Journaling and Coloring – A Perfect Combination

Most of us don’t normally think of combining journaling with coloring. On the surface, they appear to be very different—one is for introspection and mental health, while the other is a fun, relaxing activity that hearkens back to childhood. But what about when you put these two activities together? It seems to me that they are complementary and it may even accentuate their benefits when done together. Here’s some reasons why; let’s look at this more in depth.

Coloring before journaling

Coloring before journaling is an easy way to mesh the two activities and has numerous potential benefits that include the following:

-Reduces stress and anxiety

With busy schedules, niggling worries, and constant attachment to our phones, getting into a relaxed, focused zone to journal can be a challenge. Coloring is an enjoyable and relaxing activity that can help get us into a space that’s more conducive for self-reflection and journaling. In studies, coloring has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. In a University of Sydney study (Rajendran, Mitra, Shahrestani, Coggins, 2020), it reduced patient anxiety in the emergency department, and a University of Otago study (Flett, Lie, Riordan, Thomspon, Conner, & Hayne, 2017) showed lower levels of depressive symptoms and anxiety after coloring. By coloring beforehand, it can make it easier to then focus on journaling without worries and negative ruminations intruding.

-Helps with mindful attention and flow

Coloring can also be helpful for mindful attention and flow state. In UWE Bristol studies (Holt, Furbert, Sweetingham, 2018), participants reported “feeling significantly more content, calm, alert, mindful and in a state of ‘flow’ after coloring.” This can then carry over when we switch from coloring to journaling, helping us to be more present and focused as we delve into topics of introspection and self-reflection.

In a flow state, one is fully immersed in an activity that intrinsically rewarding, not noticing the passage of time nor distractions. Benefits include better focus, production and clarity, as well as less self-judgment. If coloring can help with flow state, this may then improve one’s journaling experience when done after coloring.

-Produces original responses to problems

Coloring can also have a positive impact on ideas produced afterward. Experiment 2 of the previously referenced study (Holt, Furbert, Sweetingham, 2018) showed that coloring mandalas improved “the subsequent ability to focus attention and generate original responses to problems.”

An aspect of journaling is reflecting on and delving into our areas of concern. If coloring helps with original ideas and responses, then it could potentially help us make new discoveries and reveal different perspectives when we journal afterward.

-Be present

Coloring also helps to quiet the mind and be in the present moment. It’s easier to tune into our intuition when we aren’t lost in the mind chatter. Then, as we journal, connecting with this intuition can lead to new insights, realizations, and increased self-awareness.

Coloring and journaling simultaneously

Combining coloring and journaling more integrally may also be of benefit. Let’s explore how they could fit as simultaneous activities.

Color while you’re reflecting on a writing prompt or journaling topic. When your mind wanders, coloring can help redirect your focus to the task at hand. Reducing intruding thoughts makes it easier to stay on your intended topic, immersed in these contemplations.

Coloring is a creative activity. Being in that space and continuing to color as you contemplate a topic keeps that creative energy present. Perhaps it will spark imaginative ways of looking at it.

As mentioned previously, studies have shown that coloring beforehand helps produce original responses to problems. So why not contemplate topics and issues of concern while in the act of coloring. It may lead to fresh perspectives.

Coloring also takes time, so when you use this period to simultaneously think about a writing prompt or subject, it may encourage you to reflect and delve for longer than if you just journaled and moved on. It gives you a set space for extended contemplation, allowing for more thoughts and ideas to arise.

Journaling first

Some may even find benefit from journaling first and then coloring. As you color after you’ve journaled, your subconscious may continue to process what you’ve written, and you may have further insights.

A fresh approach

Combining journaling and coloring is a fresh approach to two popular and simple self-care activities. Perhaps you have your own ideas of how coloring and journaling can mesh together. Experiment and see what you discover.


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