Research Publication Title

Psychological Impact of Coloring on Adults

Major

Psychology

Faculty Mentor

Whitney Heppner

Keywords

social, psychology, mindfulness, coloring, anxiety, cognition

Abstract

Mindfulness has been characterized as a nonjudgmental, direct awareness, of inputs (Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007). Mindfulness can be measured as a trait (Baer et al., 2006; Brown & Ryan, 2003), cultivated through intensive training programs (e.g., Kabat-Zinn, 1982), and induced through brief meditation tasks. Additionally, induced mindfulness is connected to cognitive functioning increases, emotion regulation, and health behaviors (Heppner & Shirk, 2018). One previous study suggested that a deep level of engagement is a characteristic of coloring activities, and that this engagement is related to decreased levels of anxiety following coloring (Curry & Kasser, 2005). Our current study replicates and extends a previous study, which hypothesized that coloring could induce mindfulness by providing mindfulness-based instructions for coloring, and also that mindful coloring would result in larger reductions in anxiety following a stress induction compared to free coloring. The current study extends our previous investigation by assessing the impact of free versus mindful coloring on cognitive flexibility, measured by the Trail Test B. In this ongoing study, participants undergo the same procedure as the previous mindful coloring study, but also complete this additional cognitive task. We saw no impact of condition on state anxiety over time. However, we did see a significant effect of condition and time on state mindfulness, and we saw an indirect effect of condition, through the mediator of state mindfulness levels, on time taken to complete the Trails Task B. This has implications for art therapy and individuals using coloring as a stress management technique.

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Psychological Impact of Coloring on Adults

Mindfulness has been characterized as a nonjudgmental, direct awareness, of inputs (Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007). Mindfulness can be measured as a trait (Baer et al., 2006; Brown & Ryan, 2003), cultivated through intensive training programs (e.g., Kabat-Zinn, 1982), and induced through brief meditation tasks. Additionally, induced mindfulness is connected to cognitive functioning increases, emotion regulation, and health behaviors (Heppner & Shirk, 2018). One previous study suggested that a deep level of engagement is a characteristic of coloring activities, and that this engagement is related to decreased levels of anxiety following coloring (Curry & Kasser, 2005). Our current study replicates and extends a previous study, which hypothesized that coloring could induce mindfulness by providing mindfulness-based instructions for coloring, and also that mindful coloring would result in larger reductions in anxiety following a stress induction compared to free coloring. The current study extends our previous investigation by assessing the impact of free versus mindful coloring on cognitive flexibility, measured by the Trail Test B. In this ongoing study, participants undergo the same procedure as the previous mindful coloring study, but also complete this additional cognitive task. We saw no impact of condition on state anxiety over time. However, we did see a significant effect of condition and time on state mindfulness, and we saw an indirect effect of condition, through the mediator of state mindfulness levels, on time taken to complete the Trails Task B. This has implications for art therapy and individuals using coloring as a stress management technique.