The Art of Mindfulness

Rebekka Gondosch | Reporter 

Every so often a cultural trend comes along that transitions so quickly into the realm of general acceptance that it seems commonplace and somehow eludes an urgent need for deeper questioning of its origins or its sudden intrigue amongst the masses. Such a social embracing seems to be the case with the widely popular emergence (or re-emergence) of the adult colouring book. Having received two colouring books myself over the holidays, seen others acquire their own, witnessed colouring stations develop in local Hamilton cafés, and most recently spotted ones for sale in the magazine section at Shopper’s Drug Mart, it is clear that something about colouring books has become rapidly desirable. Questioning this need allows us to reflect on and respond to what colouring books might provide that has such a mass appeal. A possible answer? Mindfulness.

Dr. Russell Kosits, Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair, kindly provides the Crown readers an explanation of mindfulness and its potential relationship to colouring books. He shares, “Jon Kabat-Zinn offers perhaps the best-known definition of mindfulness: it means ‘paying attention’ but in ‘a particular way.’ There are three dimensions to this particular form of attention. First, mindfulness is paying attention ‘on purpose’ […] it seems quite likely that colouring could have this same dimension — a deliberate focusing of the attention on the colouring process. Second, contrary to our tendency to live life on ‘automatic pilot’ where we are mindlessly preoccupied with the past or the future, mindfulness involves paying attention to ‘the present moment’ […] Colouring could also have this dimension, if we pay attention to what the pencil feels like in the hand, for example, or of the sound of the pencil on paper, or of the way we respond emotionally to the colours, etc. […] Finally, Kabat-Zinn says that mindfulness involves paying attention ‘non-judgmentally.’”

Kosits’ descriptions illuminate qualities of mindfulness that colouring books could certainly offer. Focus, meticulousness, presence, and an honouring of one’s abilities are all traits highly sought after, and found, through colouring. Kosits shares that, “there has been lots of research on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an 8 week program (developed by Kabat-ZInn) in which participants practice mindfulness for about an hour every day. A few of the reported benefits include reduced psychological and physiological stress, increased happiness, lower levels of depression, better immune function, decreased pain in patients with chronic headaches, improved sleep, and even improved moral reasoning.” Studies relating specifically to colouring books might produce similar results if mindfulness is at work.

Participating in a phenomenon that acts as a tool for awareness and grounding seems to be an inherently positive one. If colouring can help us support a patient, present, and positive sense of self then this is one trend worthy of a long shelf life.