How to Use Colouring as a Therapeutic Crafting Practice
I first started using crafting as a form of therapeutic relief and as a stress management technique about 6 years ago, around the time that Adult Colouring Books were becoming a big trend.
I had been crafting well before this point but merely for pleasure, and all I needed to know were a few key principles to help me turn something that I already enjoyed into a daily therapeutic practice.
It all started with a Christmas gift from my Gramma. She is one of the people who introduced me to crafting in the first place, and so she knew how much I enjoyed it. She also knew at the time that I was struggling to balance school with my competitive dance schedule and it was causing me a lot of stress and anxiety. So, she gave me a mandala colouring book and a big box of sharpie markers.
Inside this specific colouring book was a guide on how to use colouring to relieve stress and anxiety. I can’t remember what the book was called or who wrote it (if I find it, I will link it here), but I do remember what it taught me.
In this post, I’m going to share with you the principles from that book as well as the lessons I’ve learned from my own research and years of using colouring as a therapeutic practice.
Colour what you need at that moment.
This seems a little silly but one way to make use of colouring as a therapeutic practice is to pick a colouring sheet that you are drawn to in that moment.
You will naturally be drawn to specific images based on your interests. For example, I love animals and geometric patterns so my colouring sheets are mostly made up of geometric animals arranged in some sort of repeating pattern. Many people will also be drawn to these types of images, but others won’t and that’s okay. The key is to have many different options of colouring sheets in whatever style you are typically drawn too. Then, when you are sitting down to colour you can flip through your collection of options and select the colouring sheet you are most drawn too in that specific moment.
As humans, we attach a conscious or unconscious symbolism to specific images. The emotions and the meanings we attach to images are specific to our experiences. This is why art elicits a different emotion for each person that looks at it. Often times you will pick a colouring sheet that elicits an emotion you are currently feeling or that elicits an emotion you want to feel.
To get the most out of this practice, ask yourself why you are drawn to the image you chose. If you are feeling angry and frustrated, you may choose an image that has harsh lines and dramatic imagery. If you are feeling anxious you may choose an image with highly ordered patterns that have a calming effect.
Choose colours that you are drawn to at that moment.
Another thing to pay attention to is that colours that you are using. Allow yourself to pick the colours that are calling you at that moment because just like images we have internal meanings and emotions associated with colours.
So when you are colouring pay attention to the colours you choose and ask yourself what that says about your emotions in the present moment.
Eliminate distractions and be in the moment.
Colouring while watching Netflix is enjoyable but if you want to take your colouring practice to the next level. Then turn off the TV, get rid of any other distractions, and focus solely on colouring.
Without the added distractions you will soon find yourself in a sort of trance, guided by the rhythms of your movement. This is important because it means that you have activated the relaxation centre of the brain which triggers the breakdown of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body and effectively eliminates the physiological symptoms of stress and anxiety.
It will leave you feeling calm and relaxed well after you have stopped colouring.
Make it a regular practice.
Colouring is a form of mediation referred to as ‘active meditation.’ If you have ever struggled with traditional breathwork focused meditation, then this is perfect for you because it is a fairly easy state to reach and it provides a lot of the same benefits. However, just like you would with traditional mediation, practice makes perfect and the more you do it the more effective it becomes for you.
You can also mix in a little breathwork while colouring to make the practice even more effective.
Additionally, as we explored in Principle 1-3 by actively taking note of the images, colours and techniques you are drawn too you learn about yourself and your emotions so making it a regular practice allows you to gain an even deeper understanding of yourself and your emotions.
These are just a few of the things that I have learned/discovered about using colouring as a therapeutic practice to manage my stress and anxiety. Yes, colouring has some inherent benefits no matter how you do it but by keeping these few principles in mind you will find that your colouring practice is much more effective.
With all this mind, I have specifically designed PDF colouring to help you calm your anxieties. You can check them out here.