Mindfulness colouring: back-to-basics art therapy for the 21st century
There’s no escaping mindfulness colouring for kids these days. There are books, place mats, tablecloths, notepads, greetings cards and so much more.
The activity has exploded in popularity at the same time as iPhones and other smart devices have become fixtures in our lives.
Is this coincidence, or a reaction to the increasingly pixelated world we live in?
Is our love of mindfulness colouring something primordial inside all humans – a response to the 21st century fast-paced, always-on culture?
Most of us can’t remember life before smartphones; they are now such an integral part of our everyday reality.
But along with the convenience smartphones bring, they’ve turned us into distracted flibbertigibbets with impatient attention spans and an inability to be still.
We jump from one topic to another, always trying to keep up with life at a breakneck speed.
By reaching out for mindfulness colouring, is the human race unconsciously calling time on pixels, or at least their strange hold over our minds?
Enough, we cry! Give us something that reconnects us to our inner selves and our core beings – the people we are without our digital controller.
Mindfulness and being mindful: what’s it all about anyway?
First let’s take the concept of mindfulness. Like mindfulness colouring, it’s also something that we now hear about everywhere.
Mindfulness is the zeitgeist of the digital age but it’s not new. What is new is how many people are turning to it. Based on Buddhist meditation principles, mindfulness practitioners focus on the breath, an object or a sound to help centre the mind.
Concentrating on the breath has been shown to physically change the brain in the areas that control emotion and fear. The term ‘monkey mind’ describes how our mind can jump from thought to thought like a monkey leaping from branch to branch.
It's when these thoughts are negative or fearful that anxiety gets a grip. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce activity in the default mode network (DMN), the state of being on autopilot when the mind wanders.
In this way, mindfulness can help people gain control over the runaway thinking that is often so harmful to mental wellbeing.
In Zen Buddhism, you are encouraged to use mindfulness to develop shoshin, or beginner’s mind – which is when a person can look at things as if for the first time, with curiosity and awe, like a child discovering worms in the garden.
Seeing a subject this way helps people break free of preconceptions and ideas of how things ought to be. Without judgement is the term used.
And so it is with mindfulness colouring, a pastime almost everyone can do. There’s no right or wrong way – you just take the pen or pencil and get colouring. In focusing on one part of a picture at a time, you can find a sense of tranquility.
Mindfulness colour – it’s the journey that matters, not the destination
With its back to basics approach, mindfulness colouring pits itself against the fast-moving 21st century way of life but what exactly is it?
The term itself describes the act of applying colour to detailed black and white pictures or patterns. That’s it. Plain and simple.
There’s mindfulness colouring for adults and there’s mindfulness colouring for kids - kids wall art is a great example. When you practise it, you concentrate only on how you apply colour to an image.
With awareness on the present moment, you stop thoughts of yesterday that create sadness or regret as well as thoughts of tomorrow that lead to anxiety.
It’s about this moment, right here, right now. It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.
- I am looking at a beautiful picture
- I am filling in all the petals with the colour yellow
- I am reaching for a green pen
- I am putting green ink on all the leaves.
The beauty is in its simplicity and the effect it can have on helping adults and children to achieve calm.
Adults do it as a way to be focused and in the present moment – in other words, to be ‘mindful’. In children, mindfulness colouring can help improve focus and sooth them if they’re feeling anxious or fidgety.
And the best bit for kids of course is it provides a fantastic alternative to screen use.
Mindfulness colouring to help soothe us in a post-Covid world
As the world emerges from the stress and trauma of Covid-19, there is a real need for easy access activities that help bring a more peaceful state of mind.
Several studies show the pandemic has worsened what was already an alarming rate of childhood anxiety.
While the facts may be gloomy, there are ways forward that can negate the harmful effects of the lockdowns when many families relied on screens and tablets to keep children occupied in order not to lose their jobs.
In the US, paediatrician Dr Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, has talked about the importance of achieving balance.
In an article for Harvard Medical School, he says it’s about being flexible enough to evolve with the technology but also knowing how to use it. 'Fire was a great discovery to cook our food, but we had to learn it could hurt and kill as well.’
In the article, Rich argues we should be asking what's happening in our youngsters’ minds when they are using their screens.
He believes it's a mix of both positive and negative, and suggests the way forward lies in more awareness about how to enhance the positive and mitigate the negative.
Whatever methods are found to achieve this, traditional arts and craft activities that involve hand/eye coordination can take you away from your screen and help achieve balance in overwhelmed minds.
Mindfulness colouring can be practised alone or by children and adults together, side-by-side at a colouring wall or table.
For people caught up in a frenetic world of corporate stress, it's easy to dismiss colouring in with a child as something foolish or naïve.
We can hear you: who has time for that?
But why not give it a go? Art is transformative. Mindfulness colouring rests the brain and facilitates supremely wonderful quality-time with your offspring.
Time to ponder. To talk. To spend in quiet contemplation. Time just to BE.
No pressure to perform or look a certain way and no need to do anything in a particular fashion.
What's better in troubled times?