New Research Says We Should All Color More

The stress-relieving benefits are real. 

You may think you’re “not creative” or “bad at art,” but a new study from Drexel University says you should head to the craft store anyway. According to new research, making art can significantly reduce stress levels, whether you’re gluing macaroni noodles or painting museum-worthy landscapes.

The results of the study, published in the journal Art Therapy, were not entirely surprising to lead researcher Girija Kaimal, EdD, who said in a statement: “That’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting.” Even people who rarely picked up a crayon experienced the same stress-relieving benefits as those who were practiced in making art.

The researchers studied 39 adults between the ages of 18 and 59, and measured their cortisol (stress hormone) levels before and after a 45-minute art session. Participants were free to experiment with everything from markers to clay, without instruction or direction. Following the session, 75 percent of participants experienced a drop in cortisol levels. The other 25 percent experienced heightened cortisol levels, but Kaimal explained that those individuals were not necessarily more stressed—heightened cortisol levels can also suggest engagement or enjoyment.

There was no significant correlation between skill or materials used and cortisol levels, meaning modeling clay was just as soothing as coloring. But because younger participants consistently exhibited lower cortisol levels after making art, Kaimal believes creative arts would especially benefit stressed students.

If you don't have a robust craft closet at your disposal, there is a simple way to reap the same benefits without much mess—adult coloring books. You’ve likely read about the craze, which proves these intricately designed books are no longer just for kids. In 2015, 12 million copies of coloring books were sold in the U.S., compared to just 1 million in 2014. Here, our favorite books to help you unwind:


Sensational Succulents: An Adult Coloring Book of Amazing Shapes and Magical Patterns

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You don't need a green thumb to enjoy this book. It captures the mesmerizing patterns of trendy plants, leaving you zen and relaxed for hours.

To buy: $9,


Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book

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Johanna Basford’s imaginative pages have been some of the most popular in the coloring book industry. Since the publication of Secret Garden, she has illustrated several other books, all with heavy-duty high quality paper for professional coloring.

To buy: $10,


Classic Coloring: Jane Austen 

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Literature fans will get lost in these pages, filled with iconic locations (like the Pemberley Estate) and memorable quotes. If you’re proud of a particular page, you can easily tear it out and frame it.

To buy: $10,


Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Animal Designs

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Color your way through forests, savannahs, jungles, and more with this index of intricate animals. The designs range in difficulty, so it’s perfect for beginner and expert artists alike!

To buy: $10,


Color Me Happy: 100 Coloring Templates That Will Make You Smile

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Art therapist Lacy Mucklow paired with illustrator Angela Porter to create this 100-page book. The book is organized into themed chapters, and explains the calming benefits of art and how to be more mindful (and happy!) in your everyday life.

To buy: $13,


Tropical World: A Coloring Book Adventure

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This exotic coloring book is perfect for summer, and its illustrator has become a bestseller in the coloring book market. Her intricate and meticulous illustrations promise hours of coloring and unwinding.

To buy: $9,