mindfulness – the new bestseller

Colored pencils

We are such a people of doers, aren’t we? Give us something to do and we will get right on it and check it off the list!

I know being mindful throughout the day creates stronger relationships, reduces stress and better overall health. I am working on it along my path to whole wellness, but admittedly, it is a challenge. As a doer, it’s a hard sell. We Americans pride ourselves on being busy.

It seems to be a bragging right when asked how we are doing to breathlessly blurt …busy, I am sooo busy!

Scheduling a yoga class or putting in place a 10-minute mindfulness practice in the morning feels stressful.

But, importantly, everywhere we turn, there is a new report that given the relentless pace of current living, being mindful can literally save our lives.

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Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Mass. Medical Center, expert and author of a plethora of books on the subject, shares that 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. 77%!!

True story – I stopped in one of those Zen-like stores with incense and tingly music mixing throughout to buy one of Zinn’s books that a friend recommended, WHERE EVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE and saw his name in writing for the first time.

Zinn! I somewhat shouted/snorted/laughed out loud in this very whispery store. An expert in Zen is named Zinn?? Ha, how about that – to no one in particular.

A snarly little woman shuffled behind me pointing out they were spelled differently. Hmph. I smiled and nodded and silently thought she needed to read the book!

Stress is making us sick and obviously depleting our collective sense of humor.

So what about this new adult coloring book craze? Why is it so very popular?

Did you get one for Christmas?  Evidently, everyone else did.

Amazon reports that in 2013, nine of the twenty bestselling books were coloring books.

Two of the biggest sellers, Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, both by

Johanna Basford, combined to sell 13.5 million copies in 50 countries!

new secret gardenbetter enchanted

What is going on?

According to Alice Domar, Ph.D. , Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Boston, coloring uses both sides of the brain.

The creative side is happy watching the color variations play out side by side and the tactical side is tickled pink marrying the decision making skill to the design.

When both sides of the brain are occupied, there is little room for wandering – it feels rested and relieves stress.

“It’s kind of a way of being creative without the stress of too much creativity. You’re not stressing yourself out as much as you would if you were to draw from scratch, but you’re still getting some of the relaxing qualities of creating,” says Peter Gray, professor of psychology at Boston College.

Obviously, it is filling a real need – a need to forget about the stressful world of political rancor, world hunger, toxic water and a challenging boss.

About creating something beautiful and touching back to the softer, gentler time of childhood.

What can you color? Why, you can color cats, Harry Potter, Secret Tokyo, Secret New York, Sherlock, Dr. Who, The Game of Thrones, animals, oceans, birds and you can even Colour Me Good Benedict Cumberbatch!

 

Benedict

 

There must be a lesson here. Our over-stressed society has indeed purchased over 13 million coloring books.

Maybe this is an unconscious way of responding to our exhausted bodies and being still, without pressure. Our body knows what it needs if we only listen.

Maybe selecting colors and watching marvelous patterns appear is a first step to slowing down and breathing – an informal practice – paying attention to what is happening in the moment.

Maybe the next step could be a formal mindfulness practice of paying attention on purpose and working to create a home that is a stress reducer for yourself and your family.

The world is stressful enough.

We can talk about that next time but until then, here is a small practice easily snuck into your crazy stressful day:

Anytime you feel stressed, heart beating faster, frustration building, just feel your breathing and quietly repeat:

I am breathing in, my body and mind are calm; breathing out, I laugh and see that the world is good.

Color on, my friends!

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