Mindfulness, Personal Growth

Art Therapy: What You Should Know About Mindful Coloring and How to Stop Feeling Stressed

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Drawing? Not me. Is probably what most of us think right away when asked to sit down and color something.

But every day of our lives we are confronted with new stress-inducing situations and experiences. Stress at work, stress at home, stress caused by the media, stress caused by other people, stress caused by traffic. It seems to be a never-ending cycle. And more and more people try to find ways to ease the tension, and relieve themselves of anxiety and stress. This is where mindful coloring comes into play.

Related Post: Stress Management: 6 Effective Coping Techniques to Reduce Stress

Before we dive into two of my favorite techniques though, I’d like to get into where mindful coloring stems from and why it has such meditative features:

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The Healing Effects of Art

Art has been a means of communication, self-expression, and conflict resolution for decades and centuries. Cultures all around the world have been known to have incorporated various forms of art into their daily routines and religions. Be it as sacred paintings or symbols or in other healing processes, art has always been a well-established medium to unearth feelings and thoughts that have been repressed.

What is Art Therapy and How does it Work?

Art Therapy relies heavily on creative techniques such as drawing, painting, coloring, or sculpting to help people express themselves. It involves most of our five senses in order to help us develop a better sense of self-awareness and address unresolved emotional and psychological issues.

It is the art therapist’s job to examine those psychological and emotional influences in order to decode the messages, symbols, and metaphors expressed by the patient.

The belief is that through the connections between creative choices and the emotional inner life of a person, self-expression through artistic behavior has great therapeutic value. Thoughts and emotions turn into images that are brought forward, from the inside of a person’s mind, and can be reframed and reorganized to gain better personal insight.

No artistic skill is necessary to participate in art therapy. It is more about freely expressing your inner life in order to support growth and healing. Art therapy essentially focuses on visualizing what is going on inside your heart with the ultimate goal of enabling humans to better adapt to their environment.

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How Art Therapy Affects the Brain?

Coloring and art in general engage brain networks that enhance the way we process information and develop new neural connections. It is through the increased excitation of those particular brain areas that effective neural pathways can be created.

Our brain’s structure changes through illness. But because of our brain’s neuroplasticity we can rewire our brain and recover certain functions that have been lost in the process of mental illness with proper therapy and rehabilitation. And so art therapy is an important contributor in changing our brain’s physiology.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Art Therapy fulfills a variety of health benefits that are especially helpful for restoring emotional and mental wellbeing:

  • reduces stress
  • improves self-esteem
  • explores emotions and feelings
  • enables positive coping mechanisms
  • improves focus
  • reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • enhances mindfulness
  • increases positive emotions
  • improves communication and concentration
  • reduces feelings of isolation

Mindfulness and Art Therapy

Mindfulness and art therapy are closely connected to one another. Studies have shown that art, especially mindfulness art therapy, can support a relaxed mindset. Through the repetition, the patterns and the details positive neurological responses are set off that can create a meditative state of mind.

Studies have revealed how mandala and geometric patterns in particular reduce stress and anxiety. A relaxed brain means lowered activity in our amygdala, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight responses (meaning stress triggers). In turn, it also activated areas of our brain that support creativity. And this is the same process that can be achieved by meditating.

Moreover, coloring requires focus and attention to details that brings us into the present moment. By doing so, we turn our attention away from ourselves and relieve ourselves of our worries.

A study from 2006 has shown that mindfulness art therapy with a group of women diagnosed with cancer has significantly lessened the symptoms of physical and emotional turmoil cancer treatment has put them through.

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How can you practice mindful coloring in a modified form of mindfulness art therapy at home?

Obviously, doing mindful coloring at home does not mean you can treat yourself. Art therapy in its essence still requires the presence of a skilled and educated therapist. And if you have serious troubles or feel like you need professional support, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional.

The following mindful coloring exercises are only supposed to give you an idea of how you can indulge in the healing powers of art based on mindfulness practice.

Adult Coloring Books

Adult Coloring Books are the latest hype when it comes to connecting mindful exercises with art. But why?

First of all, adult coloring books combine elements of meditation and art therapy. Intricate designs, various themes, and a huge amount of detail activate those neural processes of repetition and patterns that I have been talking about above. Those features give adult coloring its meditative feature.

The brain relaxes, and in turn, by focusing on details you bring yourself into the present moment.

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Secondly, we unplug from the digital world. We give ourselves permission to do a short digital detox. Which is also part of why adult coloring books enhance creativity and encourage positive thoughts. We don’t stress about being available 24/7. We just switch off all other thoughts and find tranquility in the form of an image.

Another major pro is the fact, that mindful coloring is a portable hobby. You can literally take it wherever you go. Are you on your morning commute to work? Or are you waiting for an appointment at the doctor’s office? Bring your coloring book and pencils and take a couple of minutes to relax. It’ll be worth it. 🙂

Related Post: How to Have a Mindful Morning Commute and Reduce Stress

A Portable and Mindful Hobby You Can Take Everywhere

I, for example, like to take a coloring book with me when I need to study or when I need to be productive. Taking breaks in between heavily focused sessions is important to not stress out. I use the pomodoro technique and in between productivity sessions, I take out my coloring book and fill the break by doing something completely different, which is mindful coloring. I can relax and switch of my mind for a couple of minutes. It also helps me to stay focused afterwards.

Related Post: Productivity: 7 Tips on How to Overcome Mental Blocks


You can easily acquire an adult coloring book these days, for example through Amazon. They offer a variety of different themes and designs, where everyone can find what inspires them the most to take out those coloring pencils. 🙂

Buy on Amazon

These days you can even get a travel case for your coloring pencils, so you can always take them with you. This Colored Pencil Travel Case Set makes adult coloring a much easier portable hobby. You will never have to think about where to put all the equipment again because you have everything in handy in a neat travel case. Combine it with this neat and awesome set of 72 premium colored pencils, and you will have everything you need to get started.

Buy on Amazon

Reactive Drawing

Reactive Drawing, sometimes called Sketchnoting or Graphic Recording, is not some complicated art form, but a simply mindful coloring method to express thoughts, feelings, and dreams with shapes and colors.

It serves as a reaction to what we feel and experience in order to understand the world and get to know ourselves better. Images can be created without much effort. This method is simply about turning feelings into images. This technique is particularly helpful for those who have lost touch with their emotions. And through this creative work you can find a connection with yourself again. Lots of times reactive drawing can be easier than using speech.

Images can be as simple as drawing a smiling emoji or a sun in order to express joy, or a couple of blue ocean waves to remember that beautiful day at the beach that made you happy. There are no rules. No right or wrong.

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5 tips to get started with reactive drawing:

1 – Observe

Observe what you can see in your environment? What forms and shapes are most prevalent? What colors inspires you? Where can you see other objects that have been drawn by others? How does your hand look in different positions?

2 – No Expectations

Make it clear to yourself: This exercise is not about competing, winning, or achieving a certain goal. This is about expressing yourself and enjoying it!

3 – Try out Different Materials

Use different paper or pencils to find out how different your self-expression can be if you just change one little thing about your equipment. You can also find out which materials you like to use the most, which are easiest to handle for you, and which bring you the most fun.


4 – Incorporate Words and Symbols

Sometimes it can be difficult to draw a certain concept. Just add a word and an arrow and it immediately becomes clear what you wanted to say. For example, if you’re feeling upset about someone who cut you off in the parking lot and bumped into your car in the process, express it by drawing a car and adding the word ‘crash’ ind big letters.

5 – Search for Images in Google

You are allowed to cheat. 🙂 You are even allowed to copy from those thousands and thousands of symbols and motifs you can find online. After all, this is just for you. for your notebook or diary. It is the expression of your inner life and that can take the form of many shapes, forms, and colors.

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All in all, art and its therapeutic value are all about discovering the stories behind other stories. Drawing and Mindful Coloring are the most personal and meditative methods of dealing with the world. Images have always been the very source of people’s communication. We as humans think in pictures and images. And we need those moments of having an oasis of images where we can relax and unwind. And most of all, art is authentic. It expresses our innermost unique feelings.

So, go and take out your coloring book and pencils and get started! Children already do it without thinking much about it. After all, we were once children, too. Open up to the images of your soul and let your heart speak through mindful coloring. 🙂


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