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24/01/2019

Comparing of potential psychological effects of the most popular mobile coloring apps and games

Traditional coloring book become more associated with mindfulness, stress and anxiety management. According to Time roughly 24 million adult coloring books were sold during 2017-2018 years. The digitalization of coloring books gives a new opportunity and could be using for improving of current mental state. The coloring apps developed and now available for smartphone and tablet users with millions of downloads. Those apps have traditional entertainment goal and include more and more additional opportunities for users.

The coloring apps as technology-based solutions, is not directly included in mental health apps (MHapps) but their descriptions becomes more related to positive psychological influence. Positioning of coloring apps as therapy tool is based on positive results of art-therapy during treatment of mental health disorders. Coloring shown effectiveness for anxiety [1, 2], depression [3] stress [4] and PTSD [5]. There is an evidences of using coloring apps with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD

However, many currently available coloring apps lack features that would potentially improve their functionality for different psychological purposes and disorders. Current studies of traditional coloring have presented evidence that unguided coloring does not improve mindfulness and does not decrease anxiety in contradiction to mindfulness guided approach which performed better in decreasing anxiety [1]. According to this trial it is combination of coloring and additional tools as guided mindfulness recommendations, affirmation and breathing meditation that change mental state of participants. 

We compared the most popular coloring apps to guide future coloring apps development and to analyze practical tools which is used for therapeutic effects of coloring apps. A review of currently available coloring apps was also necessary to gain a clearer idea of where improvements for psychological purposes can be made.

To demonstrate the necessity of such a future review to ensure the quality of coloring apps, we conducted a brief overview of the range of currently available coloring apps via a series of searches of the iTunes App Store. The search terms used included “coloring,” “pictures to paint,” “coloring book”. Inspection and use of the apps found in these searches revealed some major tools in their capabilities when compared with the using of additional psychological tools of this review. Table compares a selection of these applications across the recommended features as simplicity in using, including of special music and animated effects, additional language and social support elements.

The most popular Coloring Apps:

  Simple in using

(1-5)

Special Music for concentration & relax Animated effects in the end of coloring Encourage elements due to progress Big amount (500+) of picts to color Supporting  from other users with Internal Social network
Colorist 5 5 5 5 4 5
Color numbers 5 2 1 1 4 1
Lake 4 3 1 1 4 3
Pixel art 5 3 2 1 4 2
Happy colors 4 1 1 2 4 1
Poly art 4 3 3 1 4 2
Color 3 3 2 1 3 1
Pigment 4 3 1 1 4 5
Colorfy 4 1 1 2 5 5
Re-color 4 1 1 1 5 5
Art therapy 3 5 1 1 4 3
Adult coloring book for me 3 5 1 2 4 3
Bloom 5 2 2 1 4 4

There is great variation in coloring apps that are suggested to reduce stress and anxiety, to give relaxing experience, to help practice mindfulness, to enhance concentration, to provide the same benefits as meditation. Our research of digital coloring showed that only a few apps (Colorist, Art therapy and Adult coloring book for me) used some of special tools for influence on mental state. Development and including of those additional tools in the content of coloring applications could be potentially useful for psychological treatment and support.

Future analyzing and comparing of coloring applications with additional psychological tools explored in this review should be considered in the context of the trials and specialist feedback.

Author: Viktoriia Tsokota, PhD, Senior Researcher of The Laboratory of Crisis and Disasters Psychology of the National University of Civil Defence of Ukraine

  1. Anderson N. D., Lau M. A., Segal Z. V., Bishop S. R. (2007). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and attentional control. Psychol. Psychother. 14 449–463. 10.1002/cpp.544
  2. Michail Mantzios and Kyriaki Giannou When Did Coloring Books Become Mindful? Exploring the Effectiveness of a Novel Method of Mindfulness-Guided Instructions for Coloring Books to Increase Mindfulness and Decrease Anxiety
  3. Grossman P., Kappos L., Gensicke H., D’souza M., Mohr D. C., Penner I. K., et al. (2010). MS quality of life, depression, and fatigue improve after mindfulness training: A randomized trial. Neurology 75 1141–1149. 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181f4d80d
  4. Shapiro S. L., Astin J. A., Bishop S. R., Cordova M. (2005). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for health care professionals: results from a randomized trial. Int. J. Stress Manag. 12 164–176. 10.1037/1072-5245.12.2.164
  5. Henderson P., Rosen D., Mascaro N. (2007). Empirical study on the healing nature of mandalas. Psychol. Aesthet. Creat. Arts 1 148–154. 10.1037/1931-3896.1.3.148

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