Why Adult Coloring Books Are All The Rage

Coloring books: They’re not just for kids anymore. And, as any parent knows, they never really were. After all, what mom hasn’t lost herself in a Cinderella coloring book while “helping” her child stay inside the lines? 

Until recently, coloring for adults was relegated to the category of “guilty pleasures.” But in the last year or so, not only have paint bars—and “paint nights” at bars and cafés— been popping up all over the place, but coloring books for grownups have been selling like hotcakes everywhere, including Westchester. Both chains and local indie bookstores have been stocking adult coloring books, which feature more intricate and detailed patterns and pictures—not to mention much smaller white spaces in between the lines—than the kids’ versions. Colored pencils, rather than crayons, are generally used, because of the tiny spaces, but that’s part of the fun. What’s behind the craze? It’s a lot of fun, for starters. 

Adult coloring books have also been flying off the shelves at the Village Bookstore in Pleasantville and Anderson’s Book Shop in Larchmont. The books generally run between $10 and $15.

“I think people need a way to de-stress, and coloring does tap into different parts of our brains,” says Pelham-based art therapist Alexandra Brueckner, ATR-BC, LCAT. “There’s a meditative quality to it.”

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Part of what makes adult coloring books successful in relieving stress is their structure. A 2005 study found that coloring a mandala or another structured pattern was more effective at reducing stress than free-form coloring. “It’s kind of this perfect blend of something that’s structured but leaves room for the imagination,” Brueckner says.

Though many people find coloring calming and therapeutic, “true art therapy,” according to Brueckner, involves the facilitation of a therapist. Some might beg to differ, including the ever-growing number of people releasing stress and tension on the pages. 

Regardless of the semantics, coloring “can be a tool, like anything else,” Brueckner says. “And if it makes people feel relaxed, I think that’s great.”

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