Could ‘childs play’ benefit adult mental health?

According to new research, it might…

The University of Otago’s Department of Psychology latest study suggests that daily colouring in session, can improve some negative psychological conditions and may be an effective, inexpensive and accessible self-help tool.

Joint author of the study Dr Celia Lie says the aim of the study, entitled “Sharpen Your Pencils”, was to test whether adult colouring books “live up to the hype”.

The researchers tested 115 women aged between 18 to 36, with each participant randomly assigned either a booklet containing 10 pictures for colouring in or a booklet of puzzles, such as Sudoku and word searches, to be worked out.

Before the booklets were assigned, participants were asked to complete an inventory of their psychological well-being in terms of depressive symptoms, stress, anxiety, resilience and mindfulness. After a week of either colouring-in or completing logic puzzles for 10 minutes a day, the groups were again asked to fill in the psychological inventory.


“Following a week of colouring-in, participants reported lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms.”

Dr. Celia Lie.


Fellow researcher Dr. Tamlin Conner added that the research findings mark an important first step in understanding the psychological benefits of colouring-in. Dr Conner stated that if further testing yielded positive results, with its low risk, minimal expense and accessibility, colouring-in may soon be considered a beneficial form of creative activity, like gardening and cooking have become, for improving mental health outcomes and be included in treatment plans.

You can find out more about “Sharpen Your Pencils” by visiting the University of Otago website here…


This image displays the logo of Mental Health Charity The Chy Sawel Project, championing an holistic approach to treating anxiety, depression and stress.


The Chy Sawel Project believes this kind of research need to be promoted, as the findings challenge assumptions and help build a solid body of evidence, which will highlight the effectiveness of non pharmaceutical options, when treating a range of mental health conditions. If you would like to help the project, please click here.


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