Close your eyes and think back to the simple pleasures of childhood: a rainbow box of crayons on the table , beside it, a book of illustrations just waiting to be coloured in. Remember the intense concentration as you filled in the blank spaces with your favourite shades of yellow, red, purple, green and blue?
Now fast-forward to the present day, when high-tech gadgets and gizmos allow us to create sophisticated and brightly coloured designs with just a few mouse clicks. Such innovations should have consigned the humble crayon to the dustbin of history, so it’s amazing to learn that in the second decade of the 21st century one of the most popular hobbies is adult colouring.
It has become a global phenomenon, spreading to countries as diverse as Brazil and New Zealand. In fact the interest is so great that the world’s largest wooden pencil manufacturer, Faber-Castell, has been forced to increase shifts at its German factory in order to keep up with demand.
Printers and booksellers have also seen a stratospheric rise in the popularity of colouring books created for the adult market. Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom, Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden (now translated into 14 different languages) and Emma Farrarons’ The Mindfulness Colouring Book feature high on the UK’s bestseller lists.
Mindfulness, with its emphasis on being aware of the present moment, fits particularly well with this hobby because colouring is essentially a repetitive, undemanding activity that can be used to focus the mind. Colourists claim that their hobby can lead to a calmer, almost meditative frame of mind and this view is supported by clinical psychologist Dr David Holmes: “With our workaholic culture, we spend most of our lives in ‘beta mode’, which is when we’re alert, problem-solving, decision-making. By actively altering the preponderance of certain brain patterns, you can shift into ‘alpha mode’, which is more like the state of mind we have as children. Meditation and similar techniques require learning and practice, whereas anyone can just drop into colouring-in.”
Colouring may seem like a solitary pastime but it can also become a social activity: in recent years colouring clubs and parties have proved popular, particularly in America and France. The Ladies Coloring Club is a Facebook Group based in the US which links to groups around the world. Alternatively you could start your own group like 38-year-old Suzanne Parsonage from Bristol, who launched a colourists group from her local pub. Many local libraries also host adult colouring sessions.
If you are eager to try colouring for yourself but don’t want to invest in a book of illustrations just yet, go online and download some free printable pages. You’ll find some great library printables at www.pinterest.com that will help you decide whether adult colouring is for you. If you are feeling that this hobby is a little too childish, you’ll be relieved to hear that a recent article in Director magazine identified a growing trend amongst business leaders who have taken up colouring in order to alleviate stress.
So grab a box of crayons or felt-tips and make a start. It seems there’s every reason to add a little colour to your everyday life – and all you need to worry about is keeping within the lines!
By Kate McLelland