We’ve all done it: you get in the car to drive somewhere and all of a sudden you’re at the destination with no memory of the trip. Or you’re reading a book and find you have to turn back a few pages to go over the text again because you can’t remember what you read.
In both of these situations, your thoughts are probably so tangled up in other things in your life that you’ve gone on auto-pilot. With our modern, super-busy lives, many of us constantly agonize about the past and what will happen in the future. This creates a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
One reason adult coloring books have become so popular is that they supposedly help us manage our stress and anxiety through mindfulness.
But what is “mindfulness?” And is coloring really mindful?
The Mindfulness Key: The Breakthrough Approach to Dealing with Stress, Anxiety and Depression by Sarah Silverton does an excellent job answering the first question. This compact and concise (176 pages) book will introduce you to mindfulness, both in theory and practice, to give you a start in understanding yourself better and improving the way you live.
Author Sarah Silverton is an occupational therapist and counselor with 25 years’ experience working with people with mental health issues and physical disabilities, including chronic fatigue. She was trained by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University, and by the Center for Mindfulness in Massachusetts, which was established by mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. Silverton currently works at the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice in Wales.
The Mindfulness Key is divided into two sections. The first defines mindfulness in easy-to-understand language and provides quite a few practical exercises; it also provides examples to help you learn fundamental techniques such as breathing, relaxation, body scanning and concentration building. In fact, just ten minutes into the book you will be trying a mindful exercise. The second part of the book guides you in using mindfulness for particular life challenges, such as depression, stress, anxiety, chronic illness, and childcare and relationship issues.
As the book progresses, you will learn to become aware of harmful automatic reactions to your emotions, feelings and experiences. Rather than “reacting” to life and uselessly pondering the causes and many potential outcomes, you will learn that mindfulness is a way to look at your experiences and then act more positively and constructively.
“Mindfulness…helps us to anchor ourselves in the present moment and to give our full attention to what is actually here. As we learn to pause and see our experience more clearly, we can begin to see how our thoughts and feelings and the way we act may add to this already difficult life we’re living.”
I love this book’s practical exercises and examples – they are very helpful in helping you understand and practice mindfulness. And the diagrams and illustrations are great for people like me who appreciate visual learning.
So, is coloring mindful?
After reading The Mindfulness Key, my answer is that coloring certainly can be a way to practice mindfulness. I now see that coloring helps me break constant streams of anxiety and stress because, while coloring, I concentrate on what’s happening in the “right now,” not on unproductive downward spiraling “what ifs.”
The only criticism I have of this book is that it introduces the concept of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (“CBT”). In my experience, CBT is a natural progression from mindfulness, but it is such an expansive subject it is better to learn about it in classics like Mind Over Mood, with the guidance of a qualified therapist. To her credit, however, the author does recognize that the support found in a class and/or with a professional is the best way to benefit from mindfulness. To that end, she has helpfully included a list of online references for finding classes and support.
If you are stressed, overwhelmed or just looking for a way to manage your normal anxieties, The Mindfulness Key is a great place to start.
What about you? Have you found coloring to be a mindful and stress-relieving activity? Let us all know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book to feature and review. I didn’t receive any monetary compensation. My thoughts, opinions and words about this book are 100% my own, unbiased opinion.