Colouring in books do help to improve people’s mood, new research finds.
However, ‘real’ art therapy has other advantages on top, the authors argue.
Dr Girija Kaimal, who led the study, said:
“The main takeaway is that coloring has some limited benefits like reducing stress and negative mental states.
But it does not shift anything else of substance, develop relationships, nor result in any personal development.”
Art therapists argue that therapy is about more than just feeling better, it is about growing oneself.
The study compared simple colouring in with a 40-minute art therapy session.
This involved people creating art while being facilitated by an art therapist.
Both groups showed similar improvements in wellbeing after the sessions.
However, Dr Kaimal explained that the art therapy had some additional effects:
“The art therapists’ open studio sessions resulted in more empowerment, creativity and improved mood, which are significant for individuals striving to improve their quality of life and make lasting change.
Many of the outcomes were enabled through the relational support from the art therapist
The art therapist-facilitated session involves more interpersonal interaction, problem solving around creative choices and expression, empowerment and perhaps more learning about the self and others.
That all contributes to the outcomes we saw.”
Colouring in, then, can be effective to make you feel better in the short-term.
Dr Kaimal said:
“Coloring might allow for some reduction in distress or negativity, but since it is a structured task, it might not allow for further creative expression, discovery and exploration which we think is associated with the positive mood improvements we saw in the open studio condition.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal (Kaimal et al., 2017).