Keeping the Child in You Alive:

Part 2: The Science of Art and Therapeutic Insight

If you have been following our art therapy series, we are happy to announce that part two is finally here! After taking you through the basics of adult colouring, we are going to show you how far from ‘basic’ adult colouring really is.

Would you have guessed there is a science behind the act of colouring? It isn’t merely a therapeutic and recreational way to colour your life: there is actually a simple scientific explanation to put all the pieces together.

Australia’s Dr. Stan Rodski, neuroscientist and author of his own line of colouring books, explains that the mere act of colouring releases a sedative in your body that calms and destresses. This sedative is similar to the one found in anti-anxiety or depression medication.

In a research study performed by Rodski, colouring and breathing techniques were compared to determine the most suitable form of relaxation. The conclusion was that colouring reduced stress and induced relaxation in 75% of the participants.

This is because the participants would rather partake in something unusual, fun and fulfilling to aid their relaxation than something as simple and mundane as breathing. This makes sense even to the not so science-y brain: most of us usually gravitate towards the colourful and entertaining aspects of life.

Together with this, adult colouring has been supported by therapists and psychologists around the world. We are fortunate to have some inside information from a South African based art therapist, whose knowledge on this topic is worldly.

There are those of us who only consider something valid when it is supported by science, and  those who seek validation in the opinion of an expert in the matter.

Traci Humby, an art therapist for children at Crawford Preparatory School in Lonehill, Johannesburg, gives some insight into art therapy of her particular field. She says, “My goal is to alleviate the discomfort that brought [the child] into my art room in the first place.” Humby works with children from a diverse range of backgrounds: from kids with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) to kids with divorced parents, and tries to find the most suitable medium to help them express what they are experiencing.

In art therapy in general, Humby explains the concepts of the more conventional types of ‘talk’ therapy to art therapy: “It is a way to express one’s problems in a safe and supportive environment in order to confront and work through some issue in your life that is holding you back from achieving your goals and dreams. It is also a means of destressing and relaxation.”

Sometimes we don’t always have the right words, and when we do, we fear using them. The most crucial aspect to note with art therapy, both in adults and children, is that “words are not as important in art therapy as they are in ‘talk therapy’, making it ideal for people who don’t feel comfortable with ‘talking to strangers about my problems’”, says Humby.

An article on Medical Daily by Dana Dovey outlining the therapeutic science of art therapy mentions that it is mainly used to help people to express themselves when their feelings and experiences are  too difficult to put into words, and this is where adult colouring has become useful to many in coping with problems of their own.

Humby explains: “Adult colouring relieves the stress around creating a worthy art piece and instead frees the person to just use colours that he is drawn to to create a beautiful, colourful creation that has very little chance of going wrong.” This type of autonomy in a world full of daily routines, decision making and rules can be freeing. We eliminate the element of the expected and we are able to produce something with no constraints.

“I would love it if everyone did some sort of creative activity like art. It is very important to keep the child in us alive. Art is fantastic in that way,” says Humby. We agree! There are few things in life that set us free and as a child, we are free. Free to feel, free to express, free of all the stress and responsibilities that come hand in hand with adulthood. Adult colouring provides us with a door to this life through a box of colour pencils and a colouring book.

So, if this information about adult colouring rattles your brain in all ways possible, then keep your eyes peeled for our final instalment of this series, where we look at a few testimonies of adult colourers and how it has made their lives that much more colourful. Stay tuned!