Mindfulness ideas and imagery – Part 1

While many art therapists may be somewhat disgruntled by the idea of art therapy colouring books, I think the recent upsurge of adult mindfulness colouring pages is not without merit. To explore the value of this new craze with the group, I used a large template and traced out several dozen mindfulness colouring pages onto good cotton A3 paper. With each participant using the same starting point, the media choices were left open as each person decided how they would like their piece to evolve. I had wondered whether the ‘constraints’ of the lines would be a limitation to creative expression and enjoyment, but the feedback from participants and the exciting range of developments that arose indicated otherwise. At the end of the session, I asked the group for their verdict on colouring pages. The result was so overwhelmingly positive that the following week they were straight back onto their pages to finish them.
While the activity received a clear thumbs up, it is important to clarify that although they may be called ‘art therapy’ colouring books in current popular cultural culture, the activity is less art therapy than art as therapy – or a form of creative distraction that enhances flow. Art therapy is a process seeks to enhance insight and self awareness via explorations of self-created personal imagery. As such, adult colouring books fall more into the category of wellbeing or stress release strategies or tools. Unlike art therapy, they are unlikely to teach you anything about yourself or your experiences in the world. But, they certainly can take the edge of other life stresses by giving you something positive and enjoyable to focus on until a time when you feel ready to tackle or transform the source of your concern.

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