Being a teacher of Psychology with horticultural tendencies, when those two worlds collide, my ears tend to prick up. Last month, I was part of the Annual conference of Teachers of Psychology and delivered a workshop about mental health and the use of horticultural/eco-therapy. The focus was on how teachers might use gardening as a means to improve their mental health. Whatever way you might argue the toss, teaching is by far one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. After six years as an educator of sorts, I can safely say that such a statement is true.
On that Sunday morning, I was very fortunate that a lovely group of delegates attended. I had been pacing up and down for a good few weeks before hand, hoping that they would! And the first thing that we did, was a spot of colouring.
It started out as being something innocuous, I’d come across a colouring book called ‘Glorious Gardens’; a colouring book for adults. I picked it up, this was going into my workshop. I would even have crayons. The delegates liked it, they rather enjoyed the colouring book and it dovetailed into the theme of the workshop.
What I didn’t realise is that I was jumping onto a bandwagon that was already rolling. I was holding onto the bumper as it went past me.
There was even a BBC news report.
Colouring is a big thing! Whilst we think that this is an activity for children, there are actually no explicit rules that suggest that adults shouldn’t do it. Perhaps we grow into adults and find other more pressing things to occupy our time.
Needless to say, I have jumped on the bandwagon. There is research evidence out there, that suggests a link to mental health, positive psychology and mindfulness. I am, of course, going to be a little biased, being a Psychology teacher. It does make sense to me, and there are cases where older adults with vascular dementias are supported with the use of colouring.
In the report above, a lady name Johanna Basford is mentioned. One of her books is in the gallery above is her, as well the ‘Glorious Gardens’ one.
You might assume that colouring is simple. How many of us have seen children pick up a crayon and colour with their colouring books? Their grip may vary developmentally from spear to pincer as they grow, and their colouring space will be larger for visuo-spatial recognition Makes sense to me, and it’s very difficult for most children to stay within the lines. It’s difficult as an adult too, I assure you. Both of the books are very intricate in places. I also didn’t have the best quality pencils or crayons, and I rather like the idea of felt tips and fine liners. As an adult, there is precision.
In the last week, I have been very fortunate to have made windows to colour. I quite like. I did find it difficult to let go of the rules that we as adults use to guide our lives. We all have schema, social scripts, that allow us to negotiate the world around us. Rules and regulations that govern what we do, how and to an extent, why.
Only in a colouring book, would you therefore have blue flowers and blue leaves. The closest blue plant I have, is a lilac rose, and not remotely blue as we would expect. Even then, I was thinking about the flowers and colours on the plot. Seeing things in a context, so as to make sense is fairly useful.
The process does take a bit of focus and a lack of it at the same time. On one hand, you are trying to colour, stay within the lines. On the other, you can clear your mind. Things that would ordinarily clog up your mind, dissipate away. Something rather useful, given how mental health is becoming more and more visible in the public forum.
I like the colouring, I really do. Try it. You’ll never look at your eyeliner in quite the same way again.
…since not everyone is going to have felt tips in their handbags.