Colouring in is a hobby that isn’t just for kids. There are huge benefits to mindful colouring for adults, including positive impacts on the brain, your creativity and your fine motor skills. In fact, studies suggest that just 10 minutes of adult colouring in a day can soothe a stressed mind, reduce anxiety and increase mindfulness. So grab your supplies and get set to reap the rewards of this popular pastime.

It Helps Us Feel Relaxed

Close-up of a hand holding a pink pencil colouring in an intricate pattern.

Chilling out on the lounge while watching Netflix is one route to relaxation, but have you given good old-fashioned colouring in a go? US clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea says the act of putting pencil to paper and the focus involved helps our brains take a much-needed break. Unlike other more complex arts and craft activities, colouring is simple and low stakes so the pressure is taken off. All that’s required of us is choosing some colours and then the soothing, repetitive action of scribbling between the lines. When we’re engaged in colouring, we’re present in the moment and disregarding our worries and fears.

It Improves Fine Motor Skills 

Colouring may seem like a low-intensity or passive pastime but it’s actually a wonderful workout for your hands and fingers. Through gripping the coloured pencils, sketching and shading, you’re strengthening essential hand movements and practising your pincer (pinching your thumb and index finger together) and tripod (like when you hold a pencil) grasps, working those fine motor skills that you may take for granted – without them you couldn’t dress yourself, prepare food or fill in forms. Colouring also perfects hand-eye coordination and bilateral coordination (that’s a fancy way of saying coordinating both hands together).

It Makes Our Brains Better

When you colour, you’re stimulating the parts of your brain that deal with creativity as well as concentration and focus. You’re also practising your problem-solving skills and working on your patience. Regular blocks of colouring time are even thought by some to boost brain function and help prevent dementia. Australian neuroscientist Dr Stan Rodski has studied what makes colouring so universally beneficial and he believes it’s down to three factors: repetition, pattern and detail. In his work, Dr Rodski documented that adults who used colouring books had their brainwaves change.

SEE ALSO: 5 Amazing Benefits of Art Classes for Adults

It Makes Us Feel Happy 

A lady is sitting at a wooden desk colouring in a book with a blue pencil. More coloured pencils sit on the desk next to her.

Colouring harks back to a simpler time, when we were kids and had fewer stresses and worries. Picking up those pencils is almost like stepping into a time machine. Like all creative pursuits, colouring makes you feel good – you’re engaging in an act of creation and making something tangible and that feels amazing, in a way that endless scrolling on your phone does not. You can also feel pride and a sense of achievement when you complete a piece of colouring and stick it to the wall or fridge door.

It Allows Us to Express Ourselves

Making art and being creative is all about expressing your innermost thoughts and feelings, and just like drawing or painting, colouring is an outlet for sharing those with the world. The choices you make – the colours, tools and the page you pick from your colouring book – are all based on your mood and allow you to vent your anger, show your sadness or work out your frustrations on the page.

It’s an Aid to Mental Wellbeing

There’s evidence from the University of Washington that colouring can help those suffering from conditions such as anxiety and depression. When we colour in, we calm down our amygdala, the part of our brain that controls our flight or fight response. A study out of New Zealand’s University of Otago found that just a week of daily colouring was enough to help participants with the mental health symptoms of depression and anxiety.

It Gives Us Something to Do

A woman with red nails colours in a mandala with a blue pencil.

Colouring in is one of those wonderful hobbies you can do anywhere, at any time, and with minimal resources. It’s perfect for beating boredom on long plane or train trips, or to soothe yourself back to sleep after a bout of insomnia (much better for you than staring at a screen in the middle of the night). Consider wrapping up some colouring books and a pack of pretty pencils as a present for a new mum or a friend who’s stuck in hospital, as a beneficial way to help them pass the time.

It Can Promote Connectivity

Many would consider colouring the perfect solo activity – it’s quiet and passive and can be introspective, allowing us to get in touch with our own thoughts. But colouring in can also provide a wonderful opportunity to connect and share with others. If you’re a parent, try setting up a big colouring session with your kids. Grab a stack of colouring books and all the pencils, crayons and markers you can find. Sit down together and work on some colouring – you may be surprised how the forced quiet time allows you to really communicate. Not a parent? Why not start a weekly colouring tradition with friends? Add some wine and cheese and you’ve got the ultimate evening. There are also colouring groups you can join online – get clicking to share your finished masterpieces or share tips on the best tools and techniques.

A rotating GIF of art products including watercolour pencils and fineliners on colourful backgrounds.

What To Try

SEE ALSO: Why Colouring in Is Good for Kids

This article was originally published in 2021 and has been updated.