Could mandala coloring actually reduce stress? People who color have anecdotal evidence, of course, but what about actual proof?
A small study done back in 2005 seems to show the effectiveness of coloring in a complex pattern as an aid for anxiety. Eight-four students had their anxiety measured three times during an experiment at “a small Midwestern liberal arts college.” The first measurement was on entering the lab. The second was after being asked to write for four minutes about the time they felt most fearful. The final measurement was taken after 20 minutes of coloring.
The students were divided into three groups. One group could color whatever they liked, a second group were given a mandala to color and the third group had a complex plaid design to color.
The report states : “The results of this study clearly supported the hypothesis that coloring a mandala for 20 minutes is more effective at reducing anxiety than free-form coloring for 20 minutes. By measuring anxiety levels upon entering the study, after a brief anxiety induction and after 20 minutes of coloring, we were able to demonstrate that participants who colored on a blank piece of paper showed no reductions in anxiety, whereas those participants who colored a mandala actually decreased their anxiety levels to levels below that which they reported before the anxiety induction.”
Interestingly enough, those coloring the plaid design also reported lower than baseline anxiety levels, leading the report’s authors to conclude: “(an)important similarity between the mandala and plaid designs is that they both provided structure and direction, whereas the free-form condition provided neither. If anxiety is a type of ‘inner chaos’ (Grossman, 1981), it seems likely that a structured activity such as coloring a predetermined, somewhat complex design would help to organize that chaos. “
It would be interesting to see more recent studies on this, so if you are aware of any, let us know. We are already convinced of the power of mandala coloring, but it’s always good to have scientific evidence to back it up!