Friday, April 28, 2017

Staying in the Lines

Adult coloring books are more than publishing's newest fad...they're a new way to practice mindfulness.  ♦ 
I pulled an unexpected gift out of my stocking this past Christmas: a book. I hadn't gotten a new book for Christmas in years (that is, if I’m not counting the Kindle I got in the ninth grade). However, it wasn't just any book; it was a coloring book. "Moment of Mindfulness," the cover read. As I flipped through the plentiful number of pages depicting unique stencils, I found myself somewhat confused.
   "Haven't you heard?" my mom said. "Everyone is doing it."
   Coloring books have been around for a very long time—since the 1880s, in fact, when the first coloring book, “The Little Folk’s Painting Book,” was produced by New York's McLoughin Brothers—but what is it about a book of simple black-and-white stencils that's kept them around for so long? If you are as nostalgic as I am, coloring books bring back memories that denote leisure time outside of the classroom, when nothing was better than designing something creative and tangible that was all on our own. Whether it was car rides, play dates, long family dinners, you name it, coloring books were fun, constant companions.
   Besides keeping their kids well entertained, parents often have other intentions when setting a coloring book in front of their child. Professionals have noted numerous educational as well as brain-developing benefits of coloring, which incorporate all-around improvement of motor skills. Coloring books are living proof that learning can be fun and enjoyable.
   These days, though, it's as common to see a child holding a tablet as it is to see them holding a coloring book and bag of crayons. This, in part, is due to the countless amounts of coloring book apps available to parents on their tablets. Don’t get me wrong: technology has offered children an array of beneficial digital experiences, most of which have the opportunity to provide a vast audience with attainable educational experiences anywhere they go. However, parents as well as educators are becoming concerned that this increase in technology usage has led to decreases in the attention span of these children. In a survey conducted by The Pew Research Center, it was found that out of nearly 2,500 teachers, 87% believe that technologies are creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.” Educators are becoming worried that they'll have to adjust their teaching styles to fit the needs of this short-attention-spanned generation.
   But the younger generations aren't the only ones affected by the technology boom. Adults have already adjusted to digital by purchasing reading devices such as Kindles or tablets, or reading their news online on browsers or apps. We've become so accustomed to multitasking and performing day-to-day activities in the fastest, most efficient ways possible through our constant use of technology that we have forgotten the simpler days of paper and crayon.
   Did someone say mindfulness?
  Let me bring you back to Christmas morning. As I sat in my living room flipping through the stencils before me, I began to feel nostalgic about the days in which a quiet coloring book brought me the most simple, peaceful, yet vibrant joys. As I read the back cover, I discovered that these feelings were not forsaken. Adult coloring books had become the new fad, and there was not a technology out there to match them (or stop them).
   Since 2015, adult coloring books have increasingly appealed to the adult market, intending to provide peace of mind within one of their favorite pastimes. These books have been sweeping bookstores across the nation, as well as taking spots on bestseller lists. The idea for the adult coloring book came from Gabe Coeli, a mother, doctor, and wife of Blue Store Coloring’s CEO. She told the company how she and other doctors she worked with had found themselves coloring in their young patients' coloring books and found that the activity not only helped bide time but also relieved stress. The company jumped on the idea of making a coloring book for adults and released the book“Stress Relieving Patterns" in March of 2015, By May, the book was pronounced a #1 National Bestseller on Amazon; since then, it has sold millions.
   Believe it or not, psychologists and therapists who jumped on this bandwagon are now prescribing these books to their patients. All fun aside, adult coloring books provide mental benefits just like children’s coloring books do, and professionals point to extensive amounts of therapeutic benefits that adult coloring books provide, having the potential to aid with emotional and mental issues by taking the focus off the negative and focusing their attention elsewhere. Patients are able to relieve themselves of their stresses for moments in time and more easily cope with difficult emotions. Coloring has even been proven to help with PTSD disorders.
   Ultimately, adult coloring books have given grown-ups the opportunity to gain peace of mind and enjoy any number of therapeutic benefits. Alongside such medical benefits, they have also brought a generation back to a time and place of simplicity, a time that elicits an era of purity and ease. A time when one’s worries only consisted of a crayon and paper. With luck, maybe the younger generation will learn something from adults, moving away from the mindless act of technology toward the mindful act associated with tangibility.
  • About the Author
    Eleanor Chambers is a senior Professional Writing major at Miami University. She loves to travel and is fascinated with exploring different cultures around the world.

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