Sunday, November 8, 2015

Change your Brain - by Coloring!

Remember getting a brand new coloring book as a kid? And even better yet, a new box of crayons to go with it? I sure do. Those were some of the most fun memories of my childhood. Simpler times. I sat coloring quietly and my only worry was trying to stay between the lines!

Today, as owner of FUNdamentally Toys, a specialty retailer in Houston, Texas, I worry about keeping enough coloring books in stock for grownups, not kids! Adults are choosing to take their fingers off their computer keyboards and wrap them around a colored pencil instead, in a quest to relax and de-stress by coloring. They’re also having nostalgic fun like they used to when they were kids.

Adult coloring books have been topping US bestselling book lists in 2015, following on the heels of wild popularity in the UK and France since 2013. It’s a phenomenon that shows no signs of abating. 

The brains behind the fun 

While coloring may seem like all fun and games, behind the scenes, the human brain is doing some serious work. As you color, you don’t realize it, but you are de-stressing, relaxing and rejuvenating your mind. 

Simply focusing on the color and movement of the pencil on the page quiets your mind. You find you stop thinking about what happened at work during the day. Instead of worrying, you’re making creative decisions about which colors to use and how you want to logically fill in a pattern – all while staying between the lines! You are also stimulating your senses and fine-tuning your motor skills.

Neuroscientists are finding that the human brain can actually change as a result of practices such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and yes – even coloring!  It’s called neuroplasticity. Just as we can physically exercise to keep our bodies healthy, so can we do certain creative and mental activities that benefit and change our brains for the better. 

How the adult coloring craze started

Johanna Basford, a young Scottish commercial illustrator, is credited with starting the adult coloring book craze. She never dreamed that the intricate black-and-white designs she enjoyed creating in her spare time would become so popular. At first she posted a few online and found that adults were responding by coloring them in.

In 2011, Basford was approached by Laurence King Publishers to create a children’s coloring book.  Instead, Basford convinced them to publish a coloring book for grownups. In 2013, Secret Garden, An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book was published as 96 pages of charmingly intricate black-and-white drawings of flowers, trees, birds and other garden objects with hidden surprises. Its initial printing of a mere 16,000 copies sold out quickly. Secret Garden became a runaway bestseller, now having sold over 6 million copies worldwide.

Basford followed her first coloring book with Enchanted Forest and just released a new one called The Lost Ocean. She’s not the only player in this game. Many other artists have turned their attention to this developing market.The phenomenon appears to be here to stay with hundreds of themes to choose from. There is something for everyone from prim to punk. 

Make a party out of it 

FUNdamentally Toys started hosting adult-only coloring nights and has had a great response.  People are clamoring to come to our coloring parties to kick back, chit-chat and reconnect with something of their childhood. 

Even adults who don’t consider themselves creative or artistic can easily participate in coloring. It’s not competitive. It’s your own personal expression. Everyone can feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as their pictures come to life with vibrant color.

This holiday season give yourself, friends or family members a gift that adds a little color to their lives. An adult coloring book and colored pencils make a great gift. 

Some fun ideas might be to schedule a family coloring night, invite a few friends over for a relaxing coloring party at your home or attend an adult coloring event or meetup. Watch for future coloring nights.

Make a New Year’s resolution to have fun and do something good for your brain with coloring

Debbie Scholl, Owner, FUNdamentally Toys, Houston, Texas

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