It is almost two years since I was introduced to the idea of colouring Mandalas as a form of relaxation. I was in Phoenix on a work trip and got talking to one of my crew colleagues on the flight over. She told me that she had started colouring Mandalas when her mother had become ill. She told me how the Mandalas relaxed her, allowing a reprieve from the stress and worry about her mother’s health. Additionally, she also found them a great way to switch off when she couldn’t sleep due to the dreaded jet lag and time differences.
What is a Mandala?
The word Mandala comes from the language of Sanskrit. In essence, it means a circle but it means so much more. Defining wholeness, it is referred to as a model of life itself and is in all aspects of life from religion to different cultures. Yin Yang is a popular Mandala symbol.
My new hobby and the benefits of colouring
After my trip to Phoenix, I spent about eighteen months, thinking about adult colouring and Mandalas. The daughter of a friend showed me an App for colouring so I decided to download it and give it a try. I enjoyed it but couldn’t stop thinking about doing it the good old way. Every time I went into a bookshop or large supermarket, I would look at the books, colouring pencils and pens. I was drawn very much to the idea of colouring in, something that I had loved to do as a child.
Life is busy though and I told myself that I didn’t really have time to do it. Then, one particular day whilst doing some grocery shopping, I saw a fantastic deal on a very well known brand of colouring pens. Additionally, I found a beautiful book of Mandalas and decided to take the plunge. I couldn’t wait to get home and make a start. I sat down at my table and carefully chose the colours I wanted to use and began to bring the Mandala to life.
Much to my disappointment, the quality of the paper meant that the ink from the pens absorbed into the paper. My colouring was outside the lines! I am a perfectionist when it comes to detail, so I immediately stopped colouring and tore the page out of my book. However, not ready to give up I decided to buy pencils instead and try again.
In August I went to visit my father in Wales. I took my book and pencils with me and gave my new hobby another chance. Sitting on the sofa, talking to my Dad and his partner, I found myself engrossed in the activity, as I filled in the patterns with my carefully considered colour scheme. I felt so relaxed as I worked my way around the Mandala. It took me more or less three days to complete it, but the end result gave me an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.
So why is it so therapeutic? Research shows that you cannot think about things that stress you, such as the Christmas credit card bill, when you are concentrating on staying within the lines. This is because thinking about bills and to do lists uses a different side of the brain to that required to colour in. A New South Wales brain scientist, Dr Joel Pearson has shown through his work, that the heart rate calms down and brain waves change to a meditative state, which is when you relax.
Such a simple activity has a positive impact on many things such as depression, stress, anxiety and dementia. Jenni Trent Hughes, author and life strategist firmly believes that colouring books allow us to plug back into the childhood feeling of freedom, creating a shortcut to relaxation. Many adults initially think it silly and childish; yet once they get started find it addictive and so relaxing. (1)
Based on my experience of colouring in, I gave my sister-in-law the opportunity to try for herself. She suffers from depression and I thought it might be something she would enjoy. Sure enough, once she started, she became so immersed in what she was doing she became visibly relaxed. It was an easy decision what to buy her for Christmas.
Whether you think it’s for you or not, I highly recommend you give it a go. I was surprised just how much I enjoyed it and will definitely be carrying on with my new hobby. It’s great to be a creative child again!
About the author: Stuart Dickson
‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’