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I’ve become a big fan of adult colouring books. I now have several which I rotate through depending on my mood. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, it wasn’t until I spent a half-hour colouring one day in group therapy that I rediscovered the joy of colouring. To see a room of adults sit down with a mandala and a box of markers and colour away so joyfully, and peacefully, was life changing.

Everyone in that room suffered from poor mental health. Everyone in that room was dealing with their own responses to shame and stigma. Yet here we all were, together, sharing this childhood activity with no qualms, no sense of being judged. It was both liberating and sobering – liberating because we had the freedom to engage in this activity even if only for a short while, sobering because we each recognized that in some way, outside of that room we would be judged for engaging in this activity.

Fortunately for us all, there followed a boom in the availability of adult colouring books which removed some of the possible stigma we were concerned with.

And with that boom, another coping tool was available to me.

How does colouring help me cope?

Essentially, my colouring is a mindful activity. My attention is centred on the colouring, deliberately, and non-judgmentally in the present moment. I say non-judgmentally because any skill I display is a surprise, not that colouring takes a great deal of skill! More importantly, though, colouring is fun and how can that be judged?

During my colouring, my mind will wander back to the past, or forward to the future. Whenever it does, I see where it went, make note of it if I wish, let go of whatever thought I was having and return to my colouring. By doing this, I am learning how to let go of possibly threatening thoughts, learning to treat thoughts as only thoughts, learning that thoughts are not facts. The only fact in that moment is the drawing I am colouring.

I don’t rush the colouring. I work on an area for a time and then I set it aside. I find myself returning to it whenever I feel distress, enjoying the soothing effect of the precise movements of the pencil, the growth of the colour on the paper. In these times, the distress abates and I can view the source of the distress calmly, without fear.

I cannot overstate how beneficial this is to me, to have an activity to fall back on should things start to overwhelm or disturb. Try it yourself.


About John Dickson

A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.

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