Adult colouring Books – Relax and de-stress

There is a new mantra among strung-out women looking to de-stress from the daily pressures of juggling work and family life: stay between the lines.

Yes, colouring for adults — taking a pack of pens or crayons and fastidiously filling in intricate patterns and pictures in books, which are being marketed at grown-ups — is a modern phenomenon.

A cursory glance at Amazon’s Top Ten bestselling books list proves the point. Though E. L. James is reigning with Grey, the latest money- spinner in her Fifty Shades series, you don’t have to look much further down the chart to find Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom — A Colouring Book Adventure, at number three, or The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons, at number nine.

At one point last month, five out of the Top Ten titles were colouring-in books. For adults.

Publishers are reporting sales figures in the hundreds of thousands. Independent book publisher Michael O’Mara has built up a series of 28 titles and sold more than half a million copies so far, including The Can’t Sleep Colouring Book, which sold more than 2,000 copies last week.

And those thousands of sales reflect the many thousands of British women who are turning to colouring in.

The boom is being attributed to a modern preoccupation with nostalgia, combined with the fact that when it comes to relaxation, colouring has surprisingly scientific results.

‘It’s all about how colouring in helps alter brainwaves,’ says clinical psychologist Dr David Holmes.

‘When we’re alert and attentive, with the brain engaged in decision-making and problem-solving, it operates using beta brainwaves — precisely what’s needed when you need to think on your feet.’

But beta brainwaves require a great deal of mental energy and the brain can’t continue to effectively function in that mode. Just as a car engine overheats if you continually rev it, keeping the brain in high gear puts it under a level of pressure it cannot sustain healthily.

Colouring Books
Colouring Books

To relax, says Dr Holmes, you must shift down a gear so the brain starts using alpha brainwaves — a transition some people find difficult.

‘Unsurprisingly these people are the same ones who tend to go on to develop problems such as anxiety, depression and insomnia,’ he says.

If you were to get someone who predominantly operates in beta mode to start colouring in, and at the same time attach them to an electro-encephalogram (EEG) — a machine that records brain activity — Dr Holmes says you would soon start to observe these all-important alpha brainwaves take over.

‘That’s because colouring in is an ambient activity that gives the brain something simple to focus on, so it doesn’t become bored and frustrated, but without any complex thinking or planning to do,’ he says.

‘Also, those alpha waves are often associated with child brain activity; that nostalgic, childlike element to colouring in actually helps add to its effectiveness.’

Psychotherapist Abigail Eaton Masters started prescribing colouring books as homework to her clients last year, and uses one herself. ‘I have clients who were self-medicating with alcohol because they were hitting the end of the day in such a state of heightened anxiety they couldn’t sleep and so used booze to help them switch off.

‘They’re finding picking up a colouring book instead much more effective at helping them wind down and relax before bed and the quality of their sleep has improved. I’ve even given one to a client who was suffering so badly from anxiety that self-harming felt like her only release. Now, when she feels compelled to do that, she reaches for her book instead and focuses on colouring in until the urge passes.’

Colouring Books
Colouring Books

But it was a man who launched the craze — publisher Michael O’Mara, who hit upon the idea in 2012 during an editorial brainstorming meeting. ‘We produce some really beautiful colouring books for children, and someone cleverly suggested: “Why not try and do this for adults?”’ says senior editorial director Louise Dixon. ‘Everyone leapt on the idea.’

She says that some illustrators were ‘a bit sniffy’ when asked to contribute colouring in books for adults. Not so children’s illustrator and colouring book designer Richard Merritt, recently in Amazon’s Top Ten with Art Therapy Colouring Book.

‘I go into much more detail with these books than the ones I produce for children,’ he says.

‘They need to be elaborately patterned and highly detailed to keep an adult engaged.

‘At the start I consulted with a psychologist who explained that symmetry and heavily patterned imagery is more appealing to the brain, so I always bear that in mind when I’m designing a new page.

‘Funnily enough, when I’m drawing I seem to go into auto-pilot. The patterns just seem to flow.

‘So even that side of these books has turned out to be a very relaxing process.’

Reasons your feeling tired – 2

You’re missing out on vital B-vitamins

Nutritionist Rob Hobson explains: “We all have increasingly busy lives, so it’s essential to provide the body with enough calories and vitamins to get through the day.

“B vitamins are particularly vital as they’re required by the body to convert the food you eat into energy.”

Reboot your energy: “You can find this group of vitamins in grains such as brown rice, barley and oats, as well as lean proteins such as oily fish and turkey,” says Rob.

You are dehydrated

Losing as little as 2% of your body’s normal water content can take its toll on your energy levels.

And it’s surprisingly easy to become dehydrated, especially as we tend to lose our thirst reflex as we get older.

Working in an air-conditioned office, going for a long walk or simply forgetting to drink regularly can quickly lead to depleted fluid levels.

This causes blood pressure to drop and means not enough blood gets to the brain or muscles. This can cause headaches, fatigue and loss of concentration.

Reboot your energy: Try to drink every two hours. If you’re not peeing regularly or your urine is very dark, it’s a sign you need to drink more.

“Water is best, but if you find it boring, add mint, basil, lemon or cucumber to liven up the flavour,” suggests Rob.

You’re overdosing on sugar

Nutritionist Linda Foster says: “What many people don’t realise is that they can actually be made more tired by the very foods supposed to give them energy.

“Sugary energy drinks and snack foods such as biscuits, chocolate and crisps cause sharp spikes then dips in blood sugar that can leave you flagging, irritable and desperate for a mid-afternoon nap.”

Reboot your energy: Swap to low-sugar foods – and this includes avoiding white carbs such as bread and pasta which quickly convert to sugar in the body.

Linda says: “Instead choose wholegrain carbs such as granary bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice which release energy more slowly. And eat them little and often to keep your blood sugar stable.”

You’re skimping on protein

Surviving on fruit and salad might feel worthy, but avoiding protein in the form of meat, dairy and nuts will leave you exhausted, as it’s a vital energy giver.


“It also takes more time for protein to be broken down in the body, so the energy is released more slowly and it fills you up for longer,” explains Linda Foster.

Reboot your energy: Snack on protein to keep energy levels stable. Eating a minimum of a palm-sized amount of protein with meals, and eating seeds and nuts or nut butters can prevent tiredness. Good protein sources are meat, fish, cheese, tofu, beans, lentils, yogurt, nuts and seeds.

You’re storing up stress

Naturopath Martin Budd, author of Why Am I So Exhausted?, says: “While a little stress helps to keep us on our toes, long-term stress – for example from work or relationship problems – can exhaust the body, as well as being emotionally draining.”

Reboot your energy: “It’s our response to stress that’s much more damaging to our health than the stress itself,” says Dr Chidi.

“So by learning how to diffuse stressful situations, we can reduce their impact.”

When stress strikes, instead of going frantic to fix things, try to slow down and take a break instead. Call a friend, walk the dog or do some yoga.

Your thyroid is sluggish

Having an underactive thyroid – which means it’s not making enough of the hormone thyroxine – is a surprisingly common cause of unexplained fatigue, especially in middle-aged women.

Other symptoms of a thyroid condition include excessive thirst, weight gain and feeling cold.

Reboot your energy:
See your GP who can give you a blood test. If an underactive thyroid is diagnosed, a simple once-a-day tablet can correct the problem – and most people get their normal energy levels back soon after starting treatment.