The Unseen Benefits of Guided Coloring & Painting
It’s usually obvious when I get back into painting miniatures after some time away; I write blog posts, post photos of my minis, and spend a lot of time thinking about pigment choices. What I don’t talk about as much are the reasons I find myself so compelled to spend time painting, and to do so in an uncharacteristically healthy pattern. (Meaning it’s not an addictive video game…)
Based on my own experience, I can say that painting miniatures provides me with a creative outlet that’s grounding and mindful, but I also did a little Googling to get a better idea of why this hobby feels like such a rewarding use of time.
And while we’re on the topic of creative outlets, I’ve come to see a strong similarity between painting a tiny sculpted figurine, and coloring—yes, as in coloring books for adults. Both provide their user with a pre-determined image as well as boundaries to work within, whether those boundaries are a more complex version of the lines we all grew up drawing inside of, or the varied surfaces of a miniature—minis just add that additional 3rd dimension.
We, as the artist, then get to decide everything that occurs among those boundaries, including how strictly we want to follow them. Painting a suit of armor bright green is an artistic decision, just like coloring outside the lines.
So, what did I find when I went looking for reasons that painting and coloring feel so gosh darn… pleasant? What’s to be gained from spending time adding color to a piece of plastic or a black and white outline? Not shockingly, there is a good deal more science to be found about coloring, but I’ll go ahead and posit the argument that all of the same science applies to painting a miniature as well:
- For one thing, concentrating on a simple, readily accomplished task helps us to remain focused on the present moment, rather than the stressors in our lives. This actively reduces anxiety in a similar fashion to that of meditation.
- It allows us to express creativity in the absence of stakes or pressure. Coloring for the sake of coloring allows us to exercise our creativity without any potential for failure or criticism.
- And yes, the big reason we as humans ever take any pleasure in getting tasks done: Dopamine. You’ll get a dopamine release upon finishing your work (as well as each time you appreciatively reexamine your work—take it from me), which not only feels great, but promotes a heap of health benefits, from digestion and heart health to improved mood and even more stress relief.
Indirectly, these activities also help to regulate our sleep by decreasing our screen time. Screens like those of televisions and cell phones can disrupt our circadian rhythms and thereby interfere with our sleep cycles. Winding down by coloring mandalas or putting paint on lizardfolk means we’re not scrolling on social media or watching Netflix on a laptop right before we konk out for the night.
One final benefit of both activities is that they’re finite. They’re made up of smaller projects that inevitably come to completion, standing in stark contrast with the huge portion of our lives spent in cliffhanger episodes and side quests. I know, I know, anyone with a massive collection of minis will say, “What do you mean finite? This will never end!” but with some mindful, committed time, each miniature and coloring page will become a small, unassuming bit of creativity in a bottle.
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