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Colouring in the calm

Colouring in seems to slow your breathing rate, interrupts ruminating thinking and focuses your attention

The other day I came across a post about a new way to reduce stress. To be fair, it's not literally a new way: it's just an activity that most of us probably haven't done in a while. Like years, or even decades. And back then, we probably didn't even know what stress was.

It's colouring in!

According to The Guardian French women are really embracing it. This trend has even resulted in the development of adult-designed colouring in books so you don't upset your children by "borrowing" theirs. And what are people colouring in exactly?  The pictures tend to be garden and psychedelic images with mandalas also being popular choices.

Research shows that structured colouring in seems to slow your breathing rate, interrupts ruminating thinking and focuses your attention, creating a sense of calm. Even individuals who've found meditating difficult have found picking up their pencils or crayons and ensuring they stay between the lines helps them reduce their anxiety and find stillness. And it goes beyond just being a solitary activity - there are Facebook communities established that connect people who find this strategy helpful as well as allowing them a place to share their latest art work.

Why am I telling you this? October is National Mental Health Month. Almost half of Australians will experience mental health issues during our lives and one in five will experience them in any given year. And for TAFE students, a bit of colouring in therapy may be all you need to keep the stress of approaching yearly exams at bay (but definitely not as a replacement to studying).

Our lives are often intensely busy and we're often amazingly good at making and honouring commitments to many other people in our lives. Unfortunately we can also tend to be good at letting ourselves off the hook when it comes to looking after ourselves. So this month  we're asked to make a promise to ourselves to commit to an activity that looks after our mental wellbeing.

Maybe you'll decide to colour in mandalas. Or you might commit to turning off your electronic devices for an hour a day. Or perhaps you'll promise to talk to a friend the next time things start to get you down. Everyone's different, so find a promise that works for you that will contribute to your wellbeing.

Check out the Top Ten Tips to Help Maintain Mental Wellbeing for suggestions if you're stuck. Then make your Mental Health Promise and post it on the Promise Wall at www.1010.org.au.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy some more crayons.