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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

On Colouring as Mindfulness

As a gift this Christmas I received 'The Mindfulness Colouring Book' and a set of colouring pens. I'm not new to mindfulness (I've used it during yoga practice and as a balm for anxiety) but I'd never tried it in colouring form. To be honest I doubted its benefits. On a whim I cracked open my new copy and had a go...

It turns out that mindful colouring is pretty brilliant.

It was the first time I'd coloured simply for the sake of colouring since I was at primary school, perhaps even younger. Since that young age every instance of colouring was in order to complete a project - an art assignment, a homemade birthday card, even painting the walls of my bedroom - they all had a specific achievable, actionable purpose.

'The act of colouring in - carefully and attentively filling a page with colour, the feel of the pencil in your hand as you meditate on the beauty of the whole illustration - is particularly suited to mindful meditation.' Emma Farrons (Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-Stress Art for Busy People, introduction)

To practice mindfulness is to cultivate awareness in whatever you are doing, be it brushing your teeth, drinking a cup of tea, or simply sitting still. I found mindful colouring gave me an immense feeling of of contentment and calm. I had complete control over what I coloured, what I left blank, which colours I used and those I didn't. It reminded me of when as a child I could become completely engrossed in a task, unaware of time passing. Something I find much harder to do now that Instagram can be accessed at the touch of a screen.

While colouring I noticed how ingrained the importance of 'getting things done' is to me; I often caught myself thinking 'I need to get this part completely coloured in, using these specific colours, as quickly and as neatly as I can.' This thought arose often and created pressure that wasn't necessary or helpful.

To challenge those negative thoughts I changed colour, coloured something else, challenged myself to use clashing colours. Doing so brought me back to the present - not always instantly or completely, but it helped me become aware of how frequently my mind can wander. Being aware of those niggling, negative little thoughts that tell me that I should be doing something else gradually erodes my self-esteem and diminishes the pleasure that life gives.

The lovely thing about mindfulness is that it can be applied to pretty much everything and used whenever you may need it. (Although a little practice everyday helps strengthen its recall). The Mindfulness Colouring Book is a good book to start with - it's non-threatening and doesn't scream 'mental health book!' It contains pleasingly abstract patterns which are small enough to require concentration but not so small as to need the fine motor skills of an Old Master. It's compact and lightweight, And it doesn't need a charger.

If you want to try mindful colouring, here are a few things to help get you started:

The Mindfulness Colouring Book: Anti-Stress Art for Busy People Emma Farrons (£7.99, Waterstones)

STABILO point 88 Wallet including 5 Neon Fineliners, Assorted Ink (Pack of 15)

STABILO Point 88 Fineliner Wallet 30 (£12.24 from Amazon)

Pen Orgy Vinyl Pencil Case

Happy Jackson Pen Orgy Pencil Case (, currently £5.59)

For books on mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn is a leading authority.

Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment-and Your Life (Hardback)

Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment-and Your Life, Jon Kabat-Zinn (£18.54 from Waterstones)

Have you tried mindful colouring? What did you think?