said that it could be considered an everyday act of creative expression, like cooking or gardening.
“With its low risk and accessibility, we feel comfortable adding coloring-in to the growing list of creative activities for improving mental health outcomes,” she said.
In fact, a similar study conducted in 2012 showed that coloring in mandalas (complex circular designs) can reduce anxiety levels more than coloring in plaid designs or blank sheets.
So, it’s definitely worth getting a new coloring book from your local stationary store, but make sure you flip through the pages to ensure that it includes some circular mandala designs.