Can you really derive any health benefits from coloring books? I did a Google search and came up with the usual content marketing fare. You know it is content marketing, because most of these articles essentially sound the same; there is a distinct echo chamber effect. They all tout the same coloring books and the same list of claims, namely -
a. Coloring books bring about stress relief.
b. Coloring books help quiet your mind.
c. Coloring books improve focus.
d. Coloring books foster creativity.
e. Coloring books improve your social life.
Now I'm not knocking these – if you do find coloring books therapeutic, excellent! Keep right on coloring, and be sure to check out my books as well - but it seems to me that these benefits are hardly confined to coloring books. You could take any activity that you enjoy – knitting, sewing, drawing, painting, and so on – and make the very same claims. You could also take an activity that is not normally seen as 'fun' – washing dishes, sweeping the house, doing the laundry, or weeding the garden – and come up with a similar conclusion. Sometimes I do wonder if we are conditioned to believe that certain activities are relaxing while others are sheer drudgery. I mention this because I have, at times, caught myself enjoying doing the dishes, particularly when I'm not thinking what a punishment I'm enduring.
So, anyway, what it comes down to is that while coloring books are fun to color, if you derive anything else in addition, that is entirely due to your own personality and your willingness to be open to experience. So, it is not coloring books that bring the actual health benefits, but our own mind. It is our own thinking and the attitude we bring to the things and events in our life. What coloring books – and a sundry other activities – do is assist us to step back and focus on something other than the problems confronting us. This distraction - and particularly if it translates to the flow state of mind where you get so engrossed in the activity at hand that you don't notice the passing time - is what is good for mental well-being. Just buying a coloring book and filling it with all the colors of the rainbow and their variations is not going to relieve you of your troubles – if anyone makes this claim, they are trying to sell you snake oil.
Quite in contrast to the claims of health benefits, there are 'experts' who denigrate the burgeoning popularity of coloring books. They would never use coloring books in therapy, they say. They would caution against considering coloring books as therapeutic. They would refuse to call coloring a creative activity, because, as everyone knows, being already told so by the experts themselves, coloring within the lines is not creative; it is, in fact, conducive to stifling creativity.
It is akin to the difference between listening to music and actually playing music, one expert claimed.
I thought that was a very interesting thing to say, because, unless you are a composer playing strictly your own compositions, you – if you play – play music that other people created. In short, you are coloring in other people's lines. And nobody roars that it is an outrage and that you are stifling your creativity. No, they applaud your 'interpretation' (if they have a fine ear and if you are worthy of applause, that is).
My personal opinion is that 'experts' should not even be brought into the equation. Coloring is such a benign pastime, after all. If coloring books bring you joy and entertain you, be joyful and be entertained. If they help with self-contemplation and self-discovery, all the more better. Why do you need an expert to analyze the whole thing for you?
It's a sad reflection on current society (and I've no doubt that people in the past said the same thing about their societies) that we even need self-appointed gurus to develop our 'taste' for us. If a certain activity brings you delight – and it is not harming you or anyone else – continue doing it and ignore everybody that tells you that it is 'childish' or 'not creative'. Don't let them wring out your enthusiasm with their 'expertise'.
To rephrase a cliche, life is too short to be lived according to other people's perception of what constitutes proper adult behavior. For some of us, after all, proper adult behavior is minding our own business and not discouraging and belittling others needlessly.
And, as for 'not creative', alright, okay, even if by some measure it isn't, so what? Why does everything have to have a creative point? Or why does it need to be creative according to someone else's viewpoint?
Nobody, until the experts came along to say it wasn't so, appear to have claimed that coloring in coloring books was high art - although, I have seen such marvelous works by some very talented colorists on my Facebook Coloring Groups that it makes me wonder why can't we stop being snotty and stretch the definition of high art and include these?
In the first place though, it is strange to imply that something isn't worthwhile because it isn't high art. A lot of things aren't high art. Again, so what?
Sometimes self-expression is quite sufficient. And, ahem, healthy.
In parting, again, be sure to check out my coloring books.