Surrender 61: Coloring My Year

After Christmas, I purchased a Secret Garden Coloring Calender, by Johanna Basford, for half price. Each month has a new picture to color, and I not only get to enjoy coloring it, I get to look at the completed design every day in my studio. 

I take the calendar off of the wall toward the end of each month, with the intention of having it back in place, picture colored, by the first day of the new month. 


It’s been fun to experiment with new color combinations, different types of pencils and  various techniques. 

Coloring has become my evening activity, my gradual wind down to the day. As I color, my mind opens, and my breathing and heart rates slow down, much as they do in meditation. In fact, studies have shown that coloring is the best alternative to meditation. 

“I recommend it as a relaxation technique,” says Antoni Martinez, a psychologist. “We can use it to enter a more creative, freer state. I recommend it in a quiet environment, even with chill music. Let the color and lines flow.”

Coloring has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and fear, lower blood pressure, and may prove to delay the onset of dementia. 

Coloring does free and inspire creativity. And it engages the whole brain, requiring the two hemispheres to communicate, improving fine motor skills and vision. The act of coloring involves logic – staying within the lines and coloring in forms – and creativity – choosing colors and mixing them on the page. 

I’ve found that coloring inspires me to be creative in other areas of my life, such as writing, drawing, and photography. I notice color more, appreciating the play of light and shadow across a field or how many browns are present in a stone wall.  I often snap a picture of something with interesting color patterns, for later inspiration as I study a fresh page, colored pencils in hand. 

I had a conversation with a friend last week, who recently began coloring. She is a survivor of the May 2011 Joplin tornado. Her husband was one of the 161 victims who perished that day. She carries physical and emotional scars from that horrifying experience. Coloring has had a host of benefits for her, bringing her quiet joy, improving her health and calming her mind. Her doctor even commented on her lowered blood pressure and her increased balance, and encouraged her to keep the coloring up.

My friend frowned slightly then, and confessed that a family member told her she was wasting time, coloring in the evenings, when she could be doing something more productive. I asked her, more productive than bringing her peace and happiness, improved clarity and memory, and enhanced health, both physically and emotionally? 

We looked at each other a moment…and laughed. No, coloring is most definitely not a waste of time. It’s art. It’s therapy. It’s meditation. It’s medication. It’s pretty darn cool. And it’s her thing…and mine…and enjoyed by countless others. A waste of time? Creativity never is.