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As if planning a trip and simply getting to your destination were not stressful enough, navigating around a new city, language barriers and just being out of your comfort zone can be quite taxing on the brain.  While on vacation however, it’s important not to take a vacation from exercising your body or mind. Like physical activity for your body, fitting in some form of daily exercise for your brain is imperative in keeping sharp as we age and this muscle, just like the other muscles in your body, grow and become stronger the more you use it. My latest obsession and go to form of a mind work out (both at home and while traveling) is coloring. Not just for children anymore, this addictive trend is becoming so popular that adult coloring books are popping up on bestseller lists and are available on line, at bookstores, and at airport news stands nationwide. They take up very little space in a carry on bag making it a great activity for the plane ride or at your hotel after a long day of sightseeing. So, besides for simply being “fun”, the following six reasons explaining the bonus health benefits will have you picking up a coloring book and crayons, markers, or colored pencils in time for your next trip.

1. Coloring Has Been Prescribed By Psychiatrists For Hundreds Of Years

The famed psychologist Carl Jung was on to something when he started prescribing coloring to his psychiatry patients to calm and center their minds. He gave his clients mandalas to color as part of their therapy, and you can still purchase mandala coloring books today. Doctors continue to follow Jung’s lead and still recommend the activity to combat anxiety.

2. Coloring Gives You A Chance To Spend Time With Your Gal Pals

As coloring books become an increasingly popular hobby for adults, this usually-solo activity has also turned into a social one. Coloring parties — in which adults gather to sip wine and socialize while coloring — have become a thing. Artist Lisa Congdon theorizes about the social aspects of coloring, saying, “I think for women who don’t know how to draw or don’t feel comfortable or confident drawing, this is another way to socialize and have an activity that they can do with other people … and because you don’t need to concentrate very much when you’re coloring in a coloring book, you can talk and have glass of wine.”

3. Coloring Reduces Stress And Anxiety

In simplest terms, coloring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries. But it also brings out our imagination and takes us back to our childhood, a period in which we most certainly had a lot less stress. And, because it’s a centering activity, coloring allows the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is involved with controlling emotion that is affected by stress, to relax. Giving your amygdala periodic rests actually reduces your stress overall.

4. Coloring Trains Your Brain To Focus

Staying inside the lines takes focus, but not so much that it’s stressful. Clinical counselor Leslie Marshall notes that the activity “opens up the frontal lobe of the brain — the home of organizing and problem solving — and focuses the mind” by allowing colorers to forget their worries. Being able to live in the moment is a critical skill in our increasingly demanding world, and coloring trains you to put everything else aside for the time you spend doing it. And, like meditation, it can help you relax…… and when you relax, amazing things happen! But the health benefits go far beyond learning to focus your brain…relaxing helps to lower your blood pressure and can also lessen anxiety, reduce tension headaches, relieve digestive upsets, and combat the onset of other stress related illnesses.

5. Coloring Helps Your Fine Motor Skills And Vision

When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres. “The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. Medical evidence supports that coloring books, much like crossword puzzles, are therapeutic and may delay or prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Coloring Lets You Be You Without Judgement

Your coloring book is your coloring book. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of it and you don’t have to show it to anyone else if you don’t want to. If you want to color the sky green and the grass blue, no one has to know. You don’t even have to color “in the lines” if you don’t want. It’s your time, so kick your feet up, pour a glass of wine,  and color however you want.

Try it and I can almost guarantee you’ll be hooked!

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