“Learning how to meditate was probably the single most important and life-changing thing I've ever done.”
This is how Christopher Lloyd Clark, founder of The Guided Meditation Site, describes
the impact meditation has had on his life.
“I wasn't coping all that well with life at the time. I'd recently broken up with my girlfriend, I was failing some of my subjects at university, my health was average at best and I was very depressed.
The practice of meditation completely revolutionized the way I view life, and the way I live my life. It expanded my perspective and it gave me relief from depression. It gave me a great deal of clarity and mental power, which helped me over the years in my professional development and career progression. Meditation also helped me to open my heart and then connect with a wonderful life-partner.
Nothing gives me the same feeling of wholeness and deep calm that meditation does. It has awakened me to the vast reservoirs of peace within me, and it encourages me to help other people find that same peace. It's given my entire life a sense of purpose. I just couldn't imagine life without meditation.”
This story is repeated hundreds of times by others who have embraced the mindful practice of meditation. The impact of meditation on our bodies, our brains, and our lives is truly awesome.
If mediation is so powerful, why isn’t everyone doing it? I suspect no one really knows how to meditate. Or they believe that you have to empty your mind to successfully meditate and doing that is impossible.
But, there is an activity that we can do that is super easy and that puts us into the mindful state of meditation without even having to think about it.
Yup you guessed it - coloring!
To achieve a state of meditation, it is taught
that you should focus on something which will quiet down your mental chatter. Every time you get distracted by your mental chatter, you bring your focus back to whatever you chose as a focal point.
Traditionally, the focal point that is taught is your breath. But, for a lot of people, it is not quite enough to catch our attention. That is where coloring comes in.
Coloring intricate patterns “involve[s] repetitive motion and limited space in which to work, creating a locus point
around which thoughts can revolve.”
According to Cleveland Clinic psychologist Dr. Scott M. Bea, “In this way, it is very much like a meditative exercise.”
There are numerous, scientifically documented benefits gained by incorporating a meditation habit into your daily routines. Live and Dare has outlined 76 benefits of meditation
, combed from scientific research analysis. Check out this infographic they put together:
First, I want to point out that the act of meditating actually changes the physical parts of your brain. It’s like lifting weights for your brain. Like your muscles getting bigger from lifting weights, brain areas that are involved in meditation change as a result of the meditation.
found that gray matter concentration increased in areas of the brain involved in learning, memory, regulating emotions, sense of self, and perspective. Why is this a good thing? Gray matter is where all the work of the brain is initiated.
Meditation also increases the cortex thickness. As we age, this structure of our brain, responsible for attention and sensory perception, thins. Another study
suggests that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning.
So, perhaps meditation can act as a fountain of youth for our brains, keeping it exercised and strong.
Have you ever driven somewhere and when you got there, you had no idea how you had driven there? You were so engrossed in the chatter in your mind, your auto pilot took you where you needed to be. It’s quite a strange and somewhat scary feeling.
Part of the reason this happens is habit, which is something we can talk about in a later article. Part of the reason is a lack of focus; being easily distracted by your mental chatter.
Meditation trains us to remain present in the moment, allowing the mental chatter to fade to the background. This is supported by science.
Meditation has been shown
to increase your control on where you focus your attention and for how long. Focus is critical in completing tasks, keeping us on target, and pursuing our goals.
Many of us need creativity in our lives, whether for raising kids or trying to solve a unique challenge at work. There is a large body of work on the improvements in creativity we experience as a result of dedicated meditation.
Scott Barry Kaufman, psychologist and author, said
, “[Coloring] can provide people with a way to flex their creativity.”
In a study
published in Frontiers in Psychology, a group of scientists found that meditation improves divergent thinking and counteracts convergent thinking. In this way, it suppresses the urge to focus on just one solution while improving our ability to intuit novel solutions.
This is the very definition of being creative.
Remember, it should not be your intention to be creative while you are coloring, especially if you are trying to come up with the answer to a problem you are having. It doesn’t work this way.
Instead, it opens up the areas of your brain that let you zone out a bit. Now your subconscious can take over that problem for awhile and you can let your creativity flow onto the coloring page.
Coloring reduces anxiety. A study in 2005, and another in 2012
, found that coloring mandalas
reduces anxiety. Carl Jung first used mandalas as a coloring art therapy in the early 1900s.
Psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala said
, “The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.”
What this means is that the small movements of creating intricate designs triggers a portion of our brain that turns down our emotional centers in the brain. We can simply enjoy the moment without being burdened by our worries.
showed that mindfulness-based art therapy reduced symptoms of distress and improved quality of life feelings.