At 78, my mother-in-law would not describe herself as “trendy” but she’s certainly picked up a relatively new trend that’s given her a new attitude, new inspiration, and a new outlook on life.
She discovered mindfulness art – well perhaps it’s not mindfulness art, but a form of art she remembers from childhood. This type of art doesn’t require sophisticated skills or experience. All you have to do is colour. Yes, colour. In a colouring book designed to stimulate your mind and relax your body.
A 2011 art therapy study (Sezaki & Bloomgarden) involving older adults with and without dementia, examined the relationship between art therapy and spiritual-emotional healing. The study revealed there are benefits to purposeful art activities – especially for older adults who are not as socially connected with family, friends and their community. Another study conducted by Kim and Kang (2013) explored the use of colouring therapy for older adults recovering from stroke. Their findings support art as a means of improving an individual’s outlook on life and overall quality of life.
But not so fast. Not everyone is buying into this new trend. Dr. Cathy Malchiodi is a clinical therapist and a leading international expert in art therapy. She believes there really is no concrete evidence to support colouring as a way to improve spiritual, emotional or physical health. She’s convinced that art therapy and colouring therapy are not the same and not even closely related in terms of any real improvement of mood, outlook and overall stress reduction. There’s just not enough scientific evidence to support it.
It’s hard to tell where the mindfulness colouring trend came from. But my mother-in-law swears by it. She says it relaxes her. She believes that colouring helps her to take her mind away from stressful thoughts and memories. She feels great after just 20 minutes of colouring in her flower-themed, pre-printed colouring book. Needless to say, there are numerous colouring books for older adults on the market today. The best way to decide if colouring therapy works for you is to take the plunge, try it for yourself and see what happens.