The Physiology of Art: The Effect of Coloring on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate as Measures of Stress




Morris, Casey Leigh

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Claims have been made that certain forms of coloring may be efficacious in reducing stress. Coloring mandalas, in particular, has received attention because the repeating patterns and symmetry are thought to induce a meditative state (Curry & Kasser, 2005). The current study examined the effects of coloring on subjective and objective measures of anxiety. To this end, 110 participants completed baseline anxiety and mood measures, followed by an acute stressor, and were then randomly placed into one of three coloring groups (mandala, pre-drawn images, or free-draw) or a control group (choice of crossword, word search, or sudoku). They each completed their respective task for 15 minutes. Cardiovascular measures and self-reported anxiety were monitored throughout. State anxiety significantly decreased in all coloring groups (versus control), though there were no significant differences between the coloring groups. Blood pressure and negative moods decreased beyond baseline in all four groups after either coloring or control, while heart rate and positive moods returned to baseline. This finding did not support the hypothesis that mandalas and pre-drawn images are more beneficial at reducing anxiety than free-draw and control, but does provide evidence that coloring, in general, is conducive to lowering state anxiety.



Art, Art making, Art-making, Coloring, Stress, Anxiety, Mandala, Blood pressure, Heart rate, Creativity, Tactility, Flow


Morris, C. L. (2019). <i>The physiology of art: The effect of coloring on blood pressure and heart rate as measures of stress</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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