Colouring books are no longer an activity limited to children, as adults are choosing to grab their crayons and get creative as a meditation technique.
Illustrator Mike Medaglia is known for promoting calmness through his meditation comics, and he’s now used his talents to create his first colouring book.
Called ‘One Year Wiser’, the book is an extension of his current project which has seen him draw one weekly meditation every Monday since January 2015.
So, rather than just images to colour in, Medaglia’s designs are thought-provoking, including quotes and mantras to motivate you while you colour.
We caught up with Medaglia to find out the real benefits of taking ourselves away from our screens and into this book.
Why did you decide you make a colouring book?
I was originally working on the book, One Year Wiser: 365 Illustrated Meditations, which has a quote and image for everyday of the year. As I was getting closer to finishing that book I realised that a lot of the images I had already created would make good colouring book pages. The quotes inspired reflection, which would lend themselves to the calming effect that colouring can have.
I drew 35 new images for the colouring book that were a lot more intricate and designed to be hand-coloured. I have always found colouring to be a very mindful process and is one of the favourite parts of drawing.
The title is ‘One Year Wiser’ – what is the story behind that?
A few years ago I was pitching a graphic novel to what is now my publisher SelfMadeHero. The idea for that book wasn’t quite working for them, but they liked the spiritual content of my stories and suggested the idea of doing a 365-page book. After I heard the idea the title immediately came to me. Which I took as a good sign!
When it came time to make the colouring book it seemed natural to keep the title the same and make it a once-a-week book. I think that setting aside a bit of time once a week to be creative and practice mindful colouring can be an effective way to find balance in one’s life.
I feel like the title is saying that you can start a new year and a new path at any time. Choose today to make the next year more positive and hopeful.
What is it about adult colouring books that makes them so ‘mindful’ or relaxing?
There are a few reasons. When you can just focus on colouring, a single colour at a time, working on a single image, it helps to bring your mind into the here and now. And when we can focus more clearly on the present, life becomes so much more manageable.
Another reason is the association with being a child. I still remember sitting and colouring on a lazy summer afternoon. With age comes responsibility and often many forms of stress, so to engage in an activity from our childhood can be a powerful way to get back our youthful and, hopefully, care free feelings. It’s creative, playful but not overwhelming.
There is no pressure to fill a blank page. Also, it is just very nice not to stare at a screen for a portion of your day, part of your digital detox. Most days it feels like we stare at a screen from morning until night, so to be able to do something tactile and non-digital, for even 20 minutes, can be very refreshing.
Have you tried it and what did you find the benefits were?
One of my favourite things is inking and colouring an image I’m working on. There is a rhythm to it that is very meditative and can help pull my attention back into the moment.
The act of creation can be so engaging, but in a positive and nurturing way and I think that must play a big role in the current interest in adult colouring book. Inking and colouring allows me to let a little bit, following the pencil marks and allowing the image to take shape.
Have you had any feedback from people who have tried your colouring book?
Yes, and that has been one of my absolute favourite parts of this whole process. People will post their colouring creations online and I get to see their different interpretations of the pages. Everyone seems to go about it in their own way. Their colour choices are always so different than mine and that shows the individual personality of the person colouring.
That could also be a reason for the success of colouring books since it offers people a chance to express themselves in their own way.
Since the book is designed so there is one page to be coloured each week, some people will start right at the beginning and have been working through the pages in order. Other people choose the image to colour from different places in the book based on, what I can only assume, is the image that draws their attention that week.
You say that you feel the world is too full of cynicism – could we benefit from having a bit more wonder and being kinder to other people?
The benefits of kindness are undeniable. When we are kind to others, not only do they get to have a bit more kindness in their day, but the person being kind also gets to experience a moment of spreading positivity.
That means using your waking life to tangibly make the world just that much easier to live in for another person, which is something that we don’t often get to experience on a daily basis or sometimes might not notice. Even though it’s a bit of cliche, I think it’s good to remember that little acts of kindness all add up and have the power to totally transform the world.
What has meditation brought to your life?
Like a lot of people I struggle to find the time to meditate on a regular basis. I use my art as a time for meditation, when I am inking or colouring my pages, there is a mindlessness that can help ease anxious thoughts.
The act of meditation is not just about the 30 minutes that you actually sit down and meditate, it is a reference point that you can use for the rest of your day. When you are going about your life and dealing with the millions of things being thrown at you from every direction, you have those 30 minutes of quiet peacefulness to go back to in your head and to remember that that quietness exists under all the noise of daily life.
But without that regular reset of quietness we can easily stop noticing how loud the world is. When I meditated after not having done it for a while I find that my thoughts run around my head like crazy and I can get even more anxious. But the hard thing to remember at that point is that my head is always full of endless thoughts and noise and only now am I being quiet enough to notice that properly.
Then before long the wonderful effects of meditation start to take hold and my mind quiets naturally on its own, trying to get back to the calmness of the present moment.
Do you think people are becoming more aware and are taking charge of their work-life balance?
Definitely and it is a really wonderful thing. Mindfulness is becoming more and more widespread, with information on how to practice it everywhere you look. This approachable practice is allowing people to get the tools they need to balance their lives and not have the stressful parts over power the moments of joy and relaxation that are around us on a daily basis, if we can just learn to see them and appreciate them when they’re happening.
The great thing is that this will have a knock on effect for people. When we are able to balance out our minds, we then can begin to balance our bodies by addressing our eating habits and physical activity. Then hopefully we can go deeper and address our spiritual state of being and learn to see the world as a whole and to realise that our place in it is part of a dance that the whole universe has been doing since the beginning of time.
I hope, that is some small way, my colouring book is another tool in the pursuit of balance.