It happened suddenly, didn’t it? One day we were staring at a rather unextraordinary bestseller list and the next we were seeing adult coloring books amongst the James Pattersons and Jojo Moyes’ of the world. Now, the eyebrow-raising pastime that launched 1,000 thinkpieces, is a full-blown movement that shows no signs of slowing — as of this writing, two of the top five bestsellers on Amazon are adult coloring books. You can work your Crayolas to nubs coloring everything from bible verses and sea creatures to many, many books about swear words, all in the name of stress relief.
Today, Lacy Mucklow and Angela Porter, the prolific duo behind such bestsellers as “Color Me Calm” and “Color Me Happy” have released “Color Me to Sleep,” the first such adult coloring book designed to help readers wind down and achieve a good night’s rest. We spoke to Mucklow, an art therapist, about the coloring trend and why, exactly, scratching out a picture of an owl might make someone sleep better.
Why do you think adult coloring books are having such a moment right now?
Coloring books for adults have been around for years on a small scale, but I think the coloring books started becoming really popular about a year or two ago. Apparently, the trend really started to swell in France, and then started spreading around the global market
My theory is that we’re more digitally minded than ever. A few years ago, owning a smartphone wasn’t an expected fact of life. Coloring books (along with board games and puzzles) are popular right now because it’s an interactive activity that doesn’t require a screen. At the same time, social media makes it easy to share your finished work.
On top of that, coloring gives each person the freedom to be creative and escape the stressors of the everyday. We see the joy and excitement that children have when they color a book with cartoon characters that they love, and we tend to get away from doing things like that when we’re adults.
I also think that adults are interested in the books because it is an effective and innovative way to bond with people across generations. People have told me that coloring books have connected them with other adults, their children and their own, older parents. It’s nice to be able to put your phone away and enjoy down time with a shared experience.
How is this book different than other coloring books for calmness? What makes it sleep-focused?
The templates of “Color Me to Sleep” center on the things that exemplify a good sleep: comfortable beds, cozy linens, warm beverages and fireplaces, starry skies, hot baths and whimsical fantasies. This helps colorers visualize positive sleep experiences for themselves. The patterns and shapes encourage people create a restful space, and the images infuse that space with a sleepy mentality.
What types of shapes and patterns promote a restful calm mind?
When it comes to relaxing, one of the most useful designs is the mandala. Cultures around the world use the mandala to guide meditation, and they were popularized in the west by Carl Jung after he included them in his theory of symbols and drew a mandala every day himself. Mandalas are highly symmetrical and emphasize circles, so they allow for creativity but also provide the guidance that people need to get going.
Patterns found in nature make people feel comfortable, because they’re familiar. The Fibonacci sequence, for instance, appears on everything from seashells to pinecones and sunflowers. Fractals patterns, which you can see on snowflakes and ferns, can induce a meditative state through their repetition.
How do you think performing an activity like coloring prepare someone to go to sleep?
Coloring helps tune out the chatter of the day by focusing the mind on a single activity. The repetitive motion and detailed designs help induce a meditative state for most adults and allows them to tune the world out for a little while as they focus. Coloring engages the amygdala, the “fight- or-flight” part of the brain, and gives it permission to let its guard down.
Are there any particular colors you recommend using for a good night's sleep?
A person’s color choice can even affect their mood, and every color has its own “energy” that can calm someone down or excite them. Though it varies by culture, cooler colors tend to reduce energy, while warmer colors tend to increase energy. Bright colors tend to bring more intense feelings, while pastel or darker colors communicate softer energy.
So for winding down for a good night's sleep, cooler, darker, and pastel colors are likely to be the most effective. However, the most important thing when coloring is to figure out which colors you find pleasant and soothing and then incorporate them into your palate.
Did you design the templates to be monotonous, in hopes of lulling colorers to sleep?
The repetitive designs of a mandala can be lulling to some people, but we also include many scenic and representational pictures that show a variety of different designs. The idea of the book isn’t to bore people to the point of passing out, but to help them put aside their stressors and encourage thoughts of restfulness and comfort.
Would it be wise for parents to incorporate coloring into their child's bedtime routine?
This is absolutely something that can be incorporated into a nighttime routine with children. Though "Color Me to Sleep" in particular may be more advanced for some children to use themselves, parents can use it to color with their children in their own coloring books as to wind down for the evening together. Many children actually prefer to color before bed rather than hear a bedtime story. It is definitely a method worth exploring its effectiveness for a better night's sleep.