Coloring is an enjoyable and pleasant activity, and not just for children. As it turns out, adult coloring is commonly used in the psychotherapy field to help with stress relief. Ready to learn more? Take your markers, find some patterns, and start coloring for mental health.

Activities to Relieve: Adult Coloring and Mental Health.
Activities to Relieve: Adult Coloring and Mental Health.
Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

Some of our favorite pastimes have positive “side effects” that go beyond the enjoyment we experience while taking part in these activities. Those benefits include relaxation and improved mental health. In fact, psychotherapists sometimes prescribe these activities to their patients in the form of “homework.”

These stress-relief activities are meant to complement the various other therapies that mental health professionals use with patients. Most psychotherapeutic methods being use today are focused on helping the patient develop new skills. In the process, patients learn about themselves. The main purpose of these activities, however, is to relieve the patient’s symptoms.

This practice is known as active psychotherapy, in which the patient take the lead with guidance from the therapist. These relief activities have a specific purpose and there are many to choose from.

Psychotherapeutic activities to relieve: coloring.
Psychotherapeutic activities to relieve: coloring.
Original photo from canva.com. Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

Relief activities are similar in their effects to physical exercise as well as meditation and breathing practices. But one of the most common ways to relieve stress and anxiety is through art activities and, most notably, coloring.

Everyone loves to color. There is just something truly pleasant about it. Coloring is actually one of the first activities we learn as humans, and it helps us develop many other skills. Coloring is a way to express ourselves and to communicate with the world.

But that is not all. Coloring also sparks creativity, as it is a “free” practice, limited only by one’s imagination. You decide how and what to color. Coloring also tends to be a mood-booster, in part because it allows us to share our thoughts through the colors, shapes, and patterns we choose. This is where the self-relief benefits come from.

Coloring is a mental health relief activity.
Coloring is a mental health relief activity.
Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

Coloring obviously requires focus and attention, which itself leads to additional benefits.. This forces us to push away our negative and irrational thoughts, inducing a sense of relaxation. The focus required while coloring helps create an awareness of our mood and feelings. In this sense, coloring is a form of mindfulness.

Coloring is a simple activity and simple activities are the best stress relievers because they allow the brain to relax. Coloring is also a pleasurable activity, which means dopamine is released in response. This neurotransmitter helps us cope with stress and anxiety.

Coloring patterns as a brain reliever and as a relaxing activity.
Coloring patterns as a brain reliever and as a relaxing activity.
Graphic by Haydee Vanegas.

I have both personal and professional experience using relief activities. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which leaves me in a constant state of worry. When I started my psychotherapeutic treatment, there were activities I would rely on between therapy sessions. Many of those activities were designed to relieve my anxiety and help me express my emotions. And yes, one of these activities was coloring, mostly mandala or pattern books.

Coloring gave me significant relief from most of my anxiety symptoms. Coloring is also very helpful during panic attacks. It is an activity that puts me at ease. After several years of using coloring as a relief activity, I began recommending it to my patients. Most of them have also seen positive results.


As you can see, coloring can be an effective relief activity. It is simple and you can do it anywhere. Want to see for yourself? Start by setting aside an hour or so for coloring in your daily routine. Check back here soon for more relief activities.