It is a relaxing Sunday morning. My husband and I drink coffee together, my kids sleep in, and later I decide to read the Sunday paper. After looking through the usual coupons and sale papers, I grab Parade magazine. Usually, I just scan the magazine, but today a particular article grabbed my attention called, “The New Joy of Coloring”. The premise of the article was how coloring books can reduce stress for middle aged adults. Immediately my wheels begin to turn, but they are interrupted by my four year old grandson who is ready for breakfast.
Later that morning, we decide take the grandson to Denny’s for pancakes. When the waitress brought our menus, she gave our grandson a coloring book and crayons. Immediately, he went from playful banter to intense drawing and coloring. Before I knew it, my husband starting coloring with him and they went to their own happy place. Watching them color, my mind went back to the article and how this could be something helpful to use with my students!
After I arrived back home, I began to search for school counselors who use coloring books with teens. Frankly, there was nothing; however, I did find a lot of information from elementary school counselors and private therapists who use coloring books frequently. Here are some examples:
The Helpful Counselor – Free coloring book pages for elementary kids.
Andrea Burston – Livebinder of coloring pages for elementary counselors.
Career & Technical Coloring Pages – Coloring pages on community helpers and careers for elementary & middle school students.
School Counseling Files – Ideas to use in a girls’ group.
Counselor Toolbox for the Classroom – Ideas to use in the elementary classroom.
100 Art Therapy Exercises -Ideas for therapist.
Since there was little information about high school counselors, I decided to conduct my own research on how coloring can be helpful on reducing stress for teens.
How Can Coloring Reduce Stress?
According to psychologist, Dr. Alice Domar, coloring engages both sides of the brain and offers complete absorption in the activity. The ability to concentrate on one task allows the person to take his or her mind off everyday stressors because the brain is not allowed to multitask (color and stress). In fact, the more difficult or abstract the coloring pages, the more engaged the person becomes in the activity. At some point, the person begins to loose interest in his or her current thoughts. Through the activation of both hemispheres, activities are reduced in the amygdala (part of the emotional brain) and the person is able to relax. In addition to relaxation, Antoni Martinez, a psychologist, found that coloring can increase one’s creativity.
The New Trend of Coloring for Adults and Teens
The popularity of adult and teen coloring book emerged from the Europe and has quickly spread to the US. In fact, several books have topped the best selling list on Amazon. Some of these books include:
Color Me Happy
Why the popularity? With all the stress of life, grown ups want a chance to unplug and detach from their phones, tablets, and computers. One way to do this is by slowly concentrating on a complex image using soothing colors like blue, greens or purple. Another advantage of coloring is that it is a great way for adults to socialize. In fact, socialization groups exist where people can color together and there are even Facebook pages that promote coloring.
|Selena Gomez enjoys coloring!|
What Does This Mean for High School Counselors?
Though coloring may not work with all our students, there are many who can benefit from this activity.
- Students who suffer from depression and anxiety.
- Students who need a time out due to intense anger.
- Students who have experienced some type of trauma.
- Students with physical or learning disabilities.
- Students stressed out because of academic, social, or familial relationships.
- Students who have a hard time expressing their emotions or feelings.
- New students who may feel uncomfortable in their new environment.
If you are interested in trying this technique, here are some steps you can follow:
- Find your coloring resources. You can download free pages from Pinterest, from websites, or purchase coloring books. See a list of resources below.
- Purchase coloring crayons or pencils. Personally, I prefer coloring crayons because you can buy them in large quantities and they come in lots of great colors. However, some teens may prefer colored pencils as they are more “mature”.
- Be aware of how colors affect a student’s mood:
- Cool colors (blue, green, or purple) have a calming impact.
- Warm colors (red, orange, or yellow) can pick up your mood.
- Bright colors can be energizing.
- Dark colors can be relaxing.
- Pastels can be soothing.
Resource: Color Psychology
- Tell the student to “just go for it”. Have them pick a color and just start coloring.
- Consider using relaxing music as the student colors.
- Join the student for a bonding experience.
- Make sure that the student has uninterrupted coloring time.
Below are some free coloring pages that you can download for students. In addition, there are books that you can purchase and organizations that you join to help you with this technique.
Free Coloring Pages:
|Sample page from Color Me Happy|
Pinterest Disney coloring pages
Coloring pages for Adults and Teens
Color Me Girl Crush
Supercoloring: Pages for Teens and Adults
Complex coloring pages for teens
Difficult coloring pages for teens
Colorpedia: Hard coloring pages
Printable coloring pages
Indulgy: free coloring pages for teens
Difficult & abstract coloring pages for teens
Somebody Do Something: Coloring Pages for Teens
Only Coloring Pages: coloring pages of flowers for teenagers
Beautiful butterfly pages for teens
Abstract pages for teens
Abstract coloring pages for teens
Cool coloring pages for teenagers
Animal coloring pages
Anime coloring pages for teens
Graffiti coloring pages
Codehooligans: Top coloring pages for teens
Animal coloring pages for teenagers
Mandalas by Susanne Fincher
Funtown free coloring pages for teens
Disney coloring pages
Information About Coloring:
Therapy in Color
Popular coloring book for adults that has been applauded by celebrities and therapists for its ability to help with stress.
How to Color
The author gives step by step directions and supply suggestions for coloring.
Groups That Promote Coloring:
Coloring Away the Pain Foundation
This foundation was created in response to Hurricane Katrina and ships coloring books and crayons to children who experience trauma.
Coloring Book Magazine
Sign up for a free subscription to learn more about the benefits of coloring.