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Colouring for wellbeing: Evidence and applications

Holt, Nicola


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Nicola Holt
Associate Professor in Psychology


Colouring has been increasingly used by adults as a tool to reduce stress and anxiety and to increase mindful attention in recent years. Its popularity has been reflected in the production and sales of colouring books, downloadable colouring pages and colouring apps (Vanry, 2019), as well as the use of colouring to reduce anxiety in applied settings, such as cancer wards, patient waiting rooms, care homes, University libraries and primary schools (e.g., Blackburn & Chamley, 2016; Rigby & Taubert, 2016). While evidence for the role of the visual arts in general has burgeoned, suggesting multiple health and wellbeing benefits (Fancourt & Finn, 2019), colouring research is relatively nascent, and studies have increased exponentially in the last three years. Unlike other forms of visual art (e.g., free-form painting or drawing) colouring is highly structured, and as such, might serve specific purposes, for example, being an entry activity to art making for people who feel overwhelmed by a blank sheet of paper, or enabling absorption in a creative task when there is a no desire for complex and creative decision-making processes. This chapter will review the evidence base for colouring as a wellbeing intervention, focusing primarily on experimental studies, which have, thus far, examined its impact on anxiety reduction and mindful attention. Consideration will be given to the strengths and limitations of this evidence base and potential mechanisms to explain any wellbeing effects. The chapter will then move on to the application of colouring in practice (e.g., in hospital settings) before considering future directions.


Holt, N. (in press). Colouring for wellbeing: Evidence and applications. In Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Health Humanities. Palgrave Macmillan (part of Springer Nature)

Acceptance Date Apr 6, 2022
Deposit Date Apr 6, 2022
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan (part of Springer Nature)
Book Title Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Health Humanities
Keywords Colouring, art and health, wellbeing, stress, anxiety, mindfulness
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Additional Information Can't make full text live because have already uploaded one chapter from this book (9269737)