I’ve written before about my enjoyment of coloring. Long before adult coloring books became a thing, I was buying kid’s coloring books and some crayons and having fun. Now that adult coloring books are available, I’ve got a lot more to choose from!
I discovered the therapeutic benefits of coloring back in the ’90’s when I was working for a bullying boss. I went home every night and relaxed with the repetitive movements of coloring. Plus, there was the mental escape to a safer, happier place. Coloring is meditative.
Lately I’ve discovered a new way to use my coloring habit: Journaling + coloring = amazing mental relief. It’s also a fantastic creativity boost.
Now, the first thing to note is that I did not go out and buy a special “journaling coloring book”. You can if you want to, I guess. Amazon is loaded with them for everything from prayer journaling to starting your own grimoire. But I didn’t want to use someone else’s guided prompts and I didn’t want to journal according to some preconceived notion of what I “should” be thinking about.
Instead, I pull out my coloring book inventory (kid’s books included!) and flip through them to find a design that speaks to me. It might be because I’m feeling sad and it’s a reflective picture, or maybe I’m feeling silly or nostalgic and it reminds me of my childhood. If I’m anxious, maybe I look for a calming water picture. If I want to encourage some free-writing, I might look for a picture related to my current WIP or an idea I have floating in my head. And so on.
Once I’ve chosen my picture, I add it to my journal/coloring book. For now I’m using a three-ring binder so I can have both a drawing and a piece or notebook paper open side by side. I’m hoping to find a better solution.
I may start with some writing, or I may start with coloring. It just depends what comes to mind first. But as I work on one or the other, I’m open to switching to the other form as the need arises. Maybe I’m coloring and my mind relaxes enough that a solution to a problem pops into my head. Boom. I switch over and write about that for a while. Or if I’m writing and get stuck, I’ll color for a while to unstick my brain. It’s a fluid process.
I won’t always finish a coloring page in one session. Some are too intricate for me to finish all at once and still get anything else done. That’s okay. I either come back to it the next day if I have more to explore on that subject, or I’ll put it aside until that “mood” comes around again.
I’ve always gotten a lot out of journaling. It’s a safe space to clear my head and work through both the good and the bad in life. Now that I’ve added coloring to the mix, I’ve found it to be a combination of the best “therapies” I’ve ever found. The act of coloring is relaxing. It brings me into a place where the journaling can really flow. Coloring helps me break down the blocks to “useful” journaling. (It gets me past the place where my thoughts are just circling in my head, making no sense. Coloring slows all of that down.)
By matching the coloring page to my mood or the thing I need to work through, I give my mind a subtle cue. “Here are the things we need to deal with today,” and it responds in kind. Even so, I’ve been surprised at the places my mind goes. I may be telling it to work through grief, but something in the drawing triggers an older memory or a different emotion and I realize, “Hey, I need to deal with that.”
No matter what happens, this combination has turned out to be very powerful for me, both in terms of mental health and creativity. As the saying goes, “Your mileage may vary.” However, if you’ve always been a journal-keeper or a coloring book lover, I suggest at least trying to combine the two and see what happens. You may not find it to be beneficial. That’s cool. Just stick with whichever medium you love. Then again. you my stuble upon a powerful weapon in your creative arsenal.
(Photos courtesy of the3cats)