Zen and the Art of Coloring
Coloring is a form of art therapy, which is highly beneficial for seniors, and an effective treatment for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. But what does coloring have to do with zen? And how is it beneficial for the brain?
When you color, you are practicing mindfulness, which means that you are focused on what you are doing in the moment. You are only concentrating on one thing, which is moving the colored pencil in methodical strokes to keep the color within the lines. Any mindfulness activity can be considered as a meditation because you are wholly present and it quiets the mental chatter in your head so you are not thinking about other things. Coloring has many of the same positive health effects as meditation, which has been proven in many clinical styles to be an extremely effective health enhancing activity.
Coloring elevates your mood! It helps people de-stress and relax. Coloring has been shown to decrease agitation and irritability in Alzheimer’s patients because it is a soothing activity. When you are relaxed or in a good mood through coloring ‘meditation’, it increases your ability to focus, which may help with other cognitive functions as well. Researchers as well as art therapists say that coloring can help preserve cognitive function because the more in the habit you are of concentrating, the sharper your brain stays. If you can practice the skill of concentrating on a mindfulness activity like coloring every day, your brain will remain more plastic and alert than if you do not.
Coloring is a creative outlet, which is positive in so many ways. Sometimes people, especially loved ones with dementia and Alzheimer’s, may have difficulties with verbal communication and trouble with expressing themselves and their emotions. Coloring is a way to express their thoughts and feelings without having to use words.Coloring is a wonderful way for older adults to let out those feelings and thoughts in an enjoyable way. This can be a source of relief and joy, which decreases stress and helps overall health. Studies have shown that coloring can help treat anxiety and depression.
Coloring helps mood and memories. When seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s color, it reminds them of childhood, which is important since the long term memories are often the memories that are left even after the shorter term memories have all disappeared. Life can be frustrating with those diseases, and ordinary tasks may no longer be accessible. But Coloring is also a task that is simple to understand but complex enough to be engaging and rewarding. When someone finishes a coloring project, it helps give them a sense of pride and accomplishment. It can also be a great gift to give to someone!
Coloring can be beneficial for those who struggle with arthritis because it is great for maintaining fine motor skills, and the muscles associated with writing. It helps with hand-eye coordination as well because your eye is following along where your hand is coloring, and supports dexterity through gentle gripping. Coloring is a lovely activity that is readily available, especially those who may be physically limited. It is portable and you can sit both inside or outside when coloring (you can get fresh air into the lungs and absorb vitamin D!). Those who may be bedridden can also color and create. Coloring promotes socialization when in a group, and encourages cooperation.
There are now many beautiful options for adult coloring books, ask the senior in your life which images or themes they like best! Grab a coloring book and some pencils or markers and start showing us your true colors!