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Study Finds New Art Trend Lowers Stress Levels


Remember when you were a kid and spent hours filling coloring books with vibrant Crayola crayons? Well, these days we have adult coloring books. Many of them are advertised as having “stress relieving patterns” (like these) or the ability to promote “relaxing mindfulness” (like these). And you have to admit…the concept is appealing. Just color your stress away…

However, art therapists tend believe these claims may be misleading…that true art therapy is not simply about “feeling better,” but more about growth and relationships.

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In light of this debate, a team of Drexel University researchers recently ran two separate 40-minute exercises. One of the exercises consisted of coloring. The other exercise involved working in an open studio with an art therapist. Here’s what happened…

Art Therapy More Effective at Relieving Stress Than Coloring

All of the study participants took part in both exercises and completed surveys about their levels of stress and feelings before and after each session.

For the coloring exercise, the subjects worked individually to color a pattern or design. There was an art therapist in the room, but this individual did not interact with the participants.

In the open studio exercise, the participants could make any type of art they wanted — coloring, sketching, doodling or working with modeling clay. In this case, an art therapist was on hand to assist if anyone asked for help.

When the final survey scores were tallied…

  • Perceived stress levels went down by at roughly the same levels for both exercises (10 percent for coloring; 14 percent for open studio).
  • Negative mental states also showed similar decreases in levels (roughly a 7 percent decrease for coloring; 6 percent for open studio).
  • After the open studio sessions, the participants displayed an approximate 7 percent increase in self-efficacy, 4 percent increase in creative agency, and a 25 percent increase in positive feelings. These effects were not seen in the coloring exercise.

In other words, coloring helped to reduce negative feelings and stress levels. However, it did not create the additional good feelings associated with the open art session.

“Social Art” Makes It Easier Than Ever to Get Creative

The study authors believe the interpersonal interaction, problem solving, creative expression and empowerment involved in the open sessions contributed to the study outcomes.

“Coloring might allow for some reduction in distress or negativity, but since it is a structured task, it might not allow for further creative expression, discovery and exploration which we think is associated with the positive mood improvements we saw in the open studio condition,” lead author Girija Kaimal said.

Thanks to a recent trend called “social art,” today it’s easier than ever to gain the positive effects of creating your own artistic masterpiece. These are studios that allow anyone to come in for an hour or two of painting, sand art, sculpting and more.

Sessions are relatively inexpensive — usually less than $50 — and often allow you to bring food and beverages to enjoy while expressing your creativity. To find a studio in your area, just type “social art studio” or “social art classes” (plus your town) into your go-to search engine.


Drexel University. “Coloring books make you feel better, but real art therapy much more potent.” ScienceDaily. Dec 2017.

Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”

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