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Color between the Lines

The practice of concentration and mindfulness

Imagine yourself boarding a flight. As you buckle up, the prospect of spending hours trapped in the cabin daunts you – not quite sure what to do, you flip through the in-flight entertainment channels. Meanwhile, the child next to you takes out a box of crayons and buries his nose in his coloring book; next to him, his mother does the exact same thing.

Coloring books for grown-ups have taken the world by storm in the past year or so, with millions of copies sold worldwide. From whimsical flora and fauna to imaginative cityscapes, all you need is some coloring pencils and you can start scribbling away. This might sound like just another revived childhood pastime, but there is more to coloring than just a popular fad.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was one of the pioneers to incorporate coloring into psychotherapy in the early 20th century. By asking his patients to create mandalas, an intricate geometrical form originated in India, he was able to help his patients relax and improve their concentration.

This is not to be confused with art therapy, which utilizes the creative process of making art from scratch to treat a condition. Coloring, on the other hand, completes or adds to someone else’s creative designs, and can work wonders when you just need to take your mind off a stressful day at work. The entry barrier is relatively low – so while it might seem intimidating to get a paintbrush and take up oil painting, you don’t have to be particularly artistic to enjoy a coloring book. Many people who do this regularly – some can only spare 15 minutes a day – find coloring soothing and therapeutic.

The activity engages the brain enough to require concentration but not to the point of exhaustion. By concentrating on coloring, you’re focusing on the task at hand, free from the distractions and other worries in your life. This is similar to practicing mindfulness, a technique recently touted as the holy grail of de-stressing and relaxation.

It is also believed that making a series of inconsequential decisions – picking a color for the flowers in the corner, and deciding what looks good on the bird next to it – helps us regain a sense of control after a difficult day. As we make our way through the book, we relish seeing the originally monochrome pages slowly come to life with vibrant colors. With practice, our technique in blending colors improves and we develop a keener eye for what works on a page. All of these give aspiring colorists a great sense of satisfaction, thus making coloring a very rewarding hobby.

You can now immerse yourself in the wonderful world of coloring at Westin. In your room you will find a box of coloring pencils along with sheets designed by Johanna Basford, author of the bestselling Secret Garden, and more recently Magical Jungle. Color away, and feel free to take these sheets with you on the plane!

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