Adult coloring books – As a mom, I have always enjoyed reading aloud to my kids. We enjoy reading the classics and many works of historical fiction. Since my children have a wide age span, and young children can get fidgety when listening to a long chapter, I purchased coloring books for my kids to work on while they listened.

What's Up With The Adult Coloring Books Craze?

As they grew, my kids still wanted to color while they listened, but Disney coloring books and crayons didn’t make the grade anymore. So I purchased quality colored pencils, and I searched for sophisticated coloring books.  I found a great selection by Dover Publications in bookstores and online. Geometric designs and mandalas became some of our family favorites. The also enjoyed Dover coloring books devoted to certain topics, such as the Civil War, or ballet, or rain forest animals.

My older kids reported that the coloring was relaxing, and that it helped them to listen better. If we took turns reading, I enjoyed coloring too. We started this habit more than a decade ago, but clearly, we were to something.

Best selling adult coloring books

Today, adult coloring books are on the bestseller list of just about every bookseller, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and even Walmart. According to Nielsen Bookscan, about 12 million coloring books were sold in 2015, a huge increase from the estimated 1 million sold in 2014.

For most retailers, the popularity of adult coloring books has spurred sales in related art supplies. A Nielsen report revealed that sales of colored pencils increased 26.3 percent last year, a big uptick when compared with the previous three years, when the growth rate ranged from 1.3 to 7.2 percent.

Faber-Castell, the world’s largest wooden pencil manufacturer, is experiencing record sales and has added more shifts in its German factory as a result. Seeing the coloring book craze as part of a growing trend toward self-expression, Barnes & Noble has beefed up its selection of art supplies, including drawing paper, pencils, pens and calligraphy sets.

Last year, the traditionally kid-focused Crayola, which is owned by Hallmark Cards, launched “Color Escapes,” a line coloring books and colored pencils expressly for adults.

Many publishing experts connect the start of the current coloring book craze with the success of “Secret Garden,” a 2013 coloring book by Johanna Basford, a Scottish illustrator. After an initial printing of 16,000, that coloring book became a huge international seller. In fact, in one month, it sold almost 6 million copies.

Today, you can find adult coloring books to fit almost every taste. From tie-ins with movies and TV shows — such as Star Wars, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones — to coloring books on swear words, to mythical animals, to the illustrated Bible there is a wide range of subject material.

Since I have been purchasing adult coloring books for years, I was curious as to what has fueled this current craze. There are two answers – one is “plugged in” and the other is decidedly “unplugged.”

The “plugged in” answer has to do with the fact that people like to share their completed coloring pictures with each other on social media. There even is a popular adult coloring subscription service called The Monthly Coloring Club (http://www.monthlycoloringclub.com/). This online connection has fueled the growth of the fad.

The “unplugged” answer has to do with the fact that old-school coloring can reduce stress and anxiety. Psychiatrists say the act of coloring can serve as a meditative activity.

On her website, artist Colleen Darby writes, “My path to inner peace began at the end of a crayon.” In 1995, Darby was diagnosed with cancer when she was four months pregnant. She writes that coloring offered her an escape from her anxiety and fear, and she found through her later work as artist-in residence in the oncology floor of a children’s hospital that the same was true for other people experiencing anxiety.

Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who has his own line of adult coloring books, says that the act of coloring produces a relaxing mindset. It allows us to focus on the moment rather than on our busy schedules.

Research demonstrates that people who color experience changes in their heart rates and even in their brainwaves. Dr. Joel Pearson, a University of New South Wales brain scientist, says that by concentrating on coloring an image, our brains replace negative thoughts and images with pleasant thoughts and images.

Adults who color also report that they enjoy the nostalgic feel of the practice – it makes them think of a simpler time when they were kids. It offers a time to escape from the pressure of everyday life to just focus on creating something pretty. It also is a good excuse to get away from those electronic screens that can dominate our lives.

Will the adult coloring book craze continue? It is hard to say, but it shows no sign of slowing down as more books continue to hit the market, and even coloring parties are now a thing. When you think about it, there is nothing new about taking on small craft projects to relax. Other examples are knitting, crocheting or woodworking.

Like these other activities, coloring offers a way to mentally take a step away – even if it is a brief one – from deadlines and to-do lists and to focus on something completely different.