Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Why Do Adults Need Coloring Books?

One of the best learning methods and stress-reduction aids is drawing and coloring

“I love the quality of pencil. It helps me to get to the core of a thing.” Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth, one of the great American artists of the 20th Century, knew that drawing enabled us not merely to see, but learn. View his famous Christina’s World, and you may understand the woman’s disability a bit more.

But there’s more to drawing than depicting people. Drawing is learning, and it was a fact a biology professor drilled into us as undergraduates. As we sat at our microscopes, he instructed us to pull out a pencil and plain paper. What? Weren’t we going to look at slides of plant cells?

Yes, but the learning process entailed a bit of drawing.

So I patiently learned to draw liverworts and single-cell amebas and the cells of those long plants they put into fish tanks. And in drawing, I learned and put a picture of the cells into my memory banks that remain there to this day.

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Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Drawing and Coloring Explained

As writing incorporates a greater degree of brainpower, involving as it does our muscles, portions of our brain involved in decision-making and elaboration of intent and memory, drawing does much the same.

research paper delved into the power of drawing as a tool not only for learning new material but in helping those with dementia.

“…the simplicity of this strategy means it can be used by people with cognitive impairments to enhance memory, with preliminary findings suggesting measurable gains in performance in both normally aging individuals and patients with dementia

Drawing has been a research topic for professionals seeking ways to improve learning and divining how drawing might enhance it.Studies have shown, hands down, that drawing was a winning method of learning.

“…experiments indicate that drawing enhances memory relative to writing, across settings, instructions, and alternate encoding strategies…We propose that drawing improves memory by encouraging a seamless integration of semantic, visual, and motor aspects of a memory trace.”

The Brain Awaits

Lifelong learning, as we’ve seen in studies of cognition, is one way to preserve our quality of life. Coloring books may play an integral role in that learning. But why coloring books for adults?

Ok, personal example time here. I have always loved biology, and ever since that first professor told us to draw what we saw in our microscopes, I’ve been intrigued by the brain. The problem has always been that I need reinforcement on brain structures, and that’s where my coloring book came in handy.

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I have ordered my third copy of “The Human Brain Coloring Book” and a set of coloring pencils to go with it. I’m more responsive to visual stimuli than text, so this is perfect for me. The book is on its way, and I intend to begin coloring as soon as it arrives.

But, you may be thinking, isn’t there a difference between coloring to learn something and the adult coloring books that are available? Yes, there is.

The adult coloring books I’ve seen are of several different types from intricate, almost psychedelic designs to scenes in nature or copies of famous paintings. All of them provide a period of relaxation for the brain from the stresses of life.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Coloring has also been used with cancer patients to aid them in relieving the stress of their illness and their therapies. A study found “ statistically significantly greater decreases in symptoms of distress…” This type of mindfulness, therefore, is beneficial for patients with medical illness and who may be receiving treatments that might be stressful.

While coloring may not seem like artwork, it is because you are providing the essential talent in terms of color. Artwork, of any type, can also help hospitalized patients deal with chronic illness or disability and may shorten hospital stays.

If you’d like to try coloring, you can download free coloring pages here or pages for kids here. The only thing you need now are a few coloring pencils, and you are on your way to relaxation and brain enhancement.

Immersing yourself in coloring has another benefit; decreased decision fatigue. It’s a fancy term meaning you are overloaded daily with decisions. How can your brain possibly do that without a bit of rest, and coloring provides it.

Sleep is one answer, but sleep alone isn’t the answer you need and a simple task like coloring may be “just what the doctor ordered.”

Isn’t Adult Coloring a Silly Thing?

Life is change and making decisions that are good for you. If someone is so unenlightened that they fail to see the benefit in coloring, point them to this article.

Print this article out, keep it in your desk drawer or hang it on the fridge in the kitchen and look at it frequently. Let it be your printed talisman for health.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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