Coloring books are often associated exclusively with children, as something to give them to keep them busy and quiet. But in 2015, adult coloring books became the trend in the publishing world. While some declare adult coloring books a dead fad, others argue that the market simply shifted to Amazon or independent publishers. This is important to note, because the trend led to interest, leading to studies to explore the potential benefits of adult coloring books. After years of studies, the findings have made a strong argument for adding a few of these coloring books to your collection.

If you’ve been wanting to break out the colored pencils, what are these health benefits of adult coloring books?

Helps Promote Mindfulness and Fight Anxiety

One reason why adult coloring books are great for seniors is because they promote mindfulness. We’ve previously discussed how mindfulness can be extremely healthy for you, especially if you’re stressed or anxious. Mindfulness has been found to lessen stress, lower your blood pressure, and may even improve your immune system. A type of mindfulness that coloring books are particularly prone to induce is called flow.

Coloring books promote being “in the flow,” when you can lose yourself in an activity.

Being “in the flow” is exactly what you’d expect it to mean — when you’re so absorbed in an activity or event that everything outside that moment ceases to exist. It’s when you get lost in a hobby and suddenly, two hours have passed. Flow can be effective at promoting positive feelings while eliminating attention on negative outside stressors.

Outside of mindfulness, adult coloring books have been found to be effective stress- and anxiety-fighting hobbies. One study from 2005 — ten years before the trend even began — found that participants who colored mandalas reported drastically lowered levels of anxiety, compared to participants who colored on blank pieces of paper. This result led the researchers to conclude that structured coloring of geometric patterns may be more beneficial than unstructured coloring. Other studies found similar results, declaring that coloring can be an “effective, inexpensive, and highly accessible” way to combat depressive symptoms and anxiety.

Keeps Your Mind and Motor Skills Sharp

While fighting anxiety is certainly the biggest, and most publicized, benefit of coloring books for adults, it’s by no means the only one. The potential benefits for your mental strength and physical dexterity also should be noted.

As we’ve noted in the past, our brains work on something of a use-it-or-lose-it-basis. To keep our minds strong as we age, we have to engage them. Coloring books are a great way to do this while having fun. The hobby trains our minds to focus and engages parts of our brain that otherwise may not be engaged. Creating art has even been shown to slow cognitive decline.

Coloring books are a great way to stay mentally sharp while having fun.

These other sections of our brains that are engaged also are key for our fine motor skills and vision. By using these sections of the brain in a problem-solving manner (e.g., choosing colors, where to draw, etc.), coloring can help improve coordination.

Encourages Self-Expression

Finally, coloring books allow you to make art in a controlled manner that still encourages artistic expression and self-expression. Since you’re guided and focused on the coloring the image in front of you, adult coloring books are a way to benefit from art and express your inner artist, even if you’re not particularly skilled. They can be less intimidating than free-hand drawing and coloring. This allows even beginners to start gaining the advantages of creating art. At the same time, seniors can benefit because art, art classes, and organized coloring can promote self-esteem and combat isolation, even in non-verbal seniors.

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With adult coloring books, you have some creative control, but not too much, which can limit stress. It’s also low stakes, removing any stress that may come from worrying about messing up. At the same time, coloring can keep your mind calm and focused and strengthen your mental and physical dexterity. All together, these factors make adult coloring books an incredibly affordable, feasible, fun, and healthy hobby for seniors!