This past Saturday I had the pure delight of attending a workshop hosted by Laura G and Britt LM of Soul Bliss on mandalas, mindfulness and yoga. What is a mandala? “(A) mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Indian religions, representing the universe. In common use, mandala has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.” (Wikipedia)
I was expecting to arrive and receive a pre-printed mandala to color, so I was greatly intrigued when I received blank paper and was told I would be the creator of the mandala. It was explained that the mandala creation process would tap deep into our souls and our psyche and the resulting design would be specific to that day and time. The mandala could then be the subject of meditation by gazing at its center and then as a whole. (My finished mandala is the picture with this blog)
I found the creation and coloring of the mandala was meditation in motion. I was transported back to when I was a child, with not a care in a world with a box of crayons and a coloring book. My mind was entirely engaged in the process so I could really think of nothing else but pure creation. I was used to creating with instruction from another (like the painting classes I enjoy). To create completely from scratch was something brand new and highly rewarding. I can now create mandalas any time I wish, and they will each have their own specific meaning in that day and time I draw and color it. Incredible!
That class fueled my desire to color again, so I hauled out my adult coloring books. I had just bought a big set of markers in a rainbow of colors and put them to use coloring about 3-4 images from one of my books. It was so relaxing and the images created brought me such joy and peace.
Are you looking for a way to quiet you mind and/or feel like a kid again? Check out all the cool adult coloring books online or in the stores and find some that resonate with you. Get a box of crayons, colored pencils, markers, whatever you feel is best for you. You will love the way it makes you feel.
If you need more inspiration, here is a list of seven benefits of adult coloring (some of which I have already mentioned):
1. Did you have any idea that the “prescription” of adult coloring stems all the way back to the late and great psychologist Carl Jung? Well it did. He was always ahead of his time. Jung used it thinking it would help his patient’s access their subconscious and new self-knowledge.  We now know that many psychologists suggest this to patients as an alternative to meditation, as a means of relaxation, and as a calming tool. It can help the individual focus on the act of coloring intricate pictures for hours on end, vs. focusing on intrusive and troubling thoughts.
2. Adult coloring books can help with a number of emotional and mental health issues. For many, boredom, lack of structure, and stress are the greatest triggers they have. This applies to individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety disorders, stress disorders, depressive disorders, eating and binge eating disorders, anger management issues, and substance abuse issues. The time and focus that adult coloring takes helps the individual remove the focus from the negative issues and habits, and focus them in a safe and productive way.
3. These activities can help tremendously with individuals with PTSD, anxiety, and stress issues, as they calm down our amygdala.  This is the part of the brain that controls our fight or flight response, and keeps individuals in a heightened state of worry, panic, and hyper-vigilance, when it is active. Coloring and focusing on this harmless and calming activity can actually turn that response down, and let your brain have some much needed rest and relaxation. This can be an exceptionally productive and welcome outlet for these individuals.
4. Coloring also brings us back to a simpler time. An activity that can invoke the easier and happier times of childhood. A time when we did not have as many responsibilities, and could just do something because we wanted too, for the pure joy of it. To be able to tap into this time and these emotions is very cathartic and enjoyable. It can take you out of your present stresses and worries for even a few hours at a time, which can have an exceptionally recuperative effect.
5. Believe it or not, coloring has intellectual benefits as well. It utilizes areas of the brain that enhance focus and concentration. It also helps with problem solving and organizational skills. This may sound strange, and like perhaps the usefulness is being stretched, but it is all true. Our frontal lobes are responsible for these higher level activities and functions of the brain, and coloring detailed pictures activates all those properties. Think of considering complex color schemes, and using the brain to balance and make the picture aesthetically pleasing. 
6. Coloring utilizes both hemispheres of the brain, right and left. When we are thinking about balance, color choices, applying colored pencil to paper, we are working on problem solving and fine motor skills. We have talked a great deal about where they would be suggested by psychologists, but this is where they can very useful for occupational therapy as well. Imagine all the areas of retraining of the brain and skills training that can be accomplished with coloring increasingly difficult designs. The individual can start on easier items, and work their way up.
7. This is another method of practicing mindfulness, which has therapeutic and health benefits. This can help us replace negative thoughts with positive and pleasant ones. Doing therapeutic artwork can help reduce feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness associated with lengthy medical treatments. The focus we place on the project at hand, and on an object can replace negative and unhelpful thoughts from entering our minds. The step of acting and doing vs. observing is a powerful deterrent to focusing on physical or emotional pain.