In 2014, one million coloring books for adults were sold. In 2015? 12 million…and it’s not just because we’re so much better at staying inside the lines than we were when we were kids.
Coloring and doodling aren’t just fun—they can be great for our health and happiness, too. And the best part? You don’t have to be remotely good at it to reap the benefits. Here are 7 reasons to pick up a crayon:
Coloring can pull you out of a funk.
Coloring inside the lines is particularly beneficial if you’re looking to relax. A study of undergraduate students randomly assigned to either color in a pre-drawn design or to color free-form on a blank sheet of paper found that coloring in a pre-dawn plaid pattern was linked to a significant reduction in depression and tension. Prefer to do your own thing? You’ll still benefit—pattern coloring and free-form coloring alike was linked to a reduction in negative mood.
Art can promote healing.
Art therapy is used by counselors, psychologists, nurses and rehabilitation therapists alike to help heal and communicate with patients. Research shows it works. In a study of women with cancer, mindfulness-based art therapy was linked to a decrease in symptoms of distress and improvements in quality of life. Other research found that an hour of art therapy was linked to a decrease in symptoms for cancer patients. And a study of children with severe, chronic asthma also found that children receiving art therapy showed improvements in problem solving, communication, quality of life and anxiety.
Doodling makes you a better listener.
Doodling during a meeting? Tell your boss you’re not distracted—the opposite, in fact. One 2009 study found that people who doodled while listening to a phone message performed 29 percent better on a surprise memory test than those who didn’t doodle. Researchers think it’s because doodling keeps us engaged…and stops our minds from wandering.
Drawing helps you learn.
Learning something new? Make your own visuals. A 2011 study found that in a science class, students who drew what they learned during lectures and while doing assigned readings not only retained more information, they also enjoyed the course material more.
Creating changes your brain for the better.
In a study that compared a group of students enrolled in hands-on art workshop to students enrolled in an art appreciation course, the benefits of getting your hands dirty were clear. Students who made art for 10 weeks in a weekly, two-hour class showed a significant improvement in psychological resilience and increased functional connectivity in the brain (how different parts of the brain work together).
Coloring sparks nostalgia.
Open up a new box of crayons and breathe in. Smells like childhood…and research shows taking a walk (or a doodle?) down memory lane is good for you. Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety and make you feel more likely to say you feel loved.
Art improves STEM skills.
Students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics may want to add an art class to their course loads. Creative endeavors are exercises in problem-solving, researchers say—and incorporating art into math and science can help students become more creative problem solvers. “When an artist is painting, he is trying to solve a problem—how to express what is being felt. He experiments with colors, technique and images the same way a scientist or engineer experiments with energy and signals,” he said. “There is more than one way information can be taught just like there is more than one way problems can be solved.”