The past few years have seen the term “mindfulness” increasingly used, constantly making its rounds through the news cycle and various media outlets. Entirely new companies and startups have been built around this concept, netting its founders millions of dollars. But many are still confused as to what it really is. Is it an up and coming trend? Something akin to essential oils and crystals?
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness was “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Based on this definition, mindfulness is essentially to pay conscious attention to the ‘right here, right now.’
The content and reach of influencers on social media have played a big role in this process as well. Mainly because platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram seem very antithesis to mindfulness with millions of content generated every second and its subtle encouragement of passing on comments, opinions, and judgments. However, social media has also given rise to several trends, many of which have been instrumental in helping others foster and practice mindfulness.
Take, for instance, the wave of YouTube and Instagram videos showing Kinetic Sand being cut, pounded, and pressed. Sand Cutting is the latest ASMR trend that has taken the Internet by storm with dedicated pages garnering thousands of followers overnight. Sandtagious, one of its most popular content creators, has over a million subscribers on Instagram.
ASMR, short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a sensation that causes people to feel deeply relaxed, even to the point of falling asleep. Thanks to social media and its powerful reach, interest in ASMR has boomed and many use it nowadays to practice self-care and mindfulness. There are tons of ASMR related content circulating on social media that range from paper crinkling, fire crackling, to people gently whispering.
This sensation has been touted as a great, easy, and affordable way to practice mindfulness since it calms down stressful and frustrating stimuli, allowing the listener to immerse themselves in the present moment. Many claim that listening to ASMR videos helps them detach from the day’s distractions and soothes their minds. Hearing mundane sounds to help relax may seem a bit strange for some but in fact, these sounds become pleasurable since one’s attention is entirely focused on them.
However, ASMR is not the only mindfulness trend that has been pushed by social media. Mindfulness Coloring, which is exactly what its name suggests, has been accepted by the mainstream with adult coloring books popping up on bestseller lists and coffee shops across the country filled with people coloring away.
Mindfulness Coloring has a lot of health benefits, to the point that editors of the Yoga Journal and even researchers from John Hopkins University have stated that it was an alternative to meditation. For one thing, studies have shown that coloring relaxes the amygdala, known as the “fear center” of the brain. Calming down this part brings about the same state as meditation does since it reduces thoughts and anxieties, allowing the mind to get some rest after a long and exhausting day.
The practice is even more effective for individuals who are uncomfortable at the idea of expressing themselves freely through other mediums of art. “My experience has been that those participants who are more guarded find a lot of tranquility in coloring an image,” says Marygrace Berberian, a certified art therapist and the Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Graduate Art Therapy Program at New York University. “It feels safer and it creates containment around their process.”
Besides alleviating stress and anxiety, Mindfulness Coloring can also reduce symptoms of depression. A 2017 study conducted by researchers at the University of Otago found that after a week of daily coloring, participants showed lower levels of both anxiety and depressive symptoms. Another study found that Mindfulness Coloring, when combined with art therapy, significantly enhanced an individual’s perception of their own creativity, self-efficacy, and positive effect.
Many are also comforted by the pleasurable and predictable outcome of Mindfulness Coloring. “It’s hard to screw up coloring and even if you do, there’s no real consequence,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Scott M. Bea, Psy.D. in an interview with the Cleveland Clinic. “As a result, adult coloring can be a wonderful lark, rather than an arduous test of our capacities.”
With all these benefits, it’s clear Mindfulness Coloring is a great therapeutic practice for those suffering from anxiety and high stress levels. Why not pick up your coloring pencils and give it a try?