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Colouring as art therapy: Illuminating the shadows of stress and depression

by Alexander Thorne

Alexander Thorne | Author of Colour your shades away

Pursuing has consistently been recognized as a way to express oneself and find solace. Colouring, in particular, offers a combination of simplicity and depth, significantly reducing stress and battling depression. This article explores the power of colouring as a form of art therapy and its potential as an alternative to journaling for shadow work.

Colouring isn't just for the young at heart

Traditionally, colouring has been associated mainly with recreational activities for children. However, recent trends and research indicate its value for adults as well. The structured nature of colouring provides an experience that allows individuals to escape the complexities of their everyday lives momentarily.

Navigating life's stressors: Discovering tranquillity with every stroke

Life's challenges, such as work-related stress or personal conflicts, can be overwhelming. Engaging in colouring offers individuals a respite from these stressors, grounding them in the present moment. Each stroke becomes an opportunity for release, promoting relaxation and providing a sense of accomplishment.

Mitigating depressive moods: Casting light in the gloom

Depression often brings about prolonged feelings of sadness and hopelessness that cast shadows over one's outlook on life. However simple it may seem, adding colour can introduce elements of joy and purpose into one's experience.

The process triggers the release of dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with pleasure and rewards. This can help balance imbalances in brain chemistry linked to depression.

Colouring: A gentler alternative to shadow work journaling

Shadow work journaling involves introspection, where individuals confront and document their suppressed emotions and fears. However, this process can feel overwhelming for some people. Colouring provides a subtle approach, allowing individuals to process these emotions without the pressure of putting them into words. The colours and patterns chosen during colouring can symbolize these suppressed feelings. Provide insights into one's emotional state.

Tips for starting a colouring journey

  • Choosing the medium: Whether it's coloured pencils, crayons or watercolours, it depends on personal preference. Trying out mediums can enhance the therapeutic experience.

  • Selecting a theme: There are colouring books for adults with various themes like manga, anime, kawaii, chibi, fairy homes, intricate mandalas or nature-inspired patterns. Choosing a theme that resonates with your emotions can be beneficial.

  • Establishing a routine: Setting aside time for colouring can turn it into a therapeutic ritual. Adding calming music or enjoying a cup of tea while colouring can further enhance its benefits.

  • Avoiding perfectionism: The goal is release rather than creating perfect artwork — approach colouring with a mind and without judgment.

To sum up, colouring emerges as an easily accessible form of art therapy. Providing an avenue for expressing and reflecting upon emotions can significantly enhance mental well-being. As research in this field progresses, we can expect to uncover more nuanced benefits.

About the Author: Alexander (Alex) Thorne, the author of »Colour your Shades Away: Unlocking the Therapeutic Power of Art« (available on Amazon as Paperback and Hardcover in late 2023), firmly believes in the therapeutic capabilities of art. Having personally experienced the effects of colouring as a form of therapy, he is dedicated to sharing this simple yet powerful tool with people all over the world.

Dive into the world of art therapy with our top picks of colouring books for adults:


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