Stress Less: Colouring Books for Grown-ups
In this otherwise bland and grey inner-city office building
a brave experiment in Colour Therapy is being conducted …
The world is spinning faster all the time, it seems. Where advances in technology once offered the hope of increased leisure and more widely dispersed wealth, as it turns out they have delivered exactly the opposite. While the nature of our work is far less physical than it was in the past, the psychological and intellectual demands of the modern workplace are similarly extreme in nature.
Unpaid overtime, short-term contracts and itinerant futures are fast becoming the norm in the modern office, yet this uncertainty – effective in keeping employees on their toes and keen to impress – has sometimes disastrous consequences in terms of mental health. While rarely acknowledged, this trend is evidenced by recent studies into stress and wellbeing in Australia. The Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2013, published by the Australian Psychological Society, cites “significantly lower overall workplace wellbeing in 2013 … compared with findings in 2012 and 2011 … significantly lower levels of job satisfaction … significantly lower levels of interest in their job … [and] almost half of working Australians rated issues in the workplace as a source of stress.”1
Clearly it’s time to step back and take stock of ourselves and our working environments, and for workers at all levels to develop and encourage coping strategies that help deal with stress and unhappiness in the workplace. One such strategy that has emerged with increasing popularity in Europe is colouring books. The past year has seen the market for adult colouring books explode in the UK and Europe. France is so taken with the concept that they are rumoured to be selling more of these titles than cookery books, and five of the Top Ten books on Amazon UK are all adult colouring books.
Far from the simple images that you remember colouring as a child, these books contain elaborate drawings that have readers creating sophisticated and detailed works. But it’s not just about making pretty pictures. Colour has long been known to hold therapeutic powers. Increases in confidence, insight, healing, calm, balance, mindfulness, fun, meditation and relaxation are among the many benefits that these books claim to provide.
To test the power of colouring books in alleviating the worries of the modern workplace, Trouble went into one such office armed with three new releases from publisher Michael O’Mara. Illustrators Richard Merritt, Cindy Wilde and Laura-Kate Chapman have put together a series of books that promise to surprise, challenge and entertain prospective colourists, with the common theme of Therapy. “The images in this book are intricate because focusing on detailed tasks can be therapeutic relaxing and calming a busy mind” writes Sophie Schrey in Colour Therapy: an anti-stress colouring book.
Certainly the initial reactions of our test subjects to the books was nothing less than delight and enthusiasm, and proof of concept was obvious from the get-go. They could barely wait to get started. We chose a medium-sized call centre in inner-city Melbourne for our experiment. The centre boasts around 300-400 mostly temporary employees, many of whom are travellers from the UK and Europe, supplementing their journey with a few months paid work before moving on to their next destination. Others have been at the centre for two years or more. We shared the books around a control group of about ten employees from varied backgrounds and situations, who were, without exception, taken up instantly with the excitement of the task.
With so many gorgeous possibilities before them, choosing their favourite image was a job in itself, but once decided our test subjects set about completing their pages every break they got. All reported having had a great week at the conclusion of the test, and 90% felt they had been generally happier, more productive and more engaged in the workplace as a result. Looking forward to coming to work was a noticeable shift for most of them.
Artists know the importance of bolstering and continually reinvigorating the creative drive within themselves. Slowing down and taking time out to think and look more deeply at the world around them is part and parcel of the job, and often one of its most attractive aspects. Considering that such a drive exists in all people and all walks of life to greater or lesser degrees, it is no stretch to see that a few $19.95 colouring books could help save companies a bundle of OH&S dollars, and lead to healthier, happier workplaces overall.
creative therapy | colour therapy | art therapy – mombooks.com/colouring
1. The Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2013 can be found at psychology.org.au