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Do coloring books for adults decrease stress?

Coloring books for adults are sweeping the nation as the latest stress management technique. If you haven't picked up colored pencils or crayons since childhood, now is a great time to start.

5 reasons to start coloring

1. It's de-stressing. "Coloring can be beneficial for adults because it has a de-stressing effect," says Susan Gordon, LMSW, manager of Piedmont Sixty Plus. "The act of coloring requires repetition and attention to detail, so you are able to focus on the activity, rather than your worries."

As you relax, your brain lowers activity in the amygdala, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight stress response that can lead to inflammation.

It also helps you feel like a kid again.

"Coloring brings out our imaginations and helps us recall childhood. For a lot of people, we had less stress as children than we do now," says Gordon.  

2. Coloring boosts your brain power. "Psychologists say coloring activates different parts of the brain's cerebral hemispheres," she says. "It activates our logic as we color forms and shapes, as well as our creativity when we are mixing and matching colors." Coloring also activates areas of the brain that are responsible for vision and fine motor skills.

3. Anyone can do it. You don't have to be artistic to reap coloring's benefits. "Personally, I get stressed that I'm not creative enough," says Gordon. "Coloring takes the pressure off. The lines are already there, so you really can't mess up. Relax, lean into it and don't worry about it being pretty or creative enough. With coloring, there is no right or wrong." 

4. It helps you unplug. The great thing about coloring books? No technology is necessary, giving you a break from the smartphone and computer.

5. It's inexpensive. Coloring books range from $5 to $15, and a pack of crayons or colored pencils will only set you back about $3.

Coloring vs. art therapy

One thing to note: While coloring is relaxing, experts say it is not technically art therapy. Study after study indicates art therapy can reduce physical and emotional distress associated with many diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cancer.

"Coloring books can be a complement to art therapy, but they aren't a replacement," says Gordon.

For more relaxation techniques and stress management tips, click here

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