It’s hard to get away from hearing about how good your adult coloring is – it seems like every day, there’s another article in the paper about a newly discovered benefit of the art form. But one thing that’s not often discussed is whether or not coloring is good for remembering.
A regular mindful coloring practice may improve memory in the following ways:
- Lowered stress levels
- Decreased insomnia
- Improved attention span
- Increased concentration
- Reduced proactive interference
- Boosted cognitive functioning
- Improved blood flow to the brain
- Hippocampus growth
- Strengthened cerebral cortex
- Enhanced left-right brain connection
You’re probably thinking that these are some pretty tall claims, and you’re right. But a lot of experts are studying the benefits of mindful activities like coloring right now, and these are the results that they’re seeing. Let’s dive deeper into how exactly coloring does all the things listed above.
Before we go any further, it’s important to be clear. All of these benefits are directly linked to mindfulness and the meditative qualities of an intentional coloring practice. Randomly picking up a crayon here and there while you’re on the phone or watching TV is not going to provide the same results. But if you regularly use coloring as a form of mindfulness meditation, there’s a good chance that you’ll see some of the following results.
Lower Stress Levels
Coloring has been shown to reduce stress, and in fact, many adults who pick up the hobby do so for the sake of relaxing.
Pretty much every adult on the planet knows what it’s like to go through a period of high stress levels, and what it can do to you:
- Make you scatterbrained
- Cause you to forget basic things (misplacing keys, etc.)
- Make it harder to focus
- Making taking in new information difficult
So it makes sense that if coloring can help adults combat high stress levels, it’s going to lead to better mental functioning overall, thereby improving memory.
Mindfulness is often prescribed for patients who suffer from insomnia, and studies show it to be effective. This is partly due to mindfulness’s reputation for stress reduction, as we just mentioned. After all, it’s hard to sleep if you’re stressed out, especially in the case of chronic stress like a difficult job situation or an ill family member.
But mindfulness also quiets the mind, helping people stop ruminating and start living in the present moment. While not thinking about your problems won’t make them go away, it can provide you with a mental break which can give you the energy to face them later. If you’re dealing with insomnia, a relaxing bedtime routine might be just what the doctor ordered. Take a break from TV and phone screens and find a quiet place to color for an hour or so before bed if you can.
Improve Attention Span
If someone your love suffers from frequent memory issues, there’s a chance that their memory abilities aren’t compromised, but it’s their attention span that’s lacking. After all, it’s hard to remember something that you weren’t paying attention to in the first place.
It’s normal for attention spans to narrow as we age, and in the modern, distracting world of constant notification alerts and multiple screens, it’s a wonder that any of us can focus at all. However mindful activities like coloring help the mind to stop bouncing from one subject to the other, gradually increasing our ability to focus. Less distraction oftentimes translates to better memory.
As with attention spans, concentration is required to retain information. The more deeply you’re able to concentrate on something, the more likely it is that you’ll remember what you need to about it.
- Exercise (aerobic and strength)
- Playing chess
- Playing Sudoku
- Learning new skills (such as languages or musical instruments)
You might have noticed that many of the activities that are beneficial to memory and overall wellness are activities that many people do for fun anyway – there’s a lot to be said for making time for leisure activities in life.
Reduce Proactive Interference
When most people complain of having trouble remembering things, they’re talking about the short-term or “working” memory. That makes sense since it’s usually more helpful for us to remember something like where we parked this morning than it is to recall what shirt we were wearing on our fifth birthday.
Short-term memory tends to decline as we get older, due in part to something that scientists call “proactive interference.” This is a fancy way of saying that old memories get in the way of accessing new ones.
Fortunately, proactive interference can be reduced by a regular mindfulness meditation practice, and intentional coloring fits the bill.
Colors Boost Cognitive Functioning
There are all kinds of fascinating studies out there about how colors affect us, and the information they gather is used in various ways:
- Bright, “warning” colors like red, yellow, and orange are used for traffic signs and cones
- Marketers use different colors based on the feelings they’re trying to evoke
According to Color-Meanings.com, certain colors can also improve your memory. They say that:
- Yellow increases concentration
- Mauve enhances memory
- Red helps you remember details
- Blue improves cognitive functioning
You might keep this in mind when coloring, and playing around with different color schemes to see how they make you feel.
Improve Cerebral Blood Flow
Some studies done on meditation have shown that it causes a marked increase in cerebral blood flow, especially in the frontal lobe and parietal lobes. These regions of the brain are responsible for memory retrieval, so you want them to function as well as possible.
Some say that meditation is a form of brain exercise, which is why mindfulness is so helpful in increasing activity in certain areas. Others say that mindfulness helps the brain to work better just by decreasing stress levels since stress inhibits brain function. Either way, anything you can do to keep your brain healthy and functioning at a high capacity is going to improve your ability to retain and recall information.
Growing the Hippocampus
The hippocampus is a small bit of the inner brain that’s responsible for learning and creating new memories. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase the cortical thickness of this area.
It’s hard to believe that something as simple as mindful coloring can have such a huge physical impact on your brain, but it’s true.
The same article cites other proven benefits of meditation:
- Lessened depression and anxiety
- Support for addiction recovery
- Less reactivity
- Slower cognitive decline
Setting up a regular coloring practice can not only improve your mood and overall sense of well-being, but science has proven that it changes your physiology, too, which is nothing short of amazing.
Strengthen the Cerebral Cortex
Frequent meditative activities like meditation have also been shown to strengthen the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex, also commonly called grey matter, is the outer layer of the brain. Among other things, it handles a lot of our information processing, including learning and memory recall. It does a bunch of other stuff too, but let’s focus on memory for now.
The important thing to know is that we want our cerebral cortex to function as well as possible, so if something as simple and enjoyable as a regular coloring practice can help keep it in tip-top shape, let’s break out the colored pencils right now!
Enhance Left-Right Brain Connection
Coloring has been shown to strengthen your left-right brain connection because you use both sides of the brain at the same time when coloring. The left hemisphere controls movements such as staying inside the lines, while the right is in charge of things like selecting colors that will go well together. The better the two hemispheres of the brain can communicate with each other, the better cognitive functioning you’ll see overall.
- Memory recall
- Learning ability
If you want to work on your left-right brain connection, try coloring with your non-dominant hand!
Check out other benefits HERE!
So there you have it: the many ways that a mindful coloring practice can help boost memory and save you from the annoyance of forgetting your shopping list or where you put your car keys. We can’t promise that it will fix all your problems overnight, but the evidence shows that it stands a good chance of making things just a little easier. Plus, it’s fun!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I use coloring to improve memory?
You will get the most benefit from coloring if you color intentionally as part of an established mindfulness routine. This can include coloring in a quiet area and focusing deeply as you color.
Does all coloring improve memory?
Sporadic coloring for fun is an enjoyable way to relax, but it does not necessarily offer the same level of benefits as coloring in which emphasis is placed on mindfulness.
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