The other day, everyone’s tempers were a bit frayed in our house – a combination of me being stressed out with work shoots and deadlines, and the kids suffering from that end-of-term exhaustion – and I couldn’t think how to dig us out of the dark hole of grumpiness. And then it struck me. I’ve recently written a feature for a magazine about mindfulness, and as part of my research I got hold of a few mindful colouring books. I dug out my colouring pencils, opened a book and started colouring. Not only did it help me to stop, calm down and give myself time to compose myself, the kids were also intrigued and ended up sat down with a book to do their own colouring too. And our house suddenly became a place of peace, where just ten minutes previously we were at each other’s throats.
The theme that Sarah-Lou and I chose for July’s #TheEverydaySpruce, was ‘get set for summer’, and I thought how valuable some mindfulness (including colouring) would be in the summer holidays when we’re all in need of a quiet activity to regroup and recharge. I have a habit of packing way too much into our free time together, always going a zillion miles an hour, so Melanie’s recent post about her summer of slow living resonated with me, especially seeking out ‘moments of stillness’, and I’m going to use some mindfulness practices to help us achieve this.
For me, I notice a direct correlation between feeling anxious and realising that I’m taking very shallow breaths. Taking a minute to slow my breathing down, and take much deeper breaths never fails to help me feel immediately calmer. I’ve downloaded the Headspace app (yes, I know I should have done this yonks ago), and I’m halfway through the Take 10 challenge – practicing ten minutes of mindfulness for ten days in a row. I’m really enjoying the app – it’s a great introduction to what mindfulness is all about, and it’s helping me to form the habit of incorporating mindfulness into my daily routine. I set my alarm for ten minutes before I know the twins will burst into our bedroom in the morning, and I listen to the app to help set me up for the rest of the day.
What I love about mindfulness is that you can practice it anywhere, whenever it suits you. So in the summer holidays, I can squeeze it in even when I have little time to myself by grabbing any opportunity that arises – when I’m doing the washing up, when we’re driving somewhere or when I’m sat watching the kids play in the park. The Mental Health Foundation’s site – Be Mindful – is a fantastic resource, with background, practical advice and information about the growing body of evidence and research supporting mindfulness. There’s even a free online course.
And if you think you’ll love mindful colouring as much as me, here are my three favourite colouring books:
1. Tropical Wonderland by Millie Marotta
This new book has just been published by the author of the Amazon number 1 bestselling book Animal Kingdom. Millie Marotta’s illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful – Tropical Wonderland includes exotic creatures and plants, from parrots, to butterflies to cacti (and we know how much I love cacti)
2. The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons
This is a pocket-sized book that’s perfect to pop in your handbag when you’re out and about for the day. There’s a real variety of illustrations from geometric patterns to simple scenes. I think this book is suitable for kids and grown-ups.
3. Enchanted Forest by Joanna Basford
As well as gorgeous illustrations to colour (think wild flowers and animals, lanterns and keys), this book is also a quest through an enchanted forest to the castle at the end, and there are hidden symbols to collect along the way to unlock the castle door.
And one for the kids – my two (age 5) have been enjoying colouring in The Creative Colouring Book, which has a good mix of designs to grab their imaginations, and which are challenging enough to hook them and keep them coming back for more.
See all the ‘get set for summer’ ideas that others have been sharing by searching the hashtag #TheEverydaySpruce on Instagram and Twitter, or by stopping by our Pinterest board, where we’ll share everyone’s blog posts.