Coloring books aren’t just for kids. The simple act of coloring has been proven to have immense mental health benefits, so adults are taking a page from their childhood selves and beginning to color for relaxation, meditation, and good ol’ fun. Read on for three reasons to start coloring, plus some examples of what you can create by coloring the Shutterstock collection.

1. De-Stress with an Active Mind

flower wreath rainbow coloring stock photo
Vector Monochrome Floral Background by IrinaKrivoruchko

Coloring is a tried and tested meditative technique, prescribed by psychiatrists as far back as Carl Jung. Its meditative qualities come from the repeated patterns, colors, movements, and the calm, stress-free environment it creates for your mind. Passive de-stressors, like Netflix, aren’t always great at relieving stress, because they don’t fully engage the mind — leaving the stress you’re trying to escape able to run free.

Coloring is an active hobby that takes some thought, meaning your brain can engage in something other than the negative, anxiety-ridden commentary (Did I pay that bill? Is my boss mad at me?) that plays on a loop in all of our minds. If you build a half hour of coloring into your nights, you’ll have a guaranteed de-stressing session at the end of each day, plus a stack of beautiful pictures to show for it.

2. Reclaim Your Focus

Coloring book page for adults with color sample
Coloring book page for adults with color sample by Helen Lane

In a sea of screens, coloring books are a rare and welcome pencil-to-paper activity. The mental health community constantly warns us of the impact that screens have on our emotional and physical health. One of the most noticeable negative effects is shorter attention spans, driven by the impulse to multitask. Coloring is an easy and fun way to escape your screens and regain focus on a singular task.

Instead of winding down with a guilty pleasure TV show, break out your colored pencils before bed. The act of choosing colors or developing patterns lets you connect with your emotions, offering a way to process the day actively instead of numbing your mind. The meditative quality of coloring places you in the moment and requires you to use your brain for organizational and decision-making processes, rather than for emotional responses that can muddle your attention and increase stress.

3. Achieve Creative Fulfillment

roses coloring book stock photo
floral pattern with roses, seamless vector background by Red_Spruce

Coloring lets you flex your creative muscles without a ton of planning, supplies, or skill. You can achieve sophisticated color palettes and interesting patterns with a few crayons or a black pen. For creatives with intense schedules full of projects, coloring is a way to escape professional demands and get creative for fun. The best part of coloring, however, is that it’s a completely egalitarian form of art: accessible to both creative and non-creative types. For those who think there’s not��a creative bone in their bodies, coloring is a chance to be proven wrong.

The next time you’re feeling the need to escape, de-stress, or get creative, think about the methods you used to use as a kid. Adult coloring has become an explosive trend in 2015; there are coloring books available for dozens of different themes. Or, if you have a Shutterstock subscription, you can take a break from your latest project and find an illustration or vector that’s perfect for coloring.

Explore more color-ready images in our “Coloring Book” image collection »

coloring book line drawings stock photo

Top image: Seamless mehndi tracery design. Paisley, spiral doodle by Geliostrk