Colouring the Blues Away

By Michelle Pressé

After a long day of handing out resumes, Nicole Miller goes home, kicks off her shoes and reaches for her pencil crayons.

The 23-year-old Nova Scotia Community College business graduate used to read books to deal with the stress of job searching or homework. Now, getting lost in a book has taken on a new meaning – one that requires her to colour between the lines.

Adult colouring books have been flying off retailer’s shelves for months. Stephan Gauthier, manager of Coles at the Halifax Shopping Centre, says they were an instant success after two adult colouring books landed on Amazon’s Top 100 book list this past May.

After selling several copies and seeing the finished products posted on social media, the 45-year-old decided to try it for himself.

“Once you try it, you’re hooked,” says Gauthier. “It’s like an addiction, but a good kind.”

Gauthier says the store’s best-selling adult colouring book has been Secret Garden by Johanna Basford. The average adult colouring book costs under $22 at Coles, but can be found for a discounted price online.

Aside from being a fun activity, Gauthier says colouring allows him to relax and let go of the stress that comes along with having a busy schedule.

Colleen Fraser, communications coordinator for the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, says adult colouring books are becoming an increasingly popular way to cope with stress.

“Being able to sit down and focus on something positive and happy can make a big difference in a person’s mood,” says Fraser.

Miller colours to relax and relieve stress. After learning about the trend through a friend’s Instagram, she went to the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart to buy a colouring book for herself.

“I was flabbergasted by the amount of choices,” says Miller. “A lot of the books were very detail oriented which looked kind of intimidating, but they were more exciting than anything.”

Miller has three adult colouring books, which often accompany her during Netflix marathons. She’s able to focus on colouring while listening to shows such as Game of Thrones, and even has a Game of Thrones colouring book.

Nicole Miller owns three colouring books, one being Game of Thrones themed
Nicole Miller owns three colouring books, one being Game of Thrones themed

“If you just chuck on a show you’ve been watching, you can always hear what’s going on while you’re colouring,” says Miller. “It makes everything more relaxing.”

While several studies have been done about the positive effects of artistic expression, the practice of adult colouring as a coping mechanism for stress is unexplored.

One 2010 study, The Connection Between Art, Healing and Public Health by Heather Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel explores the relationship between creativity and positive health outcomes.

Miller thinks one of the advantages is reliving childhood memories and being brought back to a less stressful time in life. Filling up a once-blank page with bold hues also offers a chance to create something beautiful.

“You sit down with a blank canvas in front of you and get to make the book look exactly the way you want it to,” says Miller. “It’s simple, but it’s inspiring.”

White Point Beach Resort on the South Shore is getting in on the action. On Apr. 30, the resort is hosting a “Colouring on the Coast” retreat to bring fans and creators of colouring books together. The retreat includes a weekend full of colouring, art supply swaps and sessions on how to be better at colouring.

Jessica MacIsaac, a second-year music major at the University of King’s College, thinks “Colouring on the Coast” will help more adults learn about the benefits of colouring. For Christmas, she received several colouring books and supplies. One of her favourites is full of Mandalas.

Sanskrit for “circle,” Mandalas represent wholeness. Hindu’s and Buddhist’s believe the cosmic diagrams remind people of their relation to infinity, and many people are using them as templates for colouring.

“I always leave one of my books open on my desk as a reminder to take some time for myself,” says MacIsaac.

“In everyday life, we get stressed about the little things. It’s important to do something that makes you feel good.”