Art and health have long been at the core of human interest. The need for meaning and relevance in daily life has long been accepted as the fundamental motivation in artistic creation and enjoyment. Art helps people communicate experiences that are too painful to express in words. There are physical and mental benefits from producing art and expressing yourself in a material way (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010). In our always–on, always–connected world we work with our fingertips and relax with Netflix. Smart phones and tablets are the modern peacemaker, used to comfort, entertain and relax. But our innate need to create is the possible reason millions of adult’s returned to their preschool years to rediscover the joy of colouring books in 2015. Colouring books for adults can now be found amongst the bestsellers (Rigby & Taubert, 2016). The intricately patterned adult colouring books of Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford have sold more than 16 million copies in 40 countries. There are now more than 150 adult colouring books on the market. Amazingly Basford wouldn’t buy one of them, though – “I can’t stay inside the lines,” she said in an interview.
Creativity is always associated with moments of inspiration, but the hard work needed to make these moments of inspiration reality can be easily forgotten. We tend to leave out the rather important bits about effort and perspiration in our stories of creativeness. The act of running and the act of creating are inextricably linked. But why? Unlike other sports my experience of running has shown me that it rewards practice and perspiration rather than innate ability. I am not a gifted runner by any means, but I know that if I train hard I can and will improve my running times. The longer the distance of a running event, the more capacity you have to influence and improve your results through training (Joyner & Coyle, 2008). So running proves we have a remarkable ability to improve through hard work. In today’s fast paced world instant gratification is the norm. The ability to delay gratification is critical for a successful life – predicting higher exam scores, better social and cognitive functioning, a healthier lifestyle and a greater sense of self-worth (Mischel et al., 1972). More recent research suggests that we may be able to learn to control the need for instant gratification, small achievable challenges allows the value in persistence in achieving an ultimate reward (Romer et al., 2010). Now anyone that has trained for a run, whether that is their first 5 km or their 100th marathon knows that running a race is a test in the ability to persist and postpone the short-term satisfaction of stopping, in favour of achieving a goal and creating a worthwhile memory. So maybe, colouring between the lines is overly conformist; I was never good at it. Is it not only modestly creative? Life is a great big glorious mess, why spend time limiting yourself to colouring between the lines when you can spread your oil paint on a blank canvass. Creativity isn’t just an art, it’s a sport so let your legs be your crayons!
Joyner MJ & Coyle EF. (2008). Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions. J Physiol 586, 35-44.
Mischel W, Ebbesen EB & Zeiss AR. (1972). Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification. J Pers Soc Psychol 21, 204-218.
Rigby M & Taubert M. (2016). Colouring books for adults on the cancer ward. The BMJ 352, h6795.
Romer D, Duckworth AL, Sznitman S & Park S. (2010). Can adolescents learn self-control? Delay of gratification in the development of control over risk taking. Prev Sci 11, 319-330.
Stuckey HL & Nobel J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. Am J Public Health 100, 254-263.