Mindful Colouring & the Perfectionist

September 25, 2015
colouring in, colouring

THIS IS A GUEST POST by Kirsty Russell of My Home Truths

More information on Kirsty and how you can connect with her is available at the end of this post.

You’ve probably all noticed the hype around colouring for adults.

colouring in, colouring

My recent haul of colouring products for my birthday

During the last year the idea of adults colouring in for stress relief has transitioned from a novel idea to a mainstream one. A check of the shelves at any newsagent, post office or craft store will reveal an ever expanding range of illustrated books all created for one purpose.

To help adults de-stress through the rhythmical act of colouring in.

In theory, this makes perfect sense. Concentrating solely on a single task lies at the heart of mindfulness, where you train your mind to be solely focused on what you are doing, feeling and thinking at a single point in time.

It’s a way to find focus, calm down and be “in the moment.”

It’s the perfect anecdote to our normal, busy, multi-tasking lives, where we end up moving through the moment and enduring it, because it’s in the way of all those other moments we need to get through and endure.

The act of colouring in – concentrating on filling in the gaps, the movement of pencil on the page, the feeling of calm and the simple achievement of completion – is an ideal activity, geared towards promoting this kind of conscious mindfulness.

However, what happens when you are too busy trying to make your colouring in perfect and blemish free to actually be mindful? What happens if you are a perfectionist like me?

I was first made aware of my perfectionist tendencies many years ago in my first stint of therapy. After recounting my story and my daily challenges, the psychologist asked me whether I’d considered my perfectionism before.

Well, funnily enough, no I hadn’t.

Even though perfectionism isn’t ideal, I didn’t really see the big problem. Sure I can become a little obsessive over the details of a task and spend more time than strictly necessary on completing things. Plus I have LOTS of trouble delegating any small task to others.

But wanting to get things perfect is not all that bad, surely?

So for years I continued in my perfectionist ways, slowly becoming more and more stressed and less able to delegate anything. Until I got so stressed that I suffered a suspected mild stroke.

Understandably, after such an event, I finally sat up and took notice of my perfectionist tendencies. And for the first time truly realised how very damaging they were to my mental and physical health.

In a bid to find some calm I again recommenced therapy and again embraced mindfulness techniques. Apart from daily meditation and regular walking to find pockets of mindfulness in my day, I also decided to try colouring in.

Now, I’ve always loved colouring in. It’s the one activity I can happily do with my kids for hours at a time. I do find it soothing and satisfying to slowly bring a picture to life.

As long as I can finish it to my satisfaction.

And therein lies the rub.

When colouring in with the kids, the perfectionist in me always dies a little inside when they insist on turning the page before I’m done, or when they “help” me finish the picture off. I know it’s irrational but that’s how I feel.

So you’d think having my own collection of books, pencils, textas, crayons and pens would ensure my happiness and the full satisfaction of my inner perfectionist?

The answer, surprisingly, is NO.

While I’m enjoying the process (when I get the time) I’m now holding myself up to a level of expectation that I will never be able to reach. Because it’s adult colouring in, there is no room for errors or mistakes. My inner perfectionist demands that after 40 years of practice, I get it right, every time.

Then there’s the trouble with the materials. I love The Mindfulness Colouring Book for Adults but the pages come out fairly easily which is something my inner perfectionist has trouble dealing with, especially if it leads to a smudge or an issue with my marker.

Which brings me to the many issues with my markers. What’s with waxy pencils? Streaky textas? And bumpy, inconsistent crayons? How on earth are you supposed to make a masterpiece when the materials won’t even play fair?

So much for mindfulness. Instead of enjoying the act of quiet colouring, I find myself spending most of my time counting under my breath, trying not to swear, or nursing my sore hand which is not used to holding and using pencils any more.

But I’m persisting and have found a middle ground of sorts where I’ve learned to put the effort in for some pictures and accept that there is a place for more quick, rough & ready attempts.

colouring in, colouring

Pencil colouring that took me months to complete

My more recent pictures, completed quickly in texta while in hospital & convalescing at home:

colouring in, adult colouring, colouring

colouring in, colouring, adult colouring

colouring in, colouring, texta, adult colouring

colouring in, colouring, texta, adult colouring

AND I’ve even allowed my girls to have a page each of their own to colour – in my own book.

colouring in, colouring

colouring in, colouring

That, my friends, is progress!

What do you think of mindful colouring? Do you enjoy it, hate it or can’t understand the fuss?

And most importantly, does it actually make you feel calm and “in the moment”?

Guest posting for the wonderful Min while she takes a break to look after herself.

Bio:  Hi I’m Kirsty Russell, a mother of 3, wife of a big kid, freelance copywriter, carer and blogger from Newcastle NSW.  I always have way too much on my plate but I am learning to juggle with the best of them. I  use my blog to vent, laugh at myself, raise awareness of special needs parenting, autism and albinism and to pretty much just crap on.  Because in the end it’s all about me – my life, my stories, my home truths.  Find me over at My Home Truths, Smarter Happier and at my new site, Double Scoop Consulting.  Yes, I am busy! 🙂

Thank you for your fabulous post Kirsty!  Not only is Kirsty one busy lady but would you believe she prepared this post for me having just had surgery on her knee!  She wrote this whilst convalescing!  She is incredible!

In addition to the three links above, here’s where you can also CONNECT with Kirsty via ‘My Home Truths’:

Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Google+ Pinterest  |  Instagram Email

Ciao for now,


Linking up with With Some Grace for #FYBF


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  • Reply Haidee@Maybe Baby Brothers September 25, 2015 at 6:28 am

    I got my Nana The Secret Garden colouring book for Christmas last year and she loved it! She says it’s really relaxing and shows everyone who comes to visit 🙂

    • Reply Kirsty @ My Home Truths September 25, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      A colouring book is a fantastic gift idea. As you can see I received quite a few gifts along those lines for my birthday and love every single one of them. It’s just going to take me quite a long time to get through them!!!

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      I like the sound of The Secret Garden colouring book! I loved colouring as a child so I’m really interested in getting myself some supplies so I can do some adult colouring (now that it’s acceptable and people won’t think I’m a loony!) 😉 x

  • Reply Amy @ HandbagMafia September 25, 2015 at 6:31 am

    I’m one that doesn’t understand the fuss- it’s not for me. But I can appreciate the pretty results!

    • Reply Kirsty @ My Home Truths September 25, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      It’s not something I do everyday but I have always enjoyed colouring in. And it’s nice to finally have something other than kids’ characters to colour too!

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      I can totally understand that it’s not for everyone Amy! I think you need to be a particular personality type to enjoy it. 🙂 x

  • Reply Lyndall September 25, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Haha Kirsty – I have the same colouring book! You’ve made more progress than me, that’s for sure. I’ve done a few pages, but I’m a perfectionist and find it difficult to go outside the lines. Each page takes me ages to complete. I don’t know that I’m in the moment while I’m actually colouring – I tend to drift off and think about other things. Being mindful takes practice! Nice colouring by the way 🙂

    • Reply Kirsty @ My Home Truths September 25, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      I know a lot of people who have this one – I think it was one of the first big sellers. I’m just staggered by how many others are out there right now. And thanks for the positive feedback on my colouring too!!!!

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Another perfectionist! It’s quite astonishing how many of us are perfectionists! I don’t have any adult colouring supplies but I plan on getting some. I know I will take ages over each picture to ensure I get it perfect and if I stuff up – that picture will be dead to me! lol xo

  • Reply Vanessa September 25, 2015 at 8:51 am

    I have always done it from time to time. Honestly, I’m resisting right now because it feels too mainstream to do, which is a bit stupid. But I am weirdly stubborn.

    • Reply Kirsty @ My Home Truths September 25, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      I totally get where you’re coming from Vanessa. The minute something is popular I normally run a mile, just on principle!

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      I wish I were more stubborn sometimes but the fact it is now more mainstream feels like I’ve been given permission to do it without being certified weird or strange! 😉 x

  • Reply Kirsty @ My Home Truths September 25, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Thanks for allowing me to guest post for you and to shed the light on the issues of perfectionism and mindfulness. The issue is real!

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      It’s been such a pleasure having you on the blog Kirsty. The topic of your post is so in line with me and my blog – Mindfulness + perfectionism! The issue sure is real. Fantastic post – thank you! 🙂 xo

  • Reply Denyse September 25, 2015 at 10:39 am

    I like this post because Kirsty does tell it as it is. I am not a great fan of colouring-in per se but I like the relaxation and the effect of using the colours via markers or pencils to shade in the shapes or lines I enjoy. I have made some of my own patterns to colour too. I do think it’s become over-done in terms of how much is out there to choose from now. BUT if one book or pattern attracts one person to have a more mindful activity which de-stresses the brain then that is a good thing.
    Good perspective K!

    • Reply Kirsty @ My Home Truths September 25, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      That’s exactly right Denyse. Adult colouring isn’t for everyone but I have finally found some benefits from it after spending months more stressed than relaxed afterwards!

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      You’ve been doing some fantastic art lately Denyse. I don’t have any adult colouring books but I want some and will get some. I think I would really enjoy it and it would help to slow down my busy mind and de-stress me! 🙂 xo

  • Reply Toni @ Finding Myself Young September 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Bahaha Kirsty I just put a photo on sm of a picture bub made me colour with her and how it drives me nuts that she can’t stay within the lines yet. I’m a total perfectionist and it has major drawbacks because I’m ALWAYS unhappy with something. I really want to get into adult colouring though.

    • Reply Kirsty @ My Home Truths September 25, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      Get into it Toni – now that I’ve let my expectations go a little, I’m enjoying it a whole lot more. But it still drives me crackers when the girls won’t let me finish my page in their Barbie or My Little Pony or Disney Princess colouring in books!!!!

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      I’m a perfectionist tragic too Toni. Colouring out of lines is like fingernails down a chalkboard to me! LOL

  • Reply PatrickC September 25, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    I enjoy colouring. I find it relaxing and it has a positive impact on diminishing my stress, anxiety and depression. I have Joanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest and I have enjoyed it immensely.

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      I must look for Joanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest when I start getting my colouring supplies. I loved colouring in as a child so I think I’d still love it as an adult. 🙂

  • Reply Deborah September 25, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    So…. my mother bought me a colouring book and some pencils and one night I settled myself on my bed hoping to colour myself tired and relax in a way other than on my iPad before sleeping. It. Did. Not. Work.

    I coloured in two shapes and was like… “God, am I done yet?” I found it boring AND the perfectionist in me stressed about going outside of the lines, choosing colours, which bit to do next.

    I find word games and Mahjong etc relaxing but decided colouring may not indeed be for me!

    • Reply Kirsty @ My Home Truths September 25, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      I agree that colouring is not for everyone. At least you gave it a go and knew when to give it away 🙂

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      LOL – you’re so funny Deb! It’s not for everyone. I think you need to be a certain personality type to enjoy it. I think I would love it. Well I did as a child. 🙂

  • Reply Kylie Purtell - A Study in Contradictions September 25, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    I have always loved colouring-in. I used to get so much shit from my friends in my early 20s when they would see my stash of kids colouring-in books and textas and all of my completed pictures, signed with the date of completion on them. Whose laughing now?!?! After many years of searching I’ve found the perfect combination for satisfying colouring… for textas, they HAVE to be Connector Pens, there are no better and they last for ages and have a fabulous range of colours. For pencils, they have to be derwents, either the Watercolour ones or the Artist ones (I’m currently using a set of Artist ones). Before there were adult colouring-in books I used to search for hours for the kids Deluxe ones, because that was the best quality paper that didn’t allow too much beed-through if I was using textas. Can you see my perfectionism coming through now?

    Despite the perfectionist tendencies I have, it has actually been good for me when it comes to colouring-in because it’s given me a chance to practice letting go. Sure there are still times when I finish a page and wish I could rub it all out because my colour choices were crap, but I’ve learnt to deal with that and I think it helps in other ways. Plus colouring-in is perfect for me as I can’t stand not doing something while I’m watching TV.

    • Reply Kirsty @ My Home Truths September 25, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      I’m exactly the same Kylie – if I watch TV and don’t blog or colour or do something, I will fall asleep. Every time!

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Oh my gosh – you’re a legend Kylie. You have totally answered all my questions on what supplies I need to buy to set myself up! 🙂

  • Reply Lisa@RandomActsOfZen September 25, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve been colouring for years Kirsty, and now it’s finally cool to admit it lol.
    Bell and I will often sit down and colour for a few hours, and critique each others work after we’re done. I’ve found the best pens are the packs of gel pens from Aldi. They’re only a couple of dollars and I usually pick up a few packs whenever I see them.
    I find it’s a lovely way to slow your mind, and just lose yourself for a while x

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Now that it’s cool to admit it – I’m keen to get supplies and start doing it! I loved colouring in as a child and I think I’d love it now. I do need something to help slow down my mind, let go and de-stress. Gel pens from Adli have been duly noted! Thanks Lisa! 🙂 xo

  • Reply Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit September 25, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    I wish I had time to colour. I LOVE colouring. This inspires me to want to do it on our holiday next week. I should go and buy a book and some pencils …

    • Reply Min September 25, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Go buy a book and some pencils Leanne, do some colouring and share with us in a blog post! Have a wonderful holiday next week! 🙂

  • Reply Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages September 25, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    I actually do love to sit and colour in at the end of the day, I don’t always do it but sometimes. It helps stop my mind from racing and thinking about the million things going on. I can see how it would be hard for a perfectionist to find it calming, though there is a huge lesson to be learnt in finding beauty in the imperfections of it.

    • Reply Min September 26, 2015 at 8:50 am

      I’m a perfectionist and though that means I’d try and colour perfectly, I don’t think it would stress me. I think I’d find the whole process relaxing and calm. 🙂

  • Reply Lisa@ BabyLovestoTravel September 26, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I love that adults are returning to childhood passions. My daughter was given a few of these books a couple of years ago before they were categorised as ‘adult colouring books’, and I would secretly colour away with her and found it really relaxing. Your photos have inspired me to get my own now.

    • Reply Min September 29, 2015 at 8:12 am

      I’ve been inspired to get my own too Lisa! 🙂

  • Reply Janet aka Middle Aged Mama September 26, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    I always enjoyed colouring with the kids when they were little so I was probably one of the first to jump on board the bandwagon. Miss 18 loves to colour with me when she visits. Like you, I don’t know how “relaxing” it is for me though because I get really annoyed at myself when I go outside the lines!!!!

    • Reply Min September 29, 2015 at 8:13 am

      I can’t wait to set myself up and get back into colouring. I loved it as a kid! I think going out of the lines will annoy me but not enough to not do it. 🙂

  • Reply Grace September 29, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I keep seeing the adult colouring books in the newsagents and become very tempted to buy one. But then I think I need to buy some decent colouring pencils then I end up over thinking it…which of course defeats the purpose! And if I’m truly honest – I know I just don’t have the time!
    Love how it’s been working for you though, Kirsty! Keep at it!

    • Reply Min September 29, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      Yes I think you would be hard pressed for time Grace LOL – what with work, kids and all the rest! I’m pretty keen and hope to get all the gear and give it a go! 🙂 x

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