Back in 2015, I received multiple adult coloring books from friends. It was something I could do when I couldn't read, write, listen to music, or watch movies, and it helped pass my time.
Sadly, a few months later, I became too sick to color, and my books got pushed aside and forgotten about. I didn't color for years, and when I began to gradually improve enough to color in 2020, I instead drew my own sketches and colored them. You can read more about my artistic journey in my article, How Illness Made Me an Artist.
But in the past month, I have begun to color in adult coloring books again. It's a nice activity when I don't have the creative energy to draw my own sketches to color. It's a chance to practice finding colors that complement each other without stressing if I don't get it perfect. And recently, it has proven to be a very helpful way for me to concentrate when listening to audio recordings or to my dad read aloud to me.
You see, my mind tends to wander a lot. I'll try to listen and pay attention to what my dad is reading or what I'm listening to, but more often than not, I tune out. I start thinking about something I read that I found very interesting. I write blog posts in my head. Eventually, I come back to reality and realize I'm completely unaware of what I just heard.
At least, that is how it was until a few weeks ago. I recently had a new insight into my concentration struggle when I was reading The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie, and she shared, "Studies show that for many children, actively engaging in something with their hands helps them listen better. For many kids, the propensity to move while engaging in focused brain-work is best facilitated, not quashed. Give them something to do with their hands, and their brains are free to focus and learn."
And so I thought, "Why not try coloring while I listen to my dad read?" Amazingly, I am now concentrating much better. Dad is reading Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham to me, and I am enjoying and following the story so much better. In comparison, my mind hardly wanders off anymore.
Growing up without TV, family read-alouds have always been part of my life, until for many years I was too sick to participate. And in hindsight, I now realize something–all those years before we had to take a break from read-alouds because of the severity of my symptoms (frequent migraines, brain fog and fatigue that were worse than they are now, etc.), I was always doing some sort of craft, usually crocheting, while my dad read to me. I thought as almost twenty-one year old, I should now be sitting still and just listening, but after reading Mackenzie's book, I'm realizing that I'm wired in a way that makes it much easier to concentrate if I can move my hands. In fact, I'd be doing everyone, including myself, a disservice if I only sat still. So every evening that I feel well enough, I now sit on the couch with a coloring book and pencils and color while my dad reads aloud and while we listen to a Lent devotional by Ann Voskamp.
Below are some pictures I've colored in one of my favorite adult coloring books, The Word in Color. I enjoy this book primarily because the designs aren't overly intricate–some adult coloring books stress me out because there are so many tiny spaces to fill. The paper is also thick, which makes it suitable for a variety of mediums, such as Sharpies, and the book is spiral-bound and hardcover, which makes it easier to color in.
Do you color? What is your favorite coloring book and medium? Have you experienced similar benefits as me?