Mindfully coloring may help distract from chronic pain.
Combating Chronic Pain With Adult Colouring Books
Guest Post by Angie Glaser
It is no accident adult colouring books made news as a top-selling book on Amazon last year. Unless you have just come back from a six-month retreat, you have heard of the colouring phenomena and the relaxing effects of this childhood throwback activity. If you’re like me, you have four books stacked on your shelf that you received as Christmas gifts, each with a few pages begun with bright coloured pencils just waiting to be completed.
Adult colouring books took the Western world by storm because most adults lead lives lacking an outlet for the play and creativity we need in order to thrive. Those of us living with chronic illnesses have an even more difficult time making room for play in our lives of appointments, medications, symptoms, and physical limitations.
I am just one of 50 million adults suffering from migraines in the U.S and Canada. Along with 2.2% of the population, my migraines occur on more than 15 days a month meaning they are frequent enough to be classified as chronic and are incredibly debilitating. I spend the majority of my days in bed with the shades drawn, head pounding, no appetite, every light and sound an assault to my sensitive, haywire nervous system.
I have a migraine every single day, and when I have a migraine my body desperately wants to be in the fetal position. Like so many others who live with chronic illness and pain, it takes some effort on my part most days to bring fun into my life.
Activities like colouring cultivate our creative spirit and it’s even more worthwhile for those with chronic pain. By taking time to do activities that foster growth and creativity, I signal to myself that I am worth the effort that inevitably comes with guiding an ill body towards health. By immersing myself in the colours of the pencils, I am more apt to notice the different blues and purples of the violets in the garden.
While I am focused on an activity I enjoy I am relaxed, and the part of my brain that controls stress, the amygdala, quiets down. I am less likely to notice my pain and my entire body benefits from the stress-relieving response.
Fostering imagination as an adult is one of the most meaningful things to do for your mental health,especially if you are dealing with the high levels of stress that comes with chronic pain. Illnesses changes lives, abilities, and perspectives, and creative activities help tap into a deeper part of ourselves. It is precisely the creative and playful part of ourselves that we need to connect most to in order to process the experience of pain and best cope with it.
Of course, there will be days when the pain and fatigue are too bad to create something, and even then, colouring is not a magic wand to fix any disease. It is, however, a useful and fun tool that may remind you of being a kid and cause you to relax a bit. Plus, it goes great with music.
If colouring does not sound appealing, there are many ways to unleash creativity that does not involve crayons or pencils. A few of my favourites include: listening to audiobooks, reading or writing poetry, crocheting, going for a walk, taking photos, subscribing to a literary magazine, going to the park or beach, taking a bath, journaling, lighting a candle, birding in the backyard, painting with watercolours,cooking a meal, or simply sitting by an open window.
To learn about our guest blogger Angie Glaser’s personal peaceful inspirations and for more chronic pain resources visit her blog Chronic Migraine Life or connect with Angie on Twitter.
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