3 Things I’ve Learned from Adult Colouring Books

I’m not exactly a newbie to this colouring craze. After I graduated from college, I bought myself a set of 48 colour pencils and four Looney Tunes colouring books. I got these out whenever I was bored and coloured Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat and the Tasmanian Devil to life.

But eventually I got tired of them. Some time this year I decided I was too old for Looney Tunes ― I mean, come on, I’m 27 freaking years old ― so I gave away my four colouring books (which still had hundreds of empty pages) to my nieces and nephews. I kept my 48 colour pencils, though.

It was lucky I did, because I received two adult colouring books as a good-bye gift from my colleagues when I resigned from work. I never expected to receive them; I had been planning to buy one colouring book in the near future, so imagine how happy I was to receive two! (Special thanks to Jona and Ganda for them. ^_^ )

Colorig Books from Ganda and Jona
New colouring books!

So, since I’m now unemployed, I’ve spent some time colouring my new colouring books. I love picking out a colour to use, sharpening the pencils using my brand-new sharpener and making sure I colour inside the lines (a feat I haven’t mastered yet even though I graduated from kindergarten 21 years ago). I love leaving my problems behind and just focus on adding life and colour to a black-and-white page.

Along the way, I also learned three important lessons, which I’m sharing below:

1. You must enjoy the journey

I’m naturally an impatient person and a constant worrier. With my OCD tendencies, I can’t really relax until I’ve solved a problem, ironed out the kinks in a plan and generally made sure that everything is okay. I get fretful and jittery when something goes wrong, when I’m faced with uncertainties, when I don’t have full control over everything.

So, naturally, I got a bit antsy when I started colouring a page. Everything was so blank, so white, and I wanted to fill the entire page with bright colours right away. The rational part of my brain told me this wasn’t possible, but the little OCD corner of my mind fretted anyway. What if I couldn’t make the page beautiful? What if I couldn’t finish the page and leave it half-coloured, half-white? What if it wasn’t perfect?

Colouring book page
An unfinished page — the white spaces are anxiety-inducing!

But, as I slogged on and continued colouring, I realised one thing: finishing the picture wasn’t the most important part. Sure, it’s nice to look at a fully coloured page and admire your handiwork, but it’s more important to enjoy the journey towards creating that fully coloured page. Immerse yourself in the process. Concentrate on deciding which pencil to use. Try to colour inside the lines. Have fun as you turn a white ribbon to red, a white grape to violet, a white lollipop to swirls of pink and turquoise and purple.

Enjoy the process and let it soothe you. It’s not called “art therapy” for nothing.

2. You need to learn to spend out

“Spend out”. This is one of the Twelve Commandments of one of my favourite authors, Gretchen Rubin. Like me, Gretchen is an underbuyer and has a “miserly nature” (her own words). According to her blog, she finds herself “saving things, even when it makes no sense” ― and I can fully relate. I try to purge myself of this tendency (in fact, it’s one of the reasons why I created this blog), but it’s too ingrained in my personality that getting rid of it is no walk in the park.

This tendency reared its head when I first held my colour pencils and colouring books (and it still does every now and then). Should I really colour these brand-spanking-new books? Shouldn’t I store them away to preserve their newness? Should I really use my colour pencils? Should I really sharpen them? Shouldn’t I just enjoy looking at their almost-new lengths?

Colour pencils
Favorite colouring pencils

But then I realised: Gretchen is right. I need to “spend out”. There’s no sense in saving colour pencils and colouring books because being used is their purpose. They need to be used and sharpened and coloured on for them to fulfil their purpose.

So I try to follow this advice and use not just my colouring stuff but other items as well. Spend out: don’t waste things just by letting them rot away in a corner.

3. You’re never too old for anything

I am too old for Looney Tunes, but I’m not too old for colouring books. Colouring is for everybody, and it is especially helpful to people who are stressed since it helps them forget their worries and anxieties at least for a few minutes.

Colouring, for me, is therapeutic. As I’ve mentioned above, it lets me set aside my problems as I focus on giving life to a black-and-white illustration. It helps me forget the responsibilities of the adult world as I focus on less stressful choices, like choosing a colour and deciding which picture I should colour first. It gives me a small sense of satisfaction as I finish colouring a picture and see the final, technicolour result.

Colouring, as I’ve mentioned, is for everybody, but not everyone might enjoy it. Still, for those who do, keep it up and let your crayons, colour pencils and colouring books inspire you.

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