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This is a guest post, written by John Hofland, the owner of ArtAchieve


It’s probably no news that adult coloring books have become big business.

  • Sales of adult coloring books reached $1 million in 2014 and soared to $12 million in 2015,
  • Three of Amazon’s ten best-selling books in 2015 were coloring books,
  • YouTube has channels that let you WATCH other people coloring, and
  • Coloring parties are popping up in libraries and senior centers.

Escape to Relax

One of the reasons for the new adult craze seems to be that coloring lowers stress and anxiety. There’s plenty of reason for this. It’s easy to get lost in an activity like coloring – so lost, in fact that one can forget about time, forget about eating, forget worries, forget to go to bed.

In addition, the books provide an quiet alternative to the perceived hyperactivity and hyper connectivity of modern life. Coloring is – let’s admit it – monotonous, and monotonous activities can bring calm. Besides, the paper books are an alternative to demanding screens and mobile devices

But there’s more than escapism involved here: Coloring can be productive.

Escape to Solve Problems

First of all, coloring, like other so-called mindless activities such as driving, showering, or gardening, can lead to productive mind-wondering and creative problem solving. In other words, quiet activities like these provide the necessary moments when we can step aside from our routines and consciously or subconsciously reflect.

ALL of us, (even those who say they don’t have an artistic bone in their body) are creative beings. Some create food in the kitchen, some create solutions for the workplace, some create strategies for teaching.

For all of these people, there is often an important step in the creative process: getting away. Let me explain. According to Arthur Koestler, between

  • Step 1: Studying a problem and
  • Step 3. Finding a solution, there is is the all-important Step #2.

Step #2 involves walking away from a problem to let our subconscious do its work before we can get to Step 3..

Think about it. We often “think” best when we are not thinking about an issue. Some of our best ideas may come to us when we are lying relaxed in bed, or driving the car, or pulling weeds in the garden.

Or when we are coloring. It often takes “escapist” creative activities for Step #2 to happen. That’s why “escapes” are important.

Escape to Rediscover Your Creative Side

Secondly, the coloring books offer a “creative” outlet for adults who don’t see themselves as creative. The books provide plenty of structure, along with the opportunity for safe, creative choices. All that’s left is for us to choose colors and stay inside the lines. Users often report, with relief, that you can’t really color “wrong.” Coloring is a fail-safe form of creativity.

Oddly, for kids, however, coloring books may not work this way. New York-based art therapist Nadia Jenefsky reports that  “For children a lot of times coloring books can inhibit their creativity.” She concludes that children’s creativity lends itself better to creating art from scratch.

Escape to Thrive

Last of all, creative work helps us thrive. A 6th grade teacher who has started to include ArtAchieve art lessons in her classroom called me recently to say that, “Art classes have been such a gift for my kids, even though it was terrifying for them at first. All these years, they’ve been taught that they had to do things right, get right answers.”

She continued, “And now, for the first time there WAS no right answer, so how could they know if they were doing art “right?” But when they discovered that THEY could have good ideas, that was a revelation.”

“All of a sudden, they had something to offer. They are giving finished art projects to their moms for Mother’s Day. They point to their art on the wall proudly, and talk about what they like about their art – AND about their neighbors’ art.

In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says, “We make things because we like making things. . . because human beings are possessed of something special, something extra, something unnecessarily rich, something that the novelist Marilynne Robinson calls “an overabundance that is magical.”

Gilbert might have added that we need to create because we were created in the image of The Creator. We, like the Creator who made us, are creative beings, so it’s no wonder we have a need to create, and it’s no wonder that creating helps us thrive.

Read more:

America’s obsession with adult coloring is a cry for help (

Creativity: A Choice, a Gift, and a Mission (


John Hofland is the owner of ArtAchieve, an online art curriculum

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