It’s early December and you’re knee-deep in work, vigorously studying for final exams and working on end-of-semester papers. To relieve stress, many students will seek out comfort foods or crash on the couch for a Netflix marathon… instead, what if you grabbed a coloring book and a pack of crayons and relived this elementary-school pastime? Say what?
Research suggests that art therapy, such as simply coloring in a coloring book, may help to reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety. In a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, researchers found that cancer patients participating in a one-hour art therapy session during treatment had a decrease in symptoms such as “tiredness,” “anxiety,” and “tension” post-therapy, and rated higher in positive feelings such as “calm,” “comfort,” and “relaxed” (Nainis). Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala explains this phenomenon, stating, “the relaxation that [coloring] provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress” (Santos).
Another study looked at students living in the UK who participated in a program titled The Art Room, which allowed students to engage in artistic projects during the school day. After one year, the study reported that students who attended The Art Room demonstrated a drop in symptoms such as depression, as well as a reduction in emotional and conduct problems and hyperactivity (Reuters).
What is the takeaway from these two studies? Using coloring books, or engaging in other crafts or art therapy activities may help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety in college students. Borrow a friend’s book or order one online (such as this one), throw it in your backpack, and when a wave of stress hits you in the library, take a 20 minute break to relax and color away!
Reuters. “Art Therapy May Help Kids With Behavior Problems.” Medical Daily. Medical Daily, 17 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
Nainis, Nancy, Judith A. Paice, Julia Ratner, James H. Wirth, Jerry Lai, and Susan Shott. “Relieving Symptoms in Cancer: Innovative Use of Art Therapy.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 31.2 (2006): 162-69. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
Santos, Elana. “Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
By Julie Kameisha