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How Does Coloring Influence Mood, Stress, and Mindfulness?



Manufacturers of adult coloring books often make the claim that coloring is a technique that can decrease stress and negative emotions and enhance relaxation and mindfulness. This technique has not been explored, with high external validity, in psychological research. Participants included 66 college students (63.6% females; 86.4% Caucasian). Study 1 examined the short-term effects (20 minutes) of coloring on mood and mindfulness. In Study 2, we examined the week-long effects of coloring on mood and mindfulness after asking the same participants to color for 20 minutes daily for seven consecutive days. Significant short-term effects of coloring were present, as stress decreased and relaxation increased. However, effects of coloring on mood, psychological symptoms and mindfulness over a one-week period were not found. Our findings provide support only for short-term benefits to coloring. .
Journal of Integrated Social Sciences, 2018 - 8(1): 1-21
Original Article:
Brien K. Ashdown, Ph.D.
Jamie S. Bodenlos, Ph.D.
Kelsey Arroyo, B.S.
Melanie Patterson, B.S.
Elena Parkins, B.A.
Sarah Burstein
Hobart and William Smith Colleges, USA
Manufacturers of adult coloring books often make the claim that coloring is a technique that can
decrease stress and negative emotions and enhance relaxation and mindfulness. This technique has
not been explored, with high external validity, in psychological research. Participants included 66
college students (63.6% females; 86.4% Caucasian). Study 1 examined the short-term effects (20
minutes) of coloring on mood and mindfulness. In Study 2, we examined the week-long effects of
coloring on mood and mindfulness after asking the same participants to color for 20 minutes daily
for seven consecutive days. Significant short-term effects of coloring were present, as stress
decreased and relaxation increased. However, effects of coloring on mood, psychological
symptoms and mindfulness over a one-week period were not found. Our findings provide support
only for short-term benefits to coloring.
. Keywords: coloring, coloring books, stress, mindfulness,
negative emotions, relaxation, college students
AUTHOR NOTE: Please address all correspondence to Dr. Brien K. Ashdown, Department of Psychology, Hobart and
William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY 14456, USA. Email:
© 2018 Journal of Integrated Social Sciences
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Anxiety disorders are very common in the United States (Merikangas et al., 2010).
The lifetime prevalence of anxiety in 18-64 year-olds is 40.4% in females and 26.4% in
males, and 38.8% in females and 26.8% in males ages 13-17 years (Kessler, Petukhova,
Sampson, Zaslavsky, & Wittchen, 2012). According to the American College Health
Association (ACHA) 2015 National College Health Assessment survey, one in six college
students (15.8%) have been diagnosed with, or treated for, anxiety (Brown, 2016). In
addition, 56.9% of university students reported overwhelming anxiety (though not
necessarily diagnosed), 30% claimed that stress affected their academic performance,
47.7% reported feeling as if they were hopeless, and 13.1% were diagnosed or treated for
depression. At the time of that survey, 21.9% of students stated that anxiety had affected
their academic performance in the last 12 months (compared to 18.2% of participants who
were surveyed in 2008). Given that anxiety disorders and stress are related to multiple
negative consequences such as impairment in occupational (Jensen, Patel, & Messersmith,
2011) and social (Aderkaa et al., 2012) functioning, physical health problems (Berghoff,
Tulla, DiLillob, Messman-Moorec, & Gratza, 2017), infertility (Volgsten, Svanberg,
Ekselius, Lundkvist, & Poromaa, 2008), substance use disorders (Prior, Mills, Ross, &
Teesson, 2016), and many other issues, it is critical to find effective stress and anxiety
management techniques to use as coping mechanisms.
Coping strategies to deal with stress and negative emotions vary by individual and
situation. For instance, emotion-focused strategies are techniques used to deal with the
negative emotional states associated with the stressor (Zhou, Li, Li, Wang, & Zhao, 2017)
but not the stressor itself (which would be called problem-focused coping). Examples of
emotion-focused coping are exercise, meditation, journaling, praying, eating, substance
use, and doing arts or crafts. Creating art or crafts is an example of an emotion-focused
strategy as it provides a way to manage negative emotional states associated with the
stressor (Diliberto-Macaluso & Stubblefield, 2015). This mechanism may be an appealing
and adaptive option for college students who have an inclination for art.
The therapeutic benefits of creating art on mood have been examined previously,
providing support that engaging in art can reduce anxiety (Eaton & Tieber, 2017), improve
mood in both clinical (Chiu, Hancock, & Waddell, 2015; Hill & Lineweaver, 2016; Laurer
& van der Vennet, 2015) and non-clinical (Bell & Robbins, 2007; Wilkinson & Chilton,
2013) settings, as well as reduce stress (Abbott, Shanahan, & Neufeld, 2013; Curl & Forks,
2008). Abbott and colleagues (2008) used an undergraduate sample and examined art
engagement as a way to reduce stress. They found that tasks in the art making condition
were effective in reducing stress, compared to other conditions. Similar studies have been
conducted with college students (Eaton & Tieber, 2017; Sandmire et al., 2016). Eaton and
Tieber (2017) studied whether or not mood and anxiety were affected by the structure of a
coloring activity, and found evidence of mood improvement and reduction in anxiety. This
was especially true in those given the freedom to choose which color they used, compared
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to those who copied the colors of an existing image. Sandmire et al. (2016) sought evidence
supporting the anxiety-reducing properties of art. They found that those in the art-making
condition experienced significantly less anxiety than the control group. Furthermore, a
recent study by Mantzios and Giannou (2018) found a non-significant but tangible decrease
in anxiety following a coloring intervention. These studies provide strong evidence for the
benefits of art on reducing anxiety and stress.
One type of art that has surged in popularity is the use of adult coloring books.
Despite claims of reducing stress and increasing mindfulness, few studies have focused on
how using adult coloring books affects mood in college students. As discussed previously,
there is reason to believe that participating in art will have beneficial effects on negative
emotional state as this has been found with a variety of tasks such as painting (Diliberto-
Macaluso & Stubblefield, 2015), drawing (Drake & Winner, 2012), and working with clay
(Kimport & Robbins, 2012). One study examining coloring with college students found
anxiety and perseverance were positively affected after participation in a free choice
coloring assignment (Eaton & Tieber, 2017). Duong and colleagues (2018) found that both
coloring a mandala design and on a blank piece of paper resulted in anxiety reduction in a
group of graduate students. Further research is necessary to examine how using coloring
books might impact mood in both the short term and the longer term especially as it
seems an increased number of people turn to coloring as a way to manage stress.
In some previous work that examined the effects of art on mood, participants’ mood
is either manipulated prior to the intervention or explicitly targeted via an art endeavor. For
instance, in several studies, mood inductions were used prior to participants engaging in
the coloring intervention (Babouchkina & Robbins, 2015; Drake, Coleman, & Winner,
2011; Kimport & Robbins, 2012; Laurer & van der Vennet, 2015; van der Vennet & Serice,
2012). Participants were asked to make a list of personal stressors (Smolarski, Leone, &
Robbins, 2015), watch short film clips to induce a negative mood (Diliberto-Macaluso &
Stubblefield, 2015), recall the saddest event in their past (Drake & Winner, 2012), or
imagine anxiety-producing past events (Boothby & Robbins, 2011). This was beneficial
for researchers in order to increase the statistical power of their studies by enhancing the
ability to find changes in mood. However, it may not be generalizable to natural conditions
in which people use tools like coloring books to cope with stress, whether or not they are
currently sad, feeling anxious, or in a negative mood. It also does not provide information
on whether coloring can reduce negative mood if that mood is not first induced by
researchers. In other words, it leaves unanswered the question of whether coloring can
reduce negative mood states, no matter what level of mood the person coloring brings to
the activity.
Many studies that investigated how art affects mood also gave explicit instructions
to participants to express positive emotions in their art (Dalebroux, Goldstein, & Winner,
2008; Diliberto-Macaluso & Stubblefield, 2015; Drake et al., 2011; Drake, Hastedt, &
James, 2016; Drake & Winner, 2012). For instance, Smolarski et al. (2008) asked
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participants to make a brief list of personal stressors in order to induce a negative mood.
They were then randomly assigned to draw their current feelings, draw something that
makes them happy, or color a neutral object. Drawing to express happiness was the most
effective way to enhance participants’ moods. It is unclear if using coloring books with
neutral designs, without explicit instructions to express a positive emotion, have an effect
on baseline negative emotional states. Given that coloring books do not provide
instructions on expressing emotions during coloring, these studies provide little evidence
as to how coloring neutral scenes (such as a mandala, rather than explicitly happy ones)
affects mood compared to a non-art activity. Again, the question remains of whether
coloring influences people’s moods without those mood states being directly manipulated
by the researchers.
While aiming to promote coloring books for mood enhancing benefits, marketing
strategies sell coloring books on the premise that they enhance mindfulness and well-being
(Barrett, 2015). Mindfulness is the ability to be present in the moment, nonjudgmentally,
and can be examined as a state of consciousness enhanced by activities such as meditation
or body scans (Keng, Smoski, & Robins, 2011). In adults, mindfulness has been associated
with improved well-being and social functioning and decreased stress and anxiety (De Vibe
et al., 2017). Previous evidence has suggested that mindfulness is negatively correlated
with stress in both adults (Miners, 2008) and college students (Palmer & Rodger, 2009).
There is also some evidence that mindfulness and art can be connected to enhanced well-
being. In one study with children, a 12-week arts-based mindfulness group program for
vulnerable children showed improvement in emotion regulation, mood, coping skills,
empathy and ability to pay attention (Coholic & Eys, 2016). Although Mantzios and
Giannou (2018) did not find benefits of coloring on mindfulness, research is needed to
further explore how art could enhance presence in the moment. There are many parallels
between art and mindfulness. For instance, art and coloring require concentration and focus
as well as engagement of multiple senses. These activities enhance creativity, divergent
and flexible thinking (van de Kamp, Admiraal, van Drie, & Rijlaarsdam, 2015), and may
also have beneficial effects on mindfulness. Research is needed to explore the role of
coloring on mindfulness.
It is important to recognize that mindfulness is not just ignoring a stressor or
thinking about something else. There are, in fact, five facets of mindfulness: non-judging
of experience, non-reactivity to inner experience, observing, describing, and acting with
awareness (Baer, Smith, & Allen, 2004). When examining how art affects mood, there is
evidence that the effects are obtained through distraction and not necessarily mindfulness
(Dalebroux et al., 2008; Diliberto-Macaluso & Stubblefield, 2015; Drake & Winner, 2012;
Drake et al., 2011; Drake et al., 2016; Smolarski et al., 2015). A previous study examined
how drawing affected the mood of participants when the instructions for drawing were
varied. After inducing a sad mood, participants were randomly assigned to a venting or
distraction condition (Drake & Winner, 2012). Results indicated that distraction was more
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effective than venting in reducing negative affect, which might have been attributed to the
distraction from negative feelings. If distraction were the mechanism by which coloring
affects mood, we would not expect to see changes in mindfulness after a coloring task, and
instead might see these changes in any task (such as a control condition) that distracts the
participants from their current mood.
There is also a need to examine how a single episode and multiple episodes of
coloring effects mood and mindfulness, as they may be different. Although assessing how
one episode of an activity provides important information about how it can impact mood,
it is also important to understand how the effect would be in the real world where adults
are often engaging in the activity on a more regular basis, especially if they purchase
coloring books for the purpose of reducing negative emotions.
In summary, the use of coloring books has become popular among adults, including
college students (Milliot, 2016). Companies sell these books on the premise that they will
decrease stress and increase mindfulness, which can be particularly beneficial for college
students under high levels of stress (Bodenlos, Noonan, & Wells, 2013). Despite these
claims and popularity, there is a general lack of empirical evidence to support these
psychological benefits (see Mantzios & Giannou, 2018, for a recent exception). As college
students are one group that experience high levels of stress, especially during the academic
year (Rayle & Chung, 2007), it is important to examine if, and how, coloring neutral scenes
affects stress, mood, and mindfulness in this group. Given that much of the previous
literature in this area lacks real-world generalizability because negative mood inductions
are used and specific instructions are given to target certain positive moods, it is critical to
assess how coloring neutral scenes affects mood without such explicit manipulations. In
the current study, we explore whether both a single period of coloring and daily sessions
of coloring over a one-week period affect negative mood states (without inducing them),
relaxation and mindfulness in undergraduate students. We hypothesize that there will be a
significant interaction between time and condition for the brief coloring session in that the
coloring condition will have greater decreases in negative emotions and increases in
mindfulness and relaxation compared to the control condition. In the one-week study, we
hypothesize significant decreases in negative emotions and increases in mindfulness from
baseline to post-intervention follow-up.
Participants (N = 66) were undergraduate college students recruited from
psychology courses at a small liberal arts college in the Northeastern United States. The
majority of the sample identified as female (63.6%). All participants were between the ages
of 18-22 years (M = 18.74, SD = 0.81) and included 86.4% first-year students and 13.6%
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second-year students. The majority of our sample identified as White/Caucasian (86.4%),
with 3% identifying as Asian, 7.6% as Hispanic/Latino/a, and 1.5% each as Native
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and as ‘other.’
Demographic information. Participants answered questions regarding gender,
age, class year, and race/ethnicity.
Perceived Stress Scale. Participants’ levels of subjective stress were measured
using Cohen’s 14-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-14). The PSS-14 utilizes a Likert scale,
with five indicating greatest stress and one indicating least stress, to measure how often
and how intensely participants experience stress during the past month. An example
question of the PSS-14 is “How often have you felt nervous or “stressed?” This measure is
a valid and reliable scale of stress in young adults with α = 0.87 (Cohen, Kamarck, &
Mermelstein, 1983; Moeini, Shafil, Hidarnia, Babaii, & Birasch, 2008; Ries, Hino, &
Rodriguez-Anez, 2010).
The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ). We assessed levels of daily
mindfulness using the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire. This measure is a 39-item,
Likert questionnaire determining how often mindfulness occurs (one being an incident that
never or rarely occurs and five being an incident that always occurs) and how generally it
is indicative of your experience. Scores for the FFMQ can range from 39 to 195, with
higher scores indicating higher levels of mindfulness. An example question is: “When I’m
walking, I deliberately notice the sensation of my body moving.” The FFMQ incorporates
a factor of five psychometrically sound mindfulness subscales (Gill & Hodgkinson, 2007).
Observing Inner Experience is one’s ability to notice or attend to internal and external
experiences; Describing Experience is defined as labeling internal experiences with words;
Acting with Awareness is understood as taking a non-evaluative stance towards one’s
thoughts or feelings; and Nonreactivity to Inner Experience means to allow thoughts and
feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them (Berghoff et al., 2017). This
measure has been reliable in past studies with a range of Cronbach’s alphas of 0.75 to 0.91
(Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Toney, 2006; Schutze, Rees, Preece, & Schutze,
The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. We analyzed participants’ positive
and negative affect via the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Questionnaire (PANAS).
This questionnaire consists of two subscales, each with 10 questions that evaluate positive
and negative affect (Volgsten et al., 2008). The PANAS is a 20-item scale consisting of
one word each. Examples of these items are: “interested” and “ashamed”. Each item asks
for a value that represents how often the participant feels that word at this moment. The
PANAS uses a Likert scale, with a response of one indicating “very slightly” and a response
of five indicating “extremely”. Previous works shows the PANAS measure is reliable with
α = 0.89 for the positive subscale and α = 0.85 for the negative subscale (Watson, 1988).
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The Beck Anxiety Inventory. We used the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)
questionnaire to evaluate participants’ levels of anxiety over the past month. This scale is
composed of 21 anxiety symptoms that represent both physical and cognitive symptoms of
anxiety (Creamer, Foran, & Bell, 1994). Participants are asked, on a scale of zero to three,
how much each item bothers them (zero represents “not at all” and three represents
“severely.”) Statements such as “numbness or tingling” and “feeling hot” are included in
the questionnaire. In past research, the BAI is reliable in discriminating anxious from non-
anxious in undergraduate populations with α = 0.91 (Creamer et al., 1994).
The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. We utilized the Center
for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) to measure participants self-reported
symptoms associated with depression that occurred over the past week (Radloff, 1977).
This questionnaire consists of 20 statements that encompass six subscales. These six
subscales reflect the major dimensions of depression: depressed mood, feelings of guilt or
worthlessness, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, psychomotor retardation, loss of
appetite, and sleep disturbance (Radloff, 1977). The CES-D uses a Likert-like method to
define how often the participant has felt or behaved within the past week, with one being
“rarely or none of the time” and four being “most or all of the time.” The CES-D has been
reliable in past research, with the alpha coefficients ranging from 0.85 to 0.90 (Radloff,
The Visual Analogue Scale. A Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) is a psychometric
scale used to determine stress, relaxation, happiness, and sadness levels in participants in
the moment. Four items were framed as “how stressed (relaxed/happy/sad) are you
currently?” Below each question appears a 100mm line. The right end of the line is
anchored with “not stressed (relaxed/happy/sad) at all” the left side is anchored with
“extremely stressed (relaxed/happy/sad)”. Participants are asked to place a mark on the
100mm line to indicate the level at which they felt that emotion at the current moment.
These lines were measured from the left and length of mark was used to indicate the
intensity of each emotional state given, such that higher numbers indicate higher intensity.
The appropriate institutional review board approved this study. Participants were
recruited from Introductory to Psychology courses. Recruitment strategies included
professors promoting student participation in psychology studies during class time and
students being informed of this study via e-mails from psychology professors. College
students in Introductory to Psychology voluntarily signed up for this study in order to
receive course credit for their participation. A research assistant was present and available
to answer any questions the participants may have had about the study.
When potential participants arrived at the data collection site, they were provided
with information about the study. Those who provided informed consent then immediately
attended the first of two sessions for this study. Informed consent was obtained from all
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individual participants included in the study. In addition to providing demographic
information, participants completed baseline questionnaires that assessed mood, anxiety,
depression, stress and mindfulness (BAI, CES-D, PANAS, PSS-14, FFMQ, VAS) prior to
engaging in one of two tasks that lasted for 20 minutes. The scales were counterbalanced
to control for effects of order on answering questions.
Participants were randomly assigned to read a cognition textbook or to color a
Mandala design image for 20 minutes. By assigning students to the control condition of
reading a textbook, we are able to examine whether this distraction activity leads to results
different from the coloring condition (Drake & Winner, 2012). Participants left their
belongings in a separate room while completing the task to avoid and reduce any
distraction. After the 20-minute time period, participants were asked to leave the room and
again complete questionnaires assessing current mood (VAS and PANAS). After
participants completed the post-questionnaires, the research assistant explained the second
part of the study to the participant.
For the second part of the study, all participants were offered a coloring packet and
colored pencils with a log-book to record time of coloring sessions. Participants were asked
to color for 20 minutes each day over the next week and to record the time and page that
they colored in the log-book. Research assistants instructed the participants to record the
start and end times they spent coloring each day on the log-booklet that was provided to
them. The coloring activity for the second part was considered complete by research
assistants if the participant recorded 20 minutes of coloring each day in the past week and
the coloring pages were colored satisfactorily. Participants returned exactly one week later
to complete the second data collection session of the study. Coloring assignments were
checked to be sure they were completed. In this session, participants returned their
completed coloring log-books and were asked to color for 20 minutes before again
completing the questionnaires on mood, anxiety, depression, stress and mindfulness
described previously. Participants were then debriefed.
Statistical Analyses
After data collection was complete, data was entered into SPSS. To test our
hypotheses in the short-term study (Study 1) about the immediate effects of coloring on
stress and mood, we conducted mixed-methods ANOVAs with pre- and post-intervention
stress and mood levels as repeated measures and the condition participants were assigned
(coloring or reading) as between measures. By analyzing our data using mixed-methods
ANOVAs (which take into account both the repeated measures and the conditions within
the same analysis), we were able to examine the way the data may interact across the two
independent variables in the most parsimonious way possible. To test our hypotheses in
the week-long study (Study 2) on the longer-term effects of coloring on mood and stress,
we calculated various repeated-measures t-tests (one for each dependent variable of stress,
mood, and mindfulness) to determine if there were changes in these areas from before to
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after the week of coloring. We chose to analyze the data in Study 2 with these t-tests so
that we could examine the change in each dependent variable over time independent of the
other variables (recall that our hypotheses deal with the change in stress, mood, and
mindfulness rather than how these variables interact with each other). Due to the relatively
large number of t-tests we computed (eight in total), we decided to use a Bonferroni-like
technique to divide the criterion of 0.05 by eight to get a new criterion level of .006. By
doing this, we avoid committing a Type I error in our analyses.
Study 1
Visual Analog Scale (VAS). To determine if there were significant differences
between the coloring condition and the reading (control) condition on stress before the
intervention and stress after the intervention, we conducted a mixed methods ANOVA,
with pre- and post-intervention stress levels as the repeated measures factor and condition
(reading or coloring) as the between-subjects factor. There was not a main effect of
condition, but there was a significant difference between the pre-intervention and the post-
intervention stress levels, regardless of the condition participants were assigned [F(1, 64)
= 25.07, partial η2 = 0.28], with stress scores being lower after the intervention (M = 34.71,
SD = 21.65) than before (M = 46.77, SD = 21.61). Most importantly, there was a significant
interaction effect between pre- and post-intervention and condition on stress levels, with
post-intervention scores (M = 30.55, SD = 21.78) being significantly lower than pre-
intervention scores (M = 52.31, SD = 22.36) for the coloring condition but not the reading
condition. See Table 1 for more information about this ANOVA.
Table 1 also shows that we conducted the same analysis as described above for the
pre- and post-intervention and condition effects on sadness, happiness, and relaxation
levels. These results indicated that there was no main effect of condition for any of the
dependent variables (i.e., stress, sadness, happiness, or relaxation). For the dependent
variable of sadness, there was a significant decrease from the pre-intervention (M = 27.71,
SD = 20.61) to post-intervention measure (M = 23.58, SD = 16.73), but there was not a
significant interaction effect. This suggests that coloring did not impact sadness scores
differently than did reading.
When exploring the dependent variable of happiness, there was not a significant
difference between pre- and post-intervention scores in general, but there was a significant
interaction effect: people had higher happiness scores before reading (M = 62.68, SD =
16.28) than they did after reading (M = 56.73, SD = 20.73; i.e., reading the textbook made
people less happy); however, coloring had no impact on happiness levels. Finally, for the
dependent variable of relaxation, there was a significant difference between pre-
intervention (M = 54.41, SD = 20.99) and post-intervention levels (M = 62.62, SD = 21.71),
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with people being more relaxed after the intervention than before it. There was also a
significant interaction effect: people in the coloring condition had significantly greater
relaxation scores after coloring than before coloring; however, reading did not affect
relaxation scores.
Table 1. Condition and Pre- and Post-Intervention Effects on Visual Analog Scale
(n = 66)
Stress (M, SD)
F(1, 64) = 0.071 (ns)
partial η2 = 0.001
F(1, 64) = 25.07***
partial η2 = 0.28
aF(1, 64) = 30.80***
bF(1, 64) = 1.65 (ns)
Sadness (M, SD)
F(1, 64) = 1.68 (ns)
partial η2 = 0.03
F(1, 64) = 4.60*
partial η2 = 0.07
aF(1, 64) = 3.40 (ns)
bF(1, 64) = 1.33 (ns)
Happiness (M, SD)
F(1, 64) = 0.75 (ns)
partial η2 = 0.001
F(1, 64) = .024 (ns)
partial η2 = 0.00
aF(1, 64) = 3.37 (ns)
bF(1, 64) = 5.32*
Relaxation (M, SD)
F(1, 64) = 2.11 (ns)
partial η2 = 0.3
F(1, 64) = 10.17**
partial η2 = 0.14
aF(1, 64) = 13.72***
bF(1, 64) = 0.39 (ns)
Note: Coloring and Reading refer to the coloring condition and reading (control) condition, respectively;
Pre and Post refer to scores pre-intervention and post-intervention respectively; The simple effects with
the same superscript for each DV were compared, and the respective F statistic is indicated with a
matching superscript. Mean scores with a ^ are significantly different from each other, indicating a
significant interaction effect. *p < .05, **p<.01, ***p<.001
The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). To explore the impact that
coloring or reading had on positive and negative affect as measured by the PANAS, we
followed the same analysis plan as described above for the Visual Analog Scale measure.
Details of the following results can be seen in Table 2. Positive affect decreased
significantly from the pre- to post-intervention measure, F(1, 64) = 9.47, partial η2 = 0.13;
specifically, those in the reading condition had significantly lower positive affect scores
after the intervention (M = 28.89, SD = 10.98) than they did before the intervention (M =
33.54, SD = 8.20). There was also a significant decrease in negative affect from the pre- to
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post-intervention measure, F(1, 64) = 28.20, partial η2 = 0.31. This main effect was
qualified by a significant interaction as well, where participants in both the coloring
condition (M = 13.66, SD = 3.61) and the reading condition (M = 13.35, SD = 2.99) had
lower negative affect scores after the intervention than they did before the intervention
(coloring M = 18.52, SD = 6.57; reading M = 16.49, SD = 4.51). [27]
Table 2. Condition Effects on Positive and Negative Affect as Measured by PANAS
(n = 66)
Positive Affect
(M, SD)
F(1, 64) = 0.69 (ns)
partial η2 = 0.01
F(1, 64) = 9.47**
partial η2 = 0.13
aF(1, 64) = 0.10 (ns)
bF(1, 64) = 18.43***
Negative Affect
(M, SD)
F(1, 64) = 1.96 (ns)
partial η2 = 0.03
F(1, 64) = 28.20***
partial η2 = 0.31
aF(1, 64) = 18.59***
bF(1, 64) = 9.86**
Note: Coloring and Reading refer to the coloring condition and reading (control) condition, respectively;
Pre and Post refer to scores pre-intervention and post-intervention respectively; The simple effects with
the same superscript for each DV were compared, and the respective F statistic is indicated with a
matching superscript. Mean scores with a ^ are significantly different from each other, indicating a
significant interaction effect. Mean scores with a # are significantly different from each other, indicating
a significant interaction effect. *p < .05, **p<.01, ***p<.001
Study 2
Part 2 of the current study investigated the effects of daily coloring sessions over a
one-week period on negative mood, mindfulness, and relaxation in this sample of college
students. To examine this relationship, research assistants provided each participant with a
coloring log-book that included a time log page as well as a number of mandala coloring
pages at the baseline session. Participants were asked to color for 20 minutes each day
during the next week and record the beginning and ending times of their coloring sessions.
For the week-long findings of this study, we hypothesized that negative emotions would
decrease while mindfulness scores would increase from the baseline session to the one-
week follow-up.
We did not have any drop-outs from Study 1 to Study 2. To explore the week-long
effects of coloring as a mindfulness technique, we computed various repeated measures t-
tests to determine if scores on the dependent variables had changed over a seven-day period
during which participants spent 20 minutes coloring each day. Because we computed eight
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different t-tests, we utilized a Bonferroni technique and divided the criterion of 0.05 by
eight to get a new criterion level of .006. This way, we avoid committing a Type I error in
our analysis. However, as can be seen in Table 3, there were no significant differences on
any of the dependent variables before and after the weeklong coloring task.
Table 3. Effect of Coloring on Well-Being Pre- and Post-Long Term Intervention
(n = 66)
Perceived Stress Scale (M, SD)
40.65 (5.55)
41.46 (6.34)
t(62) = -1.29, p = 0.20, 95% C.I. = -2.06, 0.45; d = 0.14
Center for Epidemiological Scale
Depression (M, SD)
38.31 (5.85)
39.00 (7.18)
t(57) = -0.22, p = 0.83, 95% C.I. = -1.95, 1.57; d = 0.11
Five Facet Mindfulness Scale
Observing Subscale (M, SD)
24.32 (5.11)
24.75 (5.29)
t(64) = -0.69, p = 0.50, 95% C.I. = -1.68, .82; d = 0.08
Describing Subscale (M, SD)
26.55 (5.31)
26.32 (6.50)
t(65) = 0.40, p = 0.69, 95% C.I. = -0.91, 1.37; d = 0.04
Acting Subscale (M, SD)
25.59 (5.60)
25.71 (5.72)
t(65) = -0.26, p = 0.80, 95% C.I. = -1.07, 0.83; d = 0.02
Nonjudgment Subscale (M, SD)
27.39 (6.37)
27.58 (6.75)
t(65) = -0.28, p = 0.78, 95% C.I. = 0.64, -1.46; d = 0.03
Nonreactivity Subscale (M, SD)
20.33 (4.01)
19.85 (4.03)
t(65) = 0.99, p = 0.32, 95% C.I. = -0.49, 1.46; d = 0.12
Beck Anxiety Inventory (M, SD)
34.11 (10.78)
32.74 (10.68)
t(61) = 1.45, p = 0.15, 95% C.I. = -0.52, 3.26; d = 0.13
Note: Pre and Post refer to scores pre-intervention and post-intervention respectively.
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Overall, we found some short-term benefits to coloring. Compared to the control
group, after 20 minutes of coloring, levels of stress decreased significantly and relaxation
significantly increased, suggesting something other than distraction is at work in the short-
term (Drake & Winner, 2012). There were no immediate effects on sadness or happiness
(though being in the control group did reduce participants’ happiness scores). On the other
hand, after one week of daily coloring, we did not see benefits to participants on mood or
mindfulness. Given that this is one of the first studies to explore benefits of coloring on
mood and mindfulness in college students, we provide some initial support of its benefit
on stress and relaxation in the short-term, but provide some contradictory evidence to the
claims that coloring on a daily basis have an effect on mood and stress.
Our findings are consistent with past research that found stress-reducing qualities
to producing art (Chiu et al., 2015; Eaton & Tieber, 2017; Hill & Lineweaver, 2016). We
also add to the literature on coloring, as we found some immediate impacts on mood (Eaton
& Tieber, 2017). Although we only found short-term effects for one of our two dependent
measures (VAS), this means we did see important benefits for stress and relaxation after
coloring. We did not find a short-term impact of coloring on positive mood via our other
dependent measure, the PANAS, another measure of mood in the moment. This could be
a result of how our control condition (e.g., reading a cognition textbook) affected mood by
decreasing both negative and positive affect. Participants who were assigned to the control
condition had lower positive and negative affect after reading the booksuggesting that
perhaps this condition reduced stress or anxiety, but did not replace them with positive
moods. However, recall that participants who were assigned to read had lower happiness
scores after reading than before reading on the VAS (which also assessed mood in the
moment). These findings could be a result of the length of the intervention session (i.e., 20
minutes) or the type of book participants were assigned to read. Several previous studies
utilized longer art sessions (Babouchkina & Robbins, 2015; Eaton & Tieber, 2017;
Sandmire et al., 2016), such as 30 minutes. Researchers have found significant reductions
in anxiety after 20 minutes of coloring a mandala image; however, they utilized an anxious
mood induction prior to the intervention (van der Vennet & Serice, 2012). As mentioned
earlier, our attempt was to generalize to real-world situations, which is why we did not
enhance negative mood at baseline with a mood induction or give specific instructions to
elicit positive mood during art. These may have all affected our ability to find an effect on
either measure, yet have important implications for the generalizability of previous
We did not find any week-long benefits of coloring on mood in this study as
measured by our scales assessing anxiety, depression, and stress. These scales ask
participants to evaluate these moods over the last 2 weeks to one month. This was the first
study to explore how coloring on a daily basis, in participants’ home environments, would
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affect mood over a one-week span. It appears that coloring may provide some immediate,
short-term effects on mood but do not provide therapeutic benefits to stress, depressive
symptoms, or anxiety over a week long period.
Although we did not control when, how, or where coloring took place in Study 2,
we did enhance real world application by not artificially placing such limits on participants.
While there may have been other external factors that affected participants’ moods and any
benefits they might have reaped from coloring, the fact that this happened suggests that
coloring might not be an effective mindfulness technique over a week-long period. On the
other hand, we also did not review the coloring of the participants to examine the quality
of their work (only completeness). This could have helped us better understand the validity
and reliability of the coloring, and determine whether participants were rushing through
the task. Future research may want to explore how assuring greater adherence to the
research protocol (beyond the time logs that we utilized and collecting the completed
colorings) but researchers should be careful to balance this control with the need for
environmental validity.
Although many coloring books advertise the positive effects that coloring will have
on mindfulness, we did not find any changes on mindfulness or any of the five facets (e.g.,
Observing and Nonjudgment subscales) we discussed previously over a week-long period.
Similar to work by Carmody and Baer (2008) on assessing how mindfulness changes after
completing a mindfulness-based program, we used the FFMQ to assess changes in
mindfulness among our participants (Carmody & Baer, 2008). It may be that unless
specifically instructed to be present during such tasks, that any mood or stress benefits from
coloring are obtained simply because the participants are being distracted by coloring. As
our current college-age students are often multi-tasking in their daily lives, coloring may
be a task that they can do while watching TV, using their phone, carrying on conversations
with their roommates, or ruminating about stressors in their life.
Several studies support the theory that producing art is a way to distract people
from stressful thoughts or events (i.e. emotion based coping) in their lives (Dalebroux et
al., 2008; Drake & Winner, 2012; Drake et al., 2016), and it is possible that coloring is a
‘mindless’ activity rather than a mindful one (Manztios & Giannou, 2018), and may
provide support for past findings about these activities being distractions rather than special
interventions (Drake & Winner, 2012), at least in the long-term. While our focus here was
to determine short versus long-term effects of coloring on mood rather than answer the
question of whether coloring serves as a mere distraction, this could be an important
question for future research to address.
There are limitations to this study that should be addressed in future research. First,
our sample size was small. Although several other studies examining art’s benefit on mood
have had smaller sample sizes (Chiu et al., 2015; De Petrillo & Winner, 2005; Drake et al.,
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2016; Hill & Lineweaver, 2016; van der Vennet & Serice, 2012), having more participants
would have increased statistical power to find significant differences in mood over time (if
those effects actually exist). Several of the measures used in the week-long sessions asked
about mood states occurring over a two-week to one-month long span, so therefore may
not have been sensitive enough to pick up on changes in mood from the one-week
Our control condition negatively impacted positive affect and happiness, but also
decreased negative moods. This makes it unclear if reading the cognition book was
aversive to positive mood and made participants unhappy, or if it reduced stress and anxiety
but did not induce happiness. Further studies may want to explore alternative control
conditions that will allow them to more clearly determine what, if any, effect the control
has on participants’ mood. Generalizability of findings is somewhat limited as participants
were mostly Caucasian, female and from middle-upper class backgrounds. More work is
needed to understand how findings might generalize to more diverse groups that experience
a variety of different types of stressors with fewer resources for coping.
In our analyses, we employed a Bonferroni-like technique in Study 2 to avoid
committing a Type I error (e.g., incorrectly demonstrating significant effects). While
avoiding Type I errors is often considered more important than avoiding Type II errors
(e.g., incorrectly determining there are no significant effects), utilizing a Bonferroni-type
correction does increase the possibility that we did not find significant effects in Study 2
because of Type II errors. While we have been more concerned with avoiding Type I errors
here, it is important that we mention the possibility of these Type II errors.
It is also interesting to note that the participants in the coloring condition appear to
have higher stress and lower relaxation levels at the pre-test point than the other three
groups (i.e., coloring post-test, control pre-test, and control post-test). While our analysis
indicates significant interactions among these different groups, it is curious why those in
the coloring pre-test had these scores. Perhaps providing them instructions about coloring
the mandala influenced their moods unbeknownst to us, or the random assignment into
different conditions produced non-equivalent groups at that point in the study. Finally, the
control condition we employed (reading a cognitive psychology textbook) made those
participants less happy, possibly raising minor concerns about the choice of such a control
intervention. It is important that researchers who do similar work in the future consider
such design issues.
Even with these limitations, however, our study provides important information
about the veracity of claims that coloring is a mindfulness technique that will improve
mood and decrease stress. Our findings suggest that these claims might be true for some
moods in the short-term, but that researchers and clinicians should be cautious about using
coloring as a long-term mindfulness technique. It is important to note the potential
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significance of examining the effects of coloring within specific cultures, ethnicities, and
age groups. Because coloring is an activity that is commonly used around the globe, it can
act as a tool that brings out commonalities across cultures and groups while also
highlighting the diversity that may be present. Researchers in other academic disciplines
could further investigate the effects of coloring from a social and cultural perspective. In
doing so, we can potentially understand how an activity such as coloring affects not only
an individual but also a group at large as well as their reasons for partaking in such art
activities. In addition, future research should continue to test the marketing claims of the
manufacturers of adult coloring books in order to ensure that the general public as well as
those suffering from depression and anxiety are receiving evidence-based interventions.
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Brien Ashdown is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Hobart & William Smith
Colleges in Geneva, NY. His research and teaching focuses on cultural psychology, and
explores how cultural group identity influences social behavior, especially among
adolescents. As a Latin American specialist, much of his research occurs in Guatemala.
Address: Dr. Brien Ashdown, Department of Psychology, Hobart & William Smith
Colleges, 300 Pulteney Street, Geneva, NY 14456. Email:
Jamie S. Bodenlos is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Hobart & William Smith
Colleges in Geneva, NY. Her research and teaching focuses on clinical health psychology
with an emphasis on ways that mindfulness affect health and well-being. Address: Dr.
Jamie Bodenlos, Department of Psychology, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, 300
Pulteney Street, Geneva, NY 14456. Email:
Kelsey Arroyo holds a B.S. in Psychology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She
is currently a graduate student at the University of Connecticut pursuing a Master's degree
in Health Promotion Science. She will also be serving as a graduate research assistant at
the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) at the
University. Address: Kelsey Arroyo, 3647 Galloway Road, Batavia NY, 14020. Email:
Melanie Patterson is a medical student at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine. She
earned a B. S in Biochemistry at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2017. She will
graduate from Medical school in 2021. Address: Melanie Patterson, 217 Crescent Dr.,
Hershey PA 17033. Email:
Elena Parkins is a recent graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges with a B.A. in
Psychology and Music. Her current research interests include interparental conflict and its
effect on children’s mental health outcomes. Address: Ms. Elena Parkins, 63 Lilac Drive
Apt. 2, Rochester, NY 14620, USA. Email:
Sarah Burstein is currently an undergraduate at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She
is majoring in psychology and is interested in mindfulness research. Address: Sarah
Burstein, 33 Old Stone Crossing, West Simsbury, CT 06092, USA. Email:
... Coloring books have also effect on mood. On adults, they have short-term effects on decreasing stress and increase relaxation [16,17]. Moreover, [18] found that brain activation via functional near-infrared spectroscopy during coloring resulted in significant activation of the medial prefrontal cortex compared to the rest conditions, and that participants improved in their self-perceptions of problem solving and in having good ideas. ...
Computational thinking (CT) is at the base of the development of today’s society. One of the pillars of CT is Algorithmic Thinking (AT). This means be able to follow and write precise instructions, understand how algorithms operate and know their different component blocks. In this paper, we describe coloring activities addressed to first graders to teach them to include logical conditions on the instructions, both conjunctions and disjunctions, use universal and existential quantifiers, use implications and negations, and connect different instructions to lead to conclusions. Teachers assess students’ activities in the coloring book with an app and track the progress in a territorial ecosystem with gamification features. In phase one, 144 first-grade classes used the app to assess reading and executing coloring instructions. We found that 87% of students performed correctly the instructions. In phase two in one school, students wrote coloring instructions. We found that 54% prefer coloring to other learning tasks, 95% executed correctly simple coloring instructions, 73% wrote correct instructions for simple coloring tasks, 83% executed correctly complex coloring instructions, and 64% were able to write instructions with quantifiers for complex tasks with arrays. We conclude that coloring books enhanced with smartphones have big potential to teach AT to first graders and track their learning.
Craving is considered to be a vital contributor to the onset and maintenance of alcohol misuse. However, there is little known about its potential moderators and there are few interventions that specifically target these cravings. Exercise generates multiple psychological and physiological effects that in theory may reduce craving, and therefore we hypothesised that a short exercise circuit may potentially alter reward circuits. Recent research centred around neuroimaging studies suggests that similar reward circuits in the brain stimulated through exercise are also found to be activated by commonly misused substances such as alcohol. Peripheral levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, as well as the release of endorphins that would otherwise be artificially stimulated using alcohol are hypothesised to increase via alternate substitution induced by exercise. Exercise would thus replace effects of alcohol use to a substantial extent, and therefore was theorised to decrease craving and subsequently reduce hazardous alcohol use. A university student sample who reported hazardous drinking levels participated in either an exercise, colouring (as an active control) or a passive control intervention, and self-reported alcohol craving, mood, anxiety, and positive and negative affect scores were assessed. The present study found that a short exercise circuit significantly reduced alcohol craving, whilst also eliciting beneficial effects on mood and anxiety. This knowledge will help aid the utilisation of exercise as a potential therapeutic tool to reduce alcohol craving, prevent hazardous alcohol use and develop a greater understanding of the mechanisms that underlie addictive behaviour.
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First-degree students have many experiences with academic problems, namely stress, stress is a response to the burden received. Increased stress for students causes a depressive condition that adversely affects him. Management that can be used is coloring the mandala pattern which can affect the endorphin hormone so that the individual is in a state of relaxation. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of therapeutic coloring on mandala patterns on academic stress levels in first-degree students. The research method in this study used a type of pre-experimental research with the Pretest-Posttest One Group approach. The number of samples in this study amounted to 60 first-level students with purposive sampling technique. The instruments used were the Student-life Stress Inventory questionnaire and the coloring book of the mandala pattern with measurements of stress levels carried out pre and post-test. Therapy for coloring the mandala pattern was carried out for three meetings. Analysis of the data used is a paired t-test. The results showed that before the mandala pattern coloring therapy almost all (98.3%) students experienced moderate stress, after being given mandala pattern coloring therapy almost all (78.3%) students were still experiencing moderate stress but with a decrease in percentage and a small percentage (21.7%) students experienced a decrease in stress levels to mild stress. The paired t-test results showed a sig p-value of 0,000 <α (0.05). So it can be concluded that there is a therapeutic effect of coloring mandala patterns on academic stress levels at first-level students. Based on the results of this study, institutions are expected to be able to apply color therapy to the mandala pattern as a complementary therapy in handling students who experience academic stress.
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Mindfulness has been associated with the use of coloring books for adults; however, the question of whether they do increase mindfulness has not been addressed. In two studies, we attempted to identify whether mindfulness is increased, and whether there is a need for ongoing guidance while coloring, similar to mindfulness meditation. In the first randomized controlled experiment, university students (n = 88) were assigned to an unguided mandala coloring group (i.e., described in mainstream literature as a mindfulness practice) or to a free-drawing group. Measurements of state mindfulness and state anxiety were taken pre-and post-experiment. Results indicated no change in mindfulness or anxiety. In the second randomized controlled experiment, university students (n = 72) were assigned to an unguided mandala coloring group (i.e., same as Experiment 1), or, to a mindfulness-guided coloring group (i.e., same as the unguided coloring group with a mindfulness practitioner guiding participants as in mindfulness breathing meditation, with instructions modified and applied to coloring). Results indicated that the mindfulness-guided mandala coloring group performed better in decreasing anxiety, but no change was observed in mindfulness. Exit interviews revealed that some participants did not like the voice guiding them while coloring, which suggested further differing and significant findings. While mindfulness-guided coloring appears promising, guidance or instructions on how to color mindfully may require further development and adjustment to enhance health and wellbeing.
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Introduction and aims: Substance use disorders (SUDs) are common and frequently co-occur with mood and anxiety disorders. This paper provides a detailed analysis of patterns, prevalence and correlates of mood and anxiety disorders among those with a (i) pure SUD; (ii) SUD plus a mood or anxiety disorder (SUDs + 1); and (iii) SUD plus a mood and anxiety disorder (SUDs + 2). Design and methods: Data came from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing; a nationally representative household survey of 8841 Australians aged 16-85 years. Results: The 12-month prevalence of SUDs was 5.1%. Of those with a 12-month SUD, 65% met the criteria for pure SUDs, 19% for SUDs + 1 and 16% for SUDs + 2. Major depression was the most common mood disorder in both comorbid groups. One-third of SUDs + 1 experienced social phobia, while over half of SUDs + 2 experienced generalised anxiety disorder. Compared with pure SUDs, SUDs + 1 experienced two times more and SUDs + 2 experienced over four times more days out of role in the preceding 30 days. Both comorbid groups were more likely to experience severe levels of impairment. SUDs + 2 were over 18 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts in the same year. SUDs + 1 were over three times and SUDs + 2 were over 10 times more likely to have had one or more consultations with a health professional in the previous year. Discussions and conclusions: These findings highlight the complexities inherent with responding to and treating multiple comorbidities among substance users and emphasise the need for coordinated, cohesive responses from drug and alcohol treatment services.[Prior K, Mills K, Ross J, Teesson M. Substance use disorders comorbid with mood and anxiety disorders in the Australian general population. Drug Alcohol Rev 2016;00:000-000].
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We discuss qualitative and quantitative research findings from a study exploring the benefits and effectiveness of a 12-week arts-based mindfulness group program for vulnerable children (children who were involved with the child welfare or mental health systems and experienced a variety of challenges). Using post-group individual interviews with children/guardians, and pre and post-intervention self-report data (using the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale and the Resiliency Scales for Children and Adolescents), we hypothesized that children would have improved resilience and self-concept after having completed the program. Interpretive thematic qualitative analysis was conducted using transcribed interview data collected from 47 children (30 girls and 17 boys with a mean age of 10.38 years). The perceived benefits of participating in the group included improved (a) emotion regulation, (b) mood, (c) coping/social skills, (d) confidence and self-esteem, (e) empathy, and (f) ability to pay attention and focus. The quantitative analysis used self-report data from 77 children (43 girls and 34 boys with a mean age of 10.34 years). A repeated measures MANOVA was used to examine changes across the intervention period. Our hypothesis that children would have better scores on self-concept after having completed the program was partially supported and this result reflected the perceived improvements derived from the qualitative analysis. The hypothesis that resilience would improve post-group was not supported. Using these promising results, we discuss how strengths-based and arts-based mindfulness group methods may be effective in engaging vulnerable children in a beneficial helping process.
An exploration of the role that creativity can play in anxiety reduction was conducted using a quantitative study design. Participants completed the State Anxiety Inventory (SAI) before and after completing a coloring activity and results were compared. The experimental group colored a mandala design and the control group colored a blank piece of paper. This study hypothesized that partaking in the mandala coloring activity would produce a greater reduction in anxiety than coloring a blank piece of paper. Results revealed that coloring a blank piece of paper and coloring a mandala were equally effective techniques for reducing anxiety in master’s-level counseling students. Implications for the findings are discussed.
This study tested whether the structure of a coloring task has an effect on anxiety, mood, and perseverance. Eighty-five undergraduate students were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 coloring conditions: free choice, where they could color an image using any colors they wanted, and forced choice, where they were instructed to copy the colors of a precolored image. Anxiety and mood were measured before and after coloring; in addition, perseverance was measured after coloring. Results showed positive effects of coloring, with greater anxiety reduction and evidence of higher perseverance in the free-choice group compared to the forced-choice group. This suggests that well-being might be facilitated by a coloring task that balances structure and engagement.
Individuals diagnosed with an anxiety disorder report more physical health problems than those without an anxiety disorder. Few studies have examined the relation of anxiety disorders to later physical health symptoms, or the processes that may explain this relation. One process of interest is experiential avoidance (EA), which is commonly reported in populations characterized by high anxiety and often leads to health-compromising behaviors. The present study examined the relations between anxiety disorder diagnostic status, EA, and physical health symptoms in a community sample of young adult women. Results revealed a significant association between an anxiety disorder diagnosis and physical health problems four months later. Furthermore, levels of EA accounted for this relation. Findings highlight the potential utility of targeting EA as a method for improving health outcomes among individuals with anxiety disorders.
This study examined the unique associations between big five personality traits and adolescent Internet addiction (IA), as well as the mediating role of coping style underlying these relations. Our theoretical model was tested with 998 adolescents. Participants provided self-report data on demographic variables, big five personality traits, coping style, and IA. After controlling for demographic variables, it was found that agreeableness and conscientiousness were negatively associated with IA, whereas extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience were positively associated with IA. Mediation analyses further indicated that conscientiousness had an indirect impact on adolescent IA through decreased emotion-focused coping, whereas extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience had indirect impacts on adolescent IA through increased emotion-focused coping. In contrast, problem-focused coping had no mediating role. These findings suggest that emotion-focused coping may, in part, account for the association between big five personality and adolescent IA.
Individuals gravitate toward the arts during times of emotional stress. We examined the benefits of drawing over several sessions to determine whether drawing improves mood and, if so, whether it does so because it allows for emotional expression or distraction. After inducing a sad mood, we asked participants (n = 40) to draw over 4 consecutive days. Half of the participants were instructed to draw as a way to express their feelings (express condition) and half were instructed to draw as a way to focus and observe (distract condition). Mood was measured after the first and final testing session and a life satisfaction scale was administered at the beginning of the first testing session and after the final session. We found that drawing to distract improved mood more than drawing to express, both after a single drawing session and after 4 sessions. These findings are consistent with previous findings on drawing, but run counter to reports on the relative health benefits of expressive writing. We suggest drawing and writing may affect mood through different mechanisms.
We evaluated changes in positive and negative affect of grieving children in response to art making compared to another noncreative, non-expressive, but engaging visuospatial task and assessed whether art making was equally or differentially effective in individual versus collaborative settings. We randomly assigned grieving children to one of four interventions: art created individually, art created in collaboration with peers, puzzles completed individually, or puzzles completed in collaboration with peers. Children who created art individually experienced a significant decrease in negative affect, whereas children in the other three groups did not. Together, these results provide empirical evidence that the creative and expressive aspects of art make it effective for improving mood in grieving children.
The objective of this research is to investigate whether an Open Studio-Based Expressive Arts Therapy Group has an impact on the mood of hospital psychiatric inpatients in an acute care setting. Patients participating in a weekly Expressive Arts Therapy Group completed the Profile on Mood States Brief (POMS-B) form to assess mood states before and after group participation. In addition, a true and false questionnaire was given to participants post-group to gather information about their individual experiences. Thirty-six patients participated in the study. Participation in the group was significantly associated with a reduction in the POMS-B Total Mood Disturbance score, consistent with a decrease in negative mood states [POMS-B t(35) = 4.06003, p < .05].RÉSUMÉL'objectif de cette recherche est d'étudier l'impact sur l'humeur d'une thérapie de groupe ouverte en studio basée sur les arts de la scène pour des patients en psychiatrie hospitalisés dans un établissement de soins intensifs. Les patients participant à une thérapie de groupe hebdomadaire en arts de la scène ont complété le formulaire Profile on Mood States Brief (POMS-B) afin d'évaluer leur humeur avant et après la participation dans le groupe. En outre, un questionnaire vrai ou faux a été remis aux participants post-groupe pour recueillir des informations sur leurs expériences individuelles. Trente-six patients ont participé à l'étude. La participation au groupe a été associée à une réduction significative du score POMS-B Total Mood Disturbance mesurant les perturbations de l'humeur, révélant une diminution des humeurs négatives [POMS-B t(35) = 4,06003, p < 0,05].