How to have a colourful, stress-free Christmas
By Uzma Afridi, Business Psychologist and NABS Career Coach
Colouring in is an activity often associated with children, however it doesn’t merely keep them quiet whilst mum and dad get some peace, it also allows children to develop a sense of calm and creativity. Earlier this year adult colouring books became a best seller on Amazon for a very similar reason.
Modern life is hectic. We rush around, multi-tasking like there is no tomorrow and rarely do anything to counter the stresses of everyday life. All of this pressure and stress on a regular basis can have an impact on our health, as well as mental and physical well-being.
The brain uses five different types of brainwaves – alpha, beta, theta, delta and gamma. Theta and delta are the brainwaves we use when we are asleep; alpha, beta and gamma when we are awake. Gamma is used for memory, learning and information processing. Beta is in use when we are completing activities such as talking or walking and alpha is in use when we are listening to music, absorbed in a book or undertaking mindful activities such as meditating. In order to increase calmness, alertness and mental coordination, we need to encourage the brain to shift from beta brainwaves to alpha brainwaves to help ourselves to focus and be present.
The act of colouring in enables the brain to focus on a singular activity that has some complexity in the form of repetition, order and creativity. It therefore reduces adrenaline and increases the release of dopamine (also known as the ‘happy hormone’). When we are having a busy day and feeling the pressure, our brains release the chemical cortisol. This chemical increases glucose in your bloodstream, alters your immune system and suppresses your digestive system, amongst others. In short bursts, the cortisol can help you in a ‘fight or flight’ moment. However, long term exposure can cause a whole host of health problems, including anxiety, depression, heart disease and memory impairment to name but a few.
Cortisol ultimately needs to be removed from the body for healthy function and colouring in is a great way of doing that. It works in the same way as other mindfulness activities, where we can be present and focus on a singular activity, slowing down our heart rate and decreasing the cortisol in our system.
Mindfulness and meditation have had significant impact over the years as tools to reduce stress and scans have shown the positive physiological impact of these activities on the brain. For many, meditation can take time to learn, as truly being in the present is not easy for everyone. Colouring in provides an accessible entry point, as it adopts the same meditative principles that help to prevent our brains from overworking and allow us to focus on the task at hand.
Christmas can be an exciting yet overwhelming time of the year for many, so why not sharpen your colouring pencils and take a few minutes out of your day to refocus your mind. Why not give Santa a new look on your commute to prepare yourself for the day ahead. Take your time, he is not going anywhere until he starts working on Christmas Eve!