Offline and in-the-lines

COLOURING-IN is just for kids — or is it? Walk into any bookshop and you’ll find shelves of adult colouring books—if you’re lucky, because they’re flying off the shelves.

“It’s the fastest selling book in the shop,” Fremantle’s New Edition staffer Annie Barnetson says.

It’s not as daft as it first sounds, says DADAA research and evaluation coordinator Natalie Georgeff.

“It’s a practical form of meditation/mindfulness, because you are immersed in the moment,” she says, spreading her collection of beautifully illustrated books and coloured pencils across the table.

“I thought it would be easy but it takes attention and focus, because you have to think about the colour choice, the pattern choice—and you have to stay in the lines.”

Debate is hot amongst art therapists, who shudder at claims colouring-in is art therapy.

• Natalie Georgeff

• Natalie Georgeff

“If it’s the first step towards making a bit of time for yourself, to give yourself a bit of a zone-out period there’s all benefits to that. But to sort of suggest that it’s a sort of creative art expression, you’re actually using other people’s designs — why not make your own?” Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association president Jo Kelly asks in an ABC interview.

DADAA runs art therapy workshops at its East Fremantle HQ, and Ms Georgeff says there’s room for both.

“I would argue that any type of quality participatory arts activity is beneficial for your well-being at any age.”

Methodist Ladies College created its own colouring book for year 7–12 students, after middle year dean Janine Webb heard Melbourne neuroscientist Stan Rodski on late night radio.

“I was really surprised to discover companies were giving colouring books to their high-performing leaders and managers.”

People rarely allow their brains to relax, due to constant stimulation from social media and other electronic forms of messaging, Rodski found.

Lab tests published on his website show colouring reduces stress in a similar way to meditation or yoga, and that the human brain reacts positively to things that are patterned, repetitious and detailed.

“Just getting offline is a big thing,” Ms Georgeff says.


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