Background from set of colour pencils.

The Benefits of Colouring as a Mindfulness Practice

Some people hear “mindfulness” and immediately think of sitting on a meditation cushion. But is that all it is? 

As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains in “Happiness,” we can embrace mindfulness anywhere. We can do very much the same things we always do—walking, sitting, working, eating, talking—except we do them with an awareness of what we are doing.

Mindfulness is less about the action and more about the state of living in the present moment. Arts and crafts like colouring can become mindful if we want them to, carrying the many benefits of this intentional practice. It is said that colouring for 20 minutes may: 

  • improve mood
  • reduce stress
  • reduce anxiety
  • lower symptoms of depression
  • increase relaxation
  • increase a state of mindfulness

There may also be cognitive consequences, enhancing our ability to focus and develop original ideas to solve problems.

Tips for a Mindful Colouring Routine

1. LET YOUR INNER CHILD PLAY

As adults, we sometimes forget how exciting it was to paint on walls, get muddied from head to toe, and splash in rain puddles as kids. Haven’t you felt the urge to let go of control and—as cartoonist Hugh MacLeod notes—get your crayons back?

Ignite your creative spark with structured colouring, focusing on predetermined shapes (e.g., mandalas, plaid, geometric patterns), or let the five-year-old in you roam wild with free-form colour without suggestive templates!

Get curious about colour combinations, mix and match materials (pencils, markers, pastels, chalk). Throw in paper cuttings, stickers, scraps, or any other items you have handy. Celebrate the joy of creating and try to release any felt need to overthink.

2. FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION 

Direct your focus to the page. Ground yourself through your senses—watch the various tones coming to life, feel your pencil or crayon in hand, and hear the sounds they make on paper.

When your mind wanders, observe the thoughts and feelings that arise without judging them or trying to correct them. Find an anchor on your breath or a specific point in your drawing, and redirect your attention to colouring.

3. LEAVE PERFECTIONISM AT THE DOOR

Colour “just because.” Try not to worry about the reason or the outcome of your playtime. Concentrate on the present moment rather than the why. 

If you’re pressed for time, schedule short colouring blocks throughout the week. You can also set a timer per session to help you stay mindful instead of thinking about what comes next. Start with a few minutes and adjust it as your practice progresses.

When fear and the itch for excellence arise, walk alongside them. Notice them and flow with ease. Aim to discover who you are when creating and dreaming outside of your expectations.

Colouring is a nourishing mindful activity that allows us to ground ourselves, focus our attention, and sit with what is.

Trishna Patnaik

Art Therapist and Healer, Mumbai

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