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How to colour your stress away

Whilst bringing together the Fusion Train the Trainer programme, I’ve been working with images quite a lot of the time; for the books, the Power Points and the trainers’ manual.


Along the way I’ve also updated and refreshed the Integrated Coaching Academy website; commissioned logos and even a short film featuring a little bear of happiness (yet to be named). The little bear will hopefully provide a much requested link to making Fusion available to younger children.


I love this kind of creative work, despite the stress of meeting the inevitable deadlines. And I have had to stay, in true Darwinian style, adaptable to change along the way. You think you know what the project will look like when it’s completed, but the reality is, when you start to write, the writing can take on a life of its own.


It reminds me of the exercise, where someone in a group begins to tell a story and ends with ‘AND SUDDENLY…’ and the next person has to take up the tale before passing it on to the next in the same way.


When I have a light bulb moment, it’s often when I’m working with an image and it’s often when I have stepped away from the computer and start to doodle. Doodling, drawing, mind mapping and colouring all stimulate the creative mind and help us de-stress too, which is the subject of my article this week.


How to colour your stress away


You would have to have been living on another planet not to notice the current trend for adult colouring books.


They're everywhere. Adult colouring books have rated consistently high in the Amazon bestsellers’ list for quite some time now. People are voting with their feet…and their wallets. Is it a trend? Is it a craze? Is it a cult? Just why have fully formed grown-ups decided to get out the colouring pencils and engage in an activity normally associated with children?




One of the first psychologists recorded to use colouring as meditation was Carl Jung. He did it through creating mandalas; the circular designs with concentric shapes, similar to the patterns we see in the rose windows of a church, but which actually have their origins in India. He wrote:


‘I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, a mandala, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. With the help of these drawings I could observe my psychic transformations from day to day. . .. Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: ‘Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation.’




When MIND UK are suggesting that one in four of us have a mental health problem at any one time, there's no doubt that anxiety, in particular, is becoming an increasing feature of today's fast moving, high-pressure, life style.


Many people talk about experiencing ‘noisy brain’ syndrome, with racing or chattering thoughts that can both distract and distress. Everyone, it seems, is now searching for a short cut to the land of calm.


Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala explains that, when we colour, we have to engage both hemispheres of the brain; the logical left hemisphere which deals with fine motor skills and focused attention, and the right hemisphere which connects to the world through colour, shape, imagery, art and emotion.


This kind of bilateral stimulation is known to calm the central nervous system; in particular the area known as the amygdale, which means the alpha waves generated by the act of colouring, can soothe both mind and body.


Emotional regulation


Self-soothing is a skill many of us have difficulties with.


But we can all learn to improve our ability to regulate emotions internally, rather than reach for the pills or booze (or any of the damaging and addictive behaviours we can be drawn to). Like practising mindfulness, when we focus our attention on colouring, we detach from both external and internal stimuli, which lets the mind settle.


Reconnecting with our inner child


Like those lazy, distant days of childhood, when there was nothing to do but lie in the grass, watch the clouds drift by and collect daisies to loop into an ever-extending chain of flowers, colouring helps us to step off our self-imposed, adult treadmill.


It replaces our ever extending ‘to-do’ list with a brief interlude, where we give ourselves permission to stop and just ‘be’, just for a while. No goals, no plans, no worries and no responsibilities; we become engaged in a rewarding state of flow where the world falls away and all we have to do is, as teacher told us, ‘stay inside the lines’.


So whether you invest in an adult colouring book, do your own doodles or, like Jung, create and colour a unique mandala, there’s no doubt colouring is here to stay. It’s therapeutic and it’s something we can all begin right away.

Imagery, positive mental rehearsal, dissociation, goal setting, therapeutic story, mindfulness, new paradigms, reframes, fast track learning, perception shifting, self actualisation, positive psychology, reframing, metaphor, personal empowerment, psycho education, affirmations, motivational thinking, lifting depression, the happiness principle, resilience and resourcefulness, human flourishing, anchoring, rewiring your brain, the STOP System, the SAFE SPACE happiness recipe, holistic coaching and working on the continuum of wellbeing plus many other professional theories, tools and techniques underpin the content of the fast paced, fast track, Fusion training programmes.

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