Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present. On thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions that are happening right now. With all of the stresses and distractions of everyday life it can be difficult to find the time to focus on yourself. To place yourself firmly in the moment and recognise where you are and what is going on inside your head is very rarely a priority for many people with busy lifestyles. But for many this exercise (based on an ancient Buddhist practice) can be essential for getting through their daily lives.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 14 years old. This is something I say without shame or embarrassment and thankfully, due to the tireless campaigns of associations such as Mind and the NCMH, is slowly becoming less stigmatised in the media. I was lucky enough to have a very supportive family who helped me get treatment including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication, but one of the things that helped me the most during the hardest times was losing myself in creativity.
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As a teenager I enjoyed acting, singing, drawing and writing and all of these activities helped me lose myself in the moment and focus on what my body was doing to create something new. At the time I did not recognise this as 'mindfulness', merely a way that I could lose my heavy thoughts for one minute while I focused on drawing lines on a page in a certain shape or creating hatches and dots until they created a recognisable image. Now, I see art as an essential tool that I use every day to combat my own personal symptoms.
Having a mental health 'toolbox' is a brilliant way to combat your own problems, whether you are one of the 1 in 4 people who will experience a mental problem in the course of the year in the UK, or just simply someone who is combating the everyday stresses and anxieties that work, family and other social pressures can bring.
The rise of 'Colouring In' as a tool for mindfulness is making this form of creative art therapy accessible to everyone the world over; and its huge popularity is proof of how many people feel they need to centre themselves. Through colouring in you can focus your mind on one small task at a time, whether that is shading an area, or losing yourself in the finer details. While this is by no means a cure for stress or anxiety, it can definitely be another weapon to add to your arsenal, calming and centring your mind.
Channeling that child-like, care-free focus on such a seemingly simple task as colouring in is a great way to explore mindfulness and help anchor your thoughts. The vast variety of adult colouring books on the market also means that there is something for everyone. Whether you prefer the explorative, puzzle solving 'activity' style colouring book; hyper detailed mandala style artwork; or a variety of subject matter such as birds, sea creatures or cityscapes; this variety allows you to find something that speaks to you and that you personally find calming.
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The first three books of the Colour Me Mindful series by Orion Publishing, Tropical, Birds and Underwater present you with a mixture of compositional drawings, repetitive patterns, mandala style designs and symmetrical patterns of natural subjects. The books themselves are also small enough to carry with you on your commute, out to a coffee shop or on holiday.
One of the most rewarding things about getting to draw my own set of adult colouring books for Orion Publishing was seeing the responses from people who have actually found them helpful in calming their anxieties and stress. From one person who found colouring the books essential to calming his social anxieties on a commute; to others who simply used them to relax after a hard day; the idea that something I have made is helping people calm their minds the way art has helped me, is incredibly humbling.
The Colour Me Mindful Series: Tropical, Underwater and Birds are currently available to buy online or from your local bookstore. Colour Me Mindful Enchanted Creatures, Seasons and Butterflies are due for release in October. Why not share your coloured images on Twitter and Instagram#ColourMeMindful and join hundreds of people channelling mindfulness through their art.