In today’s bustling, fast-paced world, adults are apparently so stressed out that they’re regressing back to childhood. Adult preschools and summer camps have recently become a thing – but the majority of self-respecting adults most likely wouldn’t attend. Adult coloring books, however, are wildly popular (the act of coloring is much less embarrassing than napping on a cot in a faux-preschool classroom).
In December, Maria’s Bookshop sold $15,000 worth of adult coloring books. Since May, they have sold 3,050 books total, or $42,000 worth. The themes of the shop’s books include dragons, Donald Trump, “secret garden,” “enchanted forest” and “mindful mandalas.” Some consist of elaborate patterns, while others are comedic or narrative.
Remember coloring as a kid? It was relaxing. You could stay inside the lines, or be rebellious and venture outside of them. You could make the sky green and the grass yellow – you alone controlled the hues of the universe. You didn’t have to worry about the shape and subject of your picture, because that part was already taken care of, thus you were free to simply fill in the blanks. “You’re a lot more ‘there’ when you’re coloring than when you’re watching TV,” said Jaime Cary, a Maria’s employee. “You’re still interacting, you’re still engaging, but you’re doing a thought-out, deliberate, repetitive motion.”
This trend possibly coincides with the public’s recent tendencies toward wholesome lifestyles, meditation and “mindfulness.” Adults are anxious and depressed – but there’s something zen about coloring. We probably all have some form of ADD at this point, and have been programmed to multi-task; so we crave a side activity while we watch Netflix.
The New Yorker has dubbed coloring part of a “pervasive fashion among adults for childhood objects and experiences,” noting the growth in sales of young-adult books to older readers (they’re hooked on The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars and Twilight, all books about teenagers). But who doesn’t want to be a kid again? That was the easiest time, an era without expectations or responsibilities. Cary doesn’t think coloring is a “regression” at all; “I feel like it taps into those same things coloring as a child tapped into,” Cary said, pointing out how we still ultimately need everything we needed in childhood, like time spent playing outdoors or doing something artistic. “It’s a continuation of that, but it hasn’t been as accepted socially as an adult,” said Cary. So we won’t begrudge adults their coloring catharsis.