As a child, there are few experiences that surpass cracking the seal on a box of crayons and diving into a crisp new coloring book—coloring inside the lines being optional, of course.
Now, coloring books aren't just for kids. Although the first commercially successful adult coloring books were published in 2012, the niche hobby has just recently blossomed into a trend, with many health, wellness and mindfulness experts proposing coloring as an alternative to activities such as yoga or meditation.
This trend has found its way to the Grand Valley State University community, as well.
Lee Van Orsdel, dean of University Libraries, said she first discovered adult coloring books in Mendicino, California, in July 2015.
"I saw a coloring book on a table, picked it up, and realized it was for adults; the designs were intricate and complex," Van Orsdel said. "At the time, I'd never heard of adult coloring books."
The next day, Van Orsdel bought some colored pencils and has colored almost every night since then.
"I say jokingly that coloring takes me to my happy place," she said. "I'm focused on just one relatively simple task that often gives me joy. In my university responsibilities, much of my work is never finished, or it takes a long time to reach a goal, but coloring gives an immediate return on time invested."
Danielle DeWitt, University Development donor relations and stewardship manager, said coloring helped her through a stressful time in 2015 when she was recovering from a concussion.
"Coloring helped focus my brain on something else," DeWitt said. "The injury really impacted my brain and I had to learn how to focus and organize my thoughts again. I found coloring therapeutic and all of my therapists agreed that it was a great thing to be doing."
Not only do adult coloring books offer a way to relieve stress and center the mind, but the trend also presents a unique business opportunity for young entrepreneurs.
Carly Van Eck graduated from Grand Valley in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in psychology, and in 2013 earned a master's degree in social work. During classes, doodling and coloring in her notes helped Van Eck concentrate more effectively.
"I was able to concentrate better when I was drawing because I was doing something, but my ears were still listening and processing," Van Eck said. "I could still participate, and it even helped with recall because I could remember, 'When I was drawing this, we were talking about this in class.'"
Van Eck's love of drawing has since transcended into a business. She now draws, designs and sells single coloring book pages via her Etsy store, Cat Lady Productions.
Van Eck doesn't solely use coloring to make a profit though. She currently conducts an art therapy course at Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders in Grand Rapids and incorporates coloring into an intensive outpatient support program.
Carol Hendershot, Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness co-founder, explained that coloring as adults has become a trend partially because many people live over-scheduled lives with many distractions.
"We really do want to take time out of our busy lives, but many of us don't remember exactly how," Hendershot said. "When we were children, many of us could access an easy state of flow and concentration by getting out our crayons and coloring. It reminds us of our creativity and the enjoyment of simply stopping and stepping into a sense of calm and spaciousness."
DeWitt said she encourages students to also participate in the adult coloring trend.
"Every student should have at least one coloring book to use as a little bit of an escape form all their studying, reading and writing," DeWitt said. "If you're studying, don't take a break and go on the Internet; Take a break and do something that let's you be a kid again for a few minutes."
Contributed by Matthew Makowski, Communications Specialist, University Communications | Grand Valley State University
Photo courtesy of Carly Van Eck/Cat Lady Productions.