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A Fun Way to Decrease Adult Anxiety

By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

Children enjoy arts and crafts and the utter fun of creating “works of art” to be displayed on the refrigerator. I remember having such a delightful time making construction paper collages, finger painting, coloring with crayons, designing simple jewelry, weaving potholders (remember those looms?) and teaching my children the rudiments of needlework. Somehow, and too quickly, young children grow up and these crafty art projects fall by the wayside.

In the last few years, these creative and fun crafts have become very popular with adults. Many people enjoy knitting and crocheting, finding it a relaxing and pleasant way to unwind after a busy day. Go into a bookstore and you will find entire display racks filled with coloring books and colored pencils for adults. Many of the designs are intricate and require focus. It has been found that bringing focused attention to a particular project helps to relieve adult stress and anxiety. Breathing slows and calmness sets in. It’s almost meditative to concentrate on a repeating intricate pattern such as a mandala. Drawing stimulates creativity which gives us pleasure. This focus crowds out other thoughts of the day which might cause worry or troubling thoughts. It’s interesting that a study published in 2005 in “Art Journal” found that merely coloring in a free form type of way did not decrease anxiety. Rather it was the coloring of complex plaids, mandalas, or other intricate designs which provided structure and direction that forced a person to have a heightened attention to details. This focusing acted to alleviate stress and anxiety.

The next time you need to take a break from your busy day, turn on some classical music and sit down with a challenging coloring book. While you are coloring within those bold black lines, take deep breaths, relax your shoulders, calm your mind, smile at the pleasure you are having, and feel anxiety and stress leave your body. You can even display your finished work of art on your refrigerator!

We never outgrow the joy of creation. If you find that you are dealing with an abundance of stress and anxiety, try to carve out a few minutes of each day to play a musical instrument, create jewelry, knit a gift for someone, or create art masterpieces. Your mood will be elevated and perhaps some cares will melt away as you concentrate on beauty.

Maxine Roeper Cohen is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at mc333@cornell.edu.

 

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