A number of years ago, when I first came to coaching, I decided that I would follow my own advice to clients and take art classes, not for any other reason than to have fun. I found a small group of friends who were also up for it, and then, for 8 Saturdays in a row, we’d show up at Sheila’s (our art teacher’s) home.
We learned how to draw, we learned about perspective, color and the different mediums, from charcoal to acrylics to pastels to watercolor and more. For the first time in my life, my intention was not so that I could draw well or paint well or create a picture that I approved of (in other words, judged), but purely to enjoy something for the sake of it. It also helped me to become less critical of other people’s pieces of art.
But more than any of that, every Saturday morning, my friends and I would emerge from Sheila’s house as gleeful as children in kindergarten.
Now, you’ve probably seen the craze for adult coloring books. They topped bestseller lists in 2015 and it doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon. People love it! Why is that?
Well, it seems that coloring helps relieve stress, and we are living in a time of great stress. With constant changes in our roles in the world, how we view ourselves, and the frantic pace at which technology is developing, it probably comes as no surprise that a mindful, meditative task that focuses on repetitive movements helps relieve stress by forcing us to be present in the moment. It’s a form of waking meditation.
Further, the back and forth motion of coloring engages both sides of the brain, while turning off the part of the brain responsible for situational awareness (the frontal lobe). It satisfies the creative side of our minds which often may not get a look in and goes some way to explaining why it can be so relaxing.
It can also give us a sense of accomplishment when we finish the coloring in of a picture, and then it allows us to indulge in the gift of giving because they make fabulous personalized presents for friends and family. And let’s face it, being in a relaxed state is also a wonderful gift you can give both to others as well as yourself.
So How Exactly Is Adult Coloring Bringing Sexy Back?
It all has to do with cortisol.
But hold on, what exactly is cortisol? Well, cortisol is our “stress hormone”, produced in our adrenal glands.
It rises and falls in correlation to our circadian rhythms, rising in the early hours of the morning to help us wake up and get out of bed, and then falling again at night-time, helping us to go to sleep and stay asleep.
When faced with a stressful “fight or flight” challenge, cortisol is the hormone that kicks into action, bringing glucose into our bloodstream for energy needed by organs deemed critical for handling the stress, such as our brain, lungs, heart and skeletal muscle. At the same time, it shuts down functions such as reproduction, digestion and the immune system, which are deemed as non-essential to the situation at hand.
Sounds good, we think, except that our modern lives are filled with one stressor after another – ongoing pressures at work, over-doing it at the gym, not eating enough, the challenging conversation with your partner, lack of sleep, and on and on. What happens when an individual experiences ongoing stress without adequate coping strategies, cortisol levels remain high. It’s this chronic elevation of cortisol that has many potential repercussions. Here are some of them:
- It causes a redistribution of fat from the buttocks and thighs to the abdomen
- It can cause insulin resistance
- It can cause fluid retention and high blood pressure
- The immune system continues to be “down-regulated”, as well as your reproductive and digestive systems
- It induces the breakdown of muscle, bone and connective tissues
Let’s put it another way.
- You develop a pot belly, whether you’re a man or a woman. As a woman, you’ll lose your waist and shapely feminine figure and get fat around the middle.
- You’ll increase the likelihood of becoming sick with conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease.
- You’ll look puffy and bloated, weigh more and put your heart and kidneys under more stress.
- You’ll catch more colds and infections, your fertility could be affected and you’ll get less nutrition from the food you eat, which could lead to food craving and weight gain.
- You’ll lose muscle tone, look saggy and flabby, and set yourself up for osteoporosis. Not only that, you’ll find it immensely difficult to build muscle, no matter what your exercise or strength training routine.
The bottom-line is that we do need cortisol, in just the right amounts and we don’t want it to be continually elevated. To recap, it is chronic stress without adequate coping or management strategies that lead to ongoing elevated levels of cortisol that does the damage.
The good news is, “making art” can actually help to reduce our cortisol levels. What’s more, and can you believe this, researchers at the University of Turku in Finland actually ran a study that found that women with lower stress levels were perceived to be more attractive that those who were stressed out. This was also found by the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland to be true about women finding men with lower cortisol levels more attractive. No need to have research to tell us that, I’m sure, we only have to look in the mirror or reflect on a day when we’ve been irritable and snapping at others to know that that’s not especially attractive.
See? That, is how adult coloring is bringing sexy back. 🙂 And I bet you never thought that adult coloring could have an impact on your health and fitness goals.
Have you ever tried adult coloring? Did you find that it helped you with relaxing and feeling good? Share with us. Come on over to the Facebook page and let us know.
Girija Kaimal, Kendra Ray & Juan Muniz (2016) Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making, Art Therapy, 33:2, 74-80, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832
Jones D. (editor). Textbook of functional medicine. Gig Harbor, Wash: Institute of Functional Medicine; 2010.