I first saw a couple of “colouring books for grown ups” in Foyle’s at the beginning of the summer and thought they were cool, but dismissed adult colouring as a niche, overpriced trend for hipsters to complete in the “Toast Assassin Café” or similar. So I was completely shocked when later in the summer I saw the huge selection on offer in a Barnes & Noble on the other side of the Atlantic. It’s quite safe to say that Mindfulness Colouring has quite literally taken the world by storm.
It’s undeniable that university can be stressful. Yet sometimes it’s hard to notice that stress slowly starting to creep its way in while you’re focusing on trying to read papers for seminars and get your essays in on time. That’s why it’s so important to remember to make a conscious effort to take care of your wellbeing, something that’s easily forgotten amongst the mayhem of university life! Of course there are the things we’ve all been reminded of countless times, like eating well, getting enough sleep, keeping hydrated and exercising, but there are also specific things you can do to help declutter your mind.
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Mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present moment, while calmly acknowledging all emotions, thoughts and sensations experienced at that time. Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at Oxford Mindfulness Centre says that it’s about knowing what is going on inside and outside ourselves and can be an antidote to the tunnel vision that we develop in our busy day-to-day lives. It helps us to understand ourselves better and allows us to enjoy the world around us. You can do almost any activity mindfully – you can walk mindfully, eat mindfully, even shower mindfully! All you have to do is take yourself off autopilot and really focus on the activity you’re doing. There are also more formal methods of mindfulness practice too, such as yoga and tai chi.
There’s something so strangely satisfying about colouring. It’s most probably because it is so decadently nostalgic. It lets you unapologetically travel back to a time when the most stressful part of your day was trying to get the straw into the Capri Sun pouch after a particularly savage game of Stuck in the Mud. Just as when you were five, you don’t have to stick to just colouring inside the lines, you don’t have to colour it all in if you don’t want to and you can add to the designs if you want to. So although colouring isn’t really a creative activity in the same sense as something like painting or drawing, it does allow you a considerable amount of freedom to do whatever you want.
When I’m colouring, I often find that I am thinking about nothing at all, or if I do think about something it’s almost as if I am just observing my thoughts as they float through my head. It’s quite a hard sensation to describe, but I can say with total certainty that it is completely relaxing – it’s almost a little bit like being on holiday from your own brain! As Professor Williams says, when you’re being mindful you should try and “Notice the busyness of your mind. Just observe your own thoughts, stand back and watch them floating past, like leaves on a stream. There is no need to try to change the thoughts, or argue with them, or judge them: just observe. This takes practice. It’s about putting the mind in a different mode, in which we see each thought as simply another mental event and not an objective reality that has control over us.”
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A lot of the colouring books on Amazon are quite heavily discounted at around £3.99, which I think is great value for money, especially when you take into consideration how intricately detailed all of the outlines are (basically, each of the pages take ages to colour in, so a book should last you ages). There are so many to choose from with different illustrators having their own distinct styles, some of which will appeal to you more than others, so choose a style that you find engaging. Also, all of the books have different themes, so whether you want pages of tropical animals or distorted cityscapes, your perfect colouring book is out there waiting for you!
So go and get your colouring book, your glass of milk and your pencil tin and embrace the enviably relaxed mind-set of your five year old self! Except now you don’t need to fight with Monica over who gets to use the one good pink pencil first, so your five year old self would probably, in fact, be jealous of you.
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