I have long enjoyed coloring, but like most parents - and adults without kids, for that matter - I'm lucky to find time every day to each lunch, let alone time to sit down with a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book and a box of Crayola markers. (Hallie's Strawberry Shortcake coloring book is my favorite…now if only the pages smelled as heavenly as did the miniature dolls my sister and I played with growing up.) And even if I could find the time, all of our markers, no matter how recently purchased, have dried up anyway. For the love, children - PUT THE CAPS BACK ON THE MARKERS!!!
A few months ago I came across an article in which psychologists declared coloring one of the most effective forms of meditation. Apparently the simple, repetitive process helps strengthen focus and can gradually shift attention to a relaxed state, making it a natural stress and anxiety reducer.
Every attempt I've made at traditional (sitting still) meditation has failed miserably - if I actually succeed at "clearing my mind", I fall asleep - so after reading these words of wisdom I decided to try coloring as active meditation. My mom bought me a coloring book full of beautiful flowers and a set of professional-grade colored pencils (they came with a pencil sharpener that actually works!) and I started working on my first picture.
The experts say that coloring is most effective as meditation when one's surroundings are quiet and calm, and while that makes perfect sense, my quiet and calm hours (when the kids are in school) are already claimed by writing, school, errands, and appointments. If I want to color, I have to fit it in when my kids are home, perhaps doing their homework or playing in the backyard with friends, and for just a few minutes at a time.
But here's the thing: it works anyway. I started this picture when the kids were doing their homework one afternoon, worked on it a little more one Saturday morning while patiently waiting for everyone to find their shoes so we could leave for soccer already, and finished it last Saturday afternoon while the football game blared on television and a Bey Blade battle waged just a few feet to my right. And despite all the chaos that surrounded me while I colored, I still felt relaxed and rejuvenated when I closed the book and moved on to the next activity.
Free minutes for relaxation and rejuvenation rarely appear on their own, so whenever possible we need to figure out how to make time for whatever helps each of us - whether it be exercise, reading, or even coloring - wind down, lessen our stress and anxiety, and regroup for what lies ahead. So if you need me, I'll be sitting in the playroom at Hallie's art table, coloring away.