Creative rest is one of the gifts God gives us as a way to refresh our overstressed minds and maxed out lives. In this guest post from my friend Pam Ferrel, she shares the life-giving benefits of journaling and coloring. If you’ve never heard of creative rest you can learn more about it HERE.
I have to admit; I was a skeptic. When the adult coloring book craze hit, I had a difficult time believing that any healthy, busy, productive grown up would color like a kindergartener. I have always valued artists, and I believe God gives the gift of craftsmanship and design (Read Exodus 35:30-35) But I mistakenly thought only a few people, the professionals, and some who enjoyed art as a serious hobby, would be interested in spending their time coloring. I was so wrong! The coloring books with scripture hit the scenes, led to market by my publisher, Harvest House. And they were producing best-seller after bestseller in the coloring craze. During this time, one of my very wise and amazing friends became an art advocate for art to stay in the public schools. So I got educated because I admire her greatly. She has navigated a series of family tragedies yet her faith remains unwavering and her art seemed an important piece of her staying the course with strength.
During this season, I caught a glimpse of Bible Art Journaling (or what I like to call Creative Biblical Expression) growing in popularity, so I thought, “If it gets people into the Bible, that is terrific.” God gently reminded me that the first five words in the Bible are “In the beginning God created” (Gen.1:1) So creativity is obviously a priority with God!
I bought a Journaling Bible, some pens, an art journal, and a tried a few of God’s Word coloring books from Harvest House and from my friend, the remarkable artist ,Karla Dornacher. To justify the time, I decided I would try it as my “Sabbath” rest, and I used my Logos Bible software to dig a little deeper for meaning and application. I decided to begin by sketching out the verses I used in my speaking, so that even after I God takes me to heaven one day, if any of my kids, grandkids or one day– great grandkids, pick up my Bible, they might see in picture form the verses I cherished. I decided I would also draw the memory verses that accompany the First Place 4 Health online Bible study I facilitate. I discovered by drawing the verses, I was capturing their meaning better, memorizing the verses easier, and as I colored, I was meditating on how I could apply them! I was a growing fan of Bible art, so I picked up some coloring pencils and when my brain and body were weary at the end of each day, I decided to color instead of turning to TV or online media, to prepare my body for a good night’s rest—and it worked! (Some people report sleeping better when coloring for even 5 minutes before bedtime.[i])
I think God was preparing me for a phone call He knew was going to come in from my friend, Jean E. Jones, a talented Bible teacher who I have known for a couple decades. She had written and taught a study on Discovering Hope in the Psalms , and wondered if I would edit it and recommend it to a publisher. As I read the study, I realized how God was bringing all the pieces together. Jean had some creative elements in a few chapters, but after seeing the benefit of adding more creativity to my own Bible study, and recognizing the phenomenal popularity of the Bible Art and Christian coloring book craze, I recommended adding even more creative options to the study. God brought my artist friend, Karla to my mind as a talented woman who might enjoy adding coloring pages and bookmarks, and margin art to create a bible study that was both Biblical and beautiful!
If you still need some convincing that coloring can be a positive activity for adults, here are a few scientific studies that capture the benefits of art and coloring.
- Changes your mindset from negative to positive
“The time and focus that adult coloring takes helps the individual remove the focus from the negative issues and habits, and focus them in a safe and productive way.” Dr Bea told Cleveland Clinic “…adult coloring requires modest attention focused outside of self-awareness. It is a simple activity that takes us outside ourselves. In the same way, cutting the lawn, knitting, or taking a Sunday drive can all be relaxing.” Dr Bea adds, that coloring “relaxes the brain. When thoughts are focused on a simple activity, your brain tends to relax…we are not disturbed by our own thoughts and appraisals. The difficulties of life evaporate from our awareness, and both our bodies and our brains may find this rewarding.”[ii] Additionally, Dr. Joel Pearson, a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia adds “concentrating on coloring an image may facilitate the replacement of negative thoughts and images with pleasant ones.” [iii]
- Helps lower your stress
“Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who also has his own line of adult coloring books, says that coloring elicits a relaxing mindset… the most amazing things occurred — we started seeing changes in heart rate, changes in brainwaves.” He also mentions “there are three key elements—repetition, pattern, and detail—that prompt positive neurological responses in participants. When you have things that you can predict will happen in a certain way, it’s calming for us.” [iv] Coloring can even help with things like PTSD because it calms down the amygdala. “This is the part of the brain that controls fight or flight response, and keeps individuals in a heightened state of worry, panic, and hyper-vigilance…. Coloring and focusing on this harmless and calming activity can actually turn that response down, and let your brain have some much needed rest and relaxation.”[v]
- Moves truth from your head to your heart
Margaret Fienberg author of Live Loved coloring book agrees coloring makes scripture memory easy and enjoyable. “The process of coloring the words and surrounding images provide times for you to say the words aloud, interact with the passages, journal and ultimately craft God’s Word into your heart through creative expression” [vi]
- Increases your ability to focus, organize, and problem solve
According to an interview licensed clinical counselor Leslie Marshall did with the Washington Times, coloring opens the frontal lobe of the brain, where organizing and problem solving live, and really helps focus the mind.[vii] In children, art helps strengthen the ability to succeed in other areas of study like math and learning languages.
- Boosts your creativity
It might seem obvious that Creative Biblical Expression would stimulate your creative juices—but Bloom artist, Neely Beattie, contends that “Coloring helps you get in touch with your creative side without having to draw anything yourself. You don’t have to be an expert in art. You can just choose something you love and color it, however, your heart desires–no rules, no anxiety!”[viii]
- Deepens your walk with God
The right coloring book (and Creative Biblical Expressions — #bibleart) can help you learn some of the deeper truths of the Word. For example, Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience has Bible study comparable to what you might see in a Beth Moore, or other Lifeway study. Seasoned, bestselling Bible teacher, Kay Arthur said in her endorsement, “What an incredibly unique and creative Bible study Pam, Jean, and Karla have created! It’s multilayered, dimensional, theologically rich, touching the senses—enlightening the mind, capturing the heart.” Christian leader Pastor Randy Alcorn has a new coloring book, Picturing Heaven, that includes teaching on heaven along with coloring pages to give people a glimpse through heaven’s gates. This unique coloring book will equip a person theologically as well as it could help someone who recently lost a loved one process his or her grief.
- Improves your physical health
On a simple level, coloring improves your fine motor skills, which could be helpful as you age. And coloring and art utilize both sizes of your brain as you make selections in color or decisions on creating that include balance and perspective.[ix] On a more serious note, researchers found that mindfulness art therapy for women with cancer helped to significantly decrease the symptoms of physical and emotional distress during their treatment. Art therapy has also been helpful to people cope with other conditions, including depression, anxiety, addictions, and trauma.[x]
- Connects us to people
The coloring elements mixed with a Bible study, moves coloring into a social setting and can enhance relationships. Alicia Cohn, in a blog for CT magazine adds, “Coloring groups are becoming popular, which means Bible-study-and-coloring groups are bound to emerge. Like group quilting or… hiking, group coloring allows people to talk side-by-side rather than face-to-face, which can serve as a healthy, laid-back conduit for building relationships and community wellbeing.”[xi] In my own experience, coloring scripture is a great multigenerational activity. I can do it with my daughter in laws and my grandchildren at the same time. Because coloring can be relatively easy, we all can chat and build shared memories and bond while staying in the lines (or not!)
- Brings up happy memories
For many of us, childhood was a happy time (at least when we were coloring). Coloring “elicits childhood nostalgia and promotes some good old fashioned fun”.[xii] Artist Martina Trejo explains that “when we color, it brings out our inner child. We are reminded of the days when life was simple and our biggest worry was watching our favorite cartoon show[xiii] Randy Alcorn, answering the argument that we are to “put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11) noted that we are told to approach God with a” child-like faith.” “Jesus held children on His lap and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). “ “[xiv] (Moreover, if we say that art is only for children, we diminish craftsmanship and serious artists who are exercising their spiritual gifts given by God for the building up of the body and the use of art for evangelism.)
- Is affordable and packable
Coloring is one of the least expensive hobbies one can enjoy. In addition, with just the evidence in this simple article, the benefits far outweigh any costs. As far as reducing stress, it is cheaper than a day at the spa, and less expensive than therapy or a trip to the doctor’s office. Coloring, in particular, is very portable. I have a zippered case that holds my Discovering Hope in the Psalms (or coloring books) and my colored pencils and pens—so I can take this new relaxing hobby on the road in an easy, compact way. So next time you are feeling a little stressed, instead of picking up the remote, pick up a coloring book and some pencils and color in calm.
Pam Farrel is the devotional writer for Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience. She is an international speaker and bestselling author of 45 books. And when she isn’t traveling for ministry, you might see her kayaking, paddle boarding, or on her deck coloring scripture and enjoying Creative Biblical Expressions from her home, a live- aboard boat docked in Southern California. She and her husband are the Co-Directors of Love-Wise.
I’ve been loving my private time working through Discovering Hope in the Psalms and I want to give one of you a chance to win a copy along with some of my favorite new releases this year! Enter below: