Is Colouring-in Really Mindful?

If you go to the mindfulness section of many bookshops you will find adult colouring books. These books suggest that we can find inner peace, so long as we don’t go outside the lines. I know of school teachers who announce to their pupils ‘it’s time to do some mindfulness’ only to get out some colouring-in, and get a bit of peace from the children for half an hour.

So is colouring-in really mindful or is it just another fad? The answer is both. And, as with all mindfulness practice it is not about what we do but about the intention and attitude with which we do it. You might have a colouring book that you use as a means of distracting yourself from something that you need to pay attention to, or that you might be using absent-mindedly whilst watching Netflix. This isn’t mindful – even if you are colouring-in pictures of mandalas! Or you might decide to spend an hour colouring in and spend the entire time beating yourself up for not doing in perfectly and end up ripping it up and starting again. This is not mindful either!

However, we can use colouring in, or any sort of art and creativity for that matter, as a form of mindfulness practice. We begin by setting an intention – to be aware of what is happening in the present moment when we are carrying out the activity. This might mean turning off distractions such as music or TV. This might mean paying attention to the sensations of movement in the hands; paying attention to the sounds of the pens or pencils making contact with the paper; paying attention to the colours and shapes. We might notice our emotional response to the activity and how this changes moment-by-moment. And we undertake the activity with a particular set of attitudes: beginner’s mind, non-judgement, gratitude, acceptance, non-striving, letting go, generosity, patience and trust. We allow the image to unfold in its own time without striving for perfection.

So is colouring in really mindful? Sometimes!