9 Things I Learned From a Coloring Book

By Suzy Taylor Oakley, Miss September 2015


In case you’re not aware, there’s a new(?) phenomenon called “adult coloring books.”

Creepy fact: Just now when I went to Google the term to be sure that’s what these books are actually called, I got as far as typing “adult …” when it auto-filled “coloring books” for me.

ColorMeCalmCover240The book I bought recently, Color Me Calm, doesn’t use that term, but it’s a “national bestseller” and was one of the top hits in my online search. Here’s part of the description:

“Art therapist Lucy Mucklowand artistAngela Porter offer up 100 coloring templates all designed to help you get coloring and get relaxed. Organized into seven therapeutically-themed chapters including Mandalas, Water Scenes, Wooded Scenes, Geometric Patterns, Flora & Fauna, Natural Patterns, and Spirituality – the book examines the benefits of putting pencil to paper and offers adults an opportunity to channel their anxiety into satisfying, creative accomplishment. Color Me Calm is the perfect way step back from the stress of everyday life, color, and relax!”

This is “a Zen coloring book,” according to a little blurb on the cover. Hmm. OK. I guess I could use a little zen, as long as it’s a lowercase zen, right?

When I bought the book from a Books Are Fun table at work, I debated about whether it was a frivolous purchase ($10, no tax).

Spend 10 bucks on a coloring book? For me?

I thought through the reasons not to buy it:

  • Limited funds, my generally frugal nature.

  • I try to avoid impulse purchases.

  • I’m not a kid.

  • Would I actually color in it?

Then I processed a list of pros:

  • Stress relief.

  • Even though I’m not a kid anymore, I’m still a kid at heart and I loved to color when I was younger (er … older, too). (Confession: I’m also “too old” for VeggieTales, but my husband has my full permission to give me the DVDs for birthdays, Christmas and any other special occasion. I will never again be able to hear the story of David and Goliath without thinking of “Dave and the Giant Pickle” – and giggling.)

  • I’m trying to nurture the artsy, creative part of my brain.

  • The book contained many beautiful designs.

  • I could post the “art” online as something different from my usual ramblings; hey, maybe someone will think I’m an artist! (A girl can dream.)

  • I could count it as “creating content” on one of my Facebook accountability groups.

  • Stress relief.


On my lunch break that day, I bought a set of felt markers, and that evening I started coloring my first drawing.

Here’s what I learned/already knew:

  1. Even coloring someone else’s design can give you a sense of creativityhowever small.

  2. Even when you stick to what you know (geometric designs rather than a pastoral scene, a “natural pattern” or a mandala [I had to look that one up]), just the act of picking the colors and deciding where to use them – heck, even gazing thoughtfully at the rainbow of markers in the package – can create joy if you’re open to it. It may not be the Sistine Chapel, but I’ll be happy with a good adult-coloring-book until I can afford a trip to the Vatican. I’ll take anything that helps grow my creativity and use a part of my brain that doesn’t get worked often.

  3. Coloring, painting, needlework, playing a musical instrument – any kind of artistic or craftsy endeavor, including viewing someone else’s completed piece of art – can calm your mind and your body. A blogger in one of my Facebook groups is a sound therapist and uses sound waves to help heal people in various ways.

  4. You’re as young as you feel. For me, coloring, watching cartoons, making up silly songs with my husband, talking to my dogs … it all makes me feel young, even when the mirror tells me otherwise.

  5. Sometimes it’s OK to splurge, as long as it’s not every day and you’re not blowing an entire month’s budget on a coloring book.

  6. The goal of art isn’t perfection. I’m happy to say that my perfectionistic little self-lost most of the arguments with the organized, concrete-sequential part of my brain while I was coloring. I let my markers stray outside the lines a bit; I knew that I was the only person who would care (or notice). And because letting go of perfectionism was one of my goals when I picked up the coloring book, I considered this a win.

  7. Listening to the Arkansas Razorbacks on the radio, when they’re losing a football game, does nothing to enhance my relaxation, even when I’m creating a beautiful piece of art.

  8. If you try hard enough, you can make a blog post out of anything. 🙂

  9. Stopping at 9, instead of trying to make this a Top 10 list, is good practice for a perfectionist.


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  1. Debbie says:

    I’ve been coloring with the granddaughter — probably more for me than her:) Loved this:) Thanks for all of your wonderful posts this month. I’ve really enjoyed them.

  2. Alison Chino says:

    A friend of mine here does “adult colouring” just before bed and she says it helps her relax to fall asleep! I’ve been meaning to try it out. 🙂

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