You knot together colorful strands of embroidery thread in a repeating pattern. Since my girls are young and beginners, I started with the most basic to limit frustrations. But even the simplest designs make lovely, wearable works of art. Of course they made some mistakes, so I’d sit with them, offering advice and retying wayward knots. Soon, I found myself doing more than that. I’d finish the row, or sneak in an extra one. I asked if they wanted me to do a few rows, you know, just to speed up the process.
Tying those knots, I realized, had become a pleasant way to unwind. You had to pay attention, but it didn’t require so much concentration that you couldn’t carry on a conversation or let your thoughts wander. It’s like knitting a basic scarf. Or coloring.
I also love coloring with my girls—and not just since they’ve graduated to more complicated designs. I’ll color anything. It calms them down, it calms me down, there’s peace in the house.
Coloring, it turns out, actually reduces stress. “In essence, adult coloring is a meditative practice because you’re bringing your focused attention to a particular anchor,” says Johns Hopkins psychologist Neda Gould in “The Magic of Mandalas”. One study has shown that coloring repeating patterns, like mandalas and plaids, alleviates anxiety.
In our story, you’ll find three nature-inspired patterns you can color yourself. They are provided by Tim Phelps, a medical illustrator in Johns Hopkins’ Department of Art as Applied to Medicine, who recently published two adult coloring books as a side project.
Give it a try. Stay well. Now I’m off to find my colored pencils!