National Coloring Day is an unofficial holiday observed annually on January 30th. The day aims to celebrate creative expression, relaxation, and mindful practicing through coloring. It encourages people of all ages to unwind by picking up coloring books, markers, pencils, or other art supplies and letting their imaginations run free through designs, doodles, and color combinations.
While coloring books are traditionally thought of as an activity for children, coloring has seen a resurgence in popularity among adults in recent years. Many have discovered the stress-relieving benefits of focusing on simple, repetitive artwork. National Coloring Day recognizes coloring not just as a fun pastime but as a tool for relaxation, mindfulness, anxiety relief, and tapping into one’s playful spirit.
A Brief History
The exact origins of National Coloring Day are unknown, but it began gaining recognition around 2013 when social media users started sharing photos of themselves and loved ones engaged in coloring activities on January 30th. Posts used hashtags like #NationalColoringDay to help spread awareness of the unofficial holiday. Coloring book publishers and retailers also began promoting the day as a way to encourage more sales and interest in their products.
While the specific date of January 30th remains unexplained, it coincides with the end of the month typically associated with feelings of post-holiday blues or mid-winter doldrums. National Coloring Day gives people an excuse to take a break from stress or sadness through an enjoyable creative outlet. Over the years it has continued to grow in recognition thanks to word-of-mouth and social sharing around the designated date.
The Benefits of Coloring for Mental Wellness
Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Coloring requires focus and concentration, which can interrupt negative or anxious thoughts that may be running through one’s mind. The repetition and rhythmic nature of coloring within the lines is meditative and calming. Some research has shown that coloring complex mandala designs for as little as 10-15 minutes can significantly lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This makes coloring a natural stress reliever and anxiety reducer for both children and adults.
Along with stress relief, coloring helps relax the body and unwind tight muscles. It’s a more engaging and mindful alternative to other sedentary relaxing activities like watching TV or scrolling social media. When the mind and hands are actively involved in an artwork, it’s easier to melt away feelings of restlessness or tension in the body. Many use coloring as a nightly bedtime ritual to help them relax into a restful sleep.
Unlike passive consuming of media, coloring exercises and expands our creative abilities. We make color, shading, and design choices that are uniquely our own based on our preferences and imagination. There are seldom “wrong” ways to color, allowing us to freely experiment in a low-pressure way. This nurtures creativity, self-expression, and playfulness even for those who don’t consider themselves artistic.
Additional Therapeutic Benefits
Improving Mood and Combatting Depression
Studies show engaging in pleasurable creative activities like coloring can boost serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, both of which are feel-good neurotransmitters closely tied to mood. Just half an hour of coloring can leave one feeling more content and upbeat due to these chemical changes. This makes it a practical tool for staving off feelings of depression or lifting low spirits, especially during dark winter months.
Providing an Escape from Pain or Discomfort
For those dealing with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or pain symptoms, immersing in a fun creative task takes one’s focus away from physical discomfort or mental health struggles. Coloring transports the mind to a different place. It has been successfully used as a complementary therapy for things like headaches, arthritis flare ups, and coping with panic attacks in the hospital. Veterans have also adopted coloring as a way to distract from trauma or PTSD symptoms.
Boosting Brain Health with Visual Stimulation
staying mentally active helps stave off age-related cognitive decline. Coloring provides low-impact visual stimulation to areas of the brain related to motor skills, creativity, memory, and focus. Some research links regular coloring to improved attention span, problem-solving abilities, and even delayed memory loss associated with conditions like dementia. The neurons that connect the hands to the visual cortex are also strengthened through coloring within the lines.
Easy Ways to Practice the Art of Coloring
Getting Started with the Right Supplies
To fully enjoy and reap the benefits of coloring, it’s important to have quality art materials. Here are some starter recommendations:
- Coloring books with a variety of intricately detailed images to hold one’s interest over multiple sessions. Popular genres include mandalas, animals, fantasy illustrations, and more.
- Sets of 24-36 colored pencils that go smoothly on the paper for blending diverse hues. Brands like Prismacolor or Faber-Castell are great options.
- Watercolor or alcohol markers containing richly pigmented ink that doesn’t bleed or feather outside the lines. Copic, Junction, and Sharpies are top choices.
- Gel pens or fine tip markers for adding details and special pop textures to drawings. Sparkly glitter gel pens are always fun.
- Single colors of oil or wax based crayon in a large spectrum of shades, great for filling in broad spaces quickly.
- Blending stumps, tortillions, or finger daubers to seamlessly smooth out colored pencil textures.
- Colored pens or colored drawing pencils for bolder, faster coloring than wax or oil based tools.
Tips and Techniques for Creative Coloring
Go beyond just staying inside the lines with these advanced recommendations:
- Experiment with different blending and layering techniques to portray shades, gradients, highlights, and shadows realistically.
- Use complimentary and contrasting colors placed near each other to bring extra vibrancy and dimensionality.
- Add your own personalized details or embellishments like extra patterns, doodles, gemstones with markers or gel pens.
- Try loose, fluid Watercolor or alcohol marker washes to create dreamy background scenes around images.
- Use colored pencils or pens with sharp tips to add fine hairlike strands or textures that the broad side can’t achieve.
- Personalize your coloring experience and boost creativity through unstructured free form doodling and designing.
Apps and Digital Options
For times you don’t have traditional art supplies, consider these digital coloring alternatives:
- Adult coloring book apps stocked with high quality virtual colorings that sync across devices. Many are very inexpensive or free.
- DIY digital coloring pages from kids activity sites that you can print at home, then color with a tablet stylus or fingers.
- Online Mandala coloring websites where you drag and drop colors onto interactive designs using a mouse.
- Adult coloring eBooks loaded with printable coloring pages and images that you can enjoy anywhere. Just need a printer and coloring mediums.
- Video coloring tutorials on YouTube demonstrating creative coloring techniques and tricks without anything but your mobile device.
By making National Coloring Day an annual tradition either alone or with others, we can enjoy a relaxing creative outlet and all the feel-good mental benefits it provides. With a little effort, coloring truly is an accessible art form for people of any age, ability, or artistic background. It simply takes some imagination and a willingness to loosen up and have fun with colors.