Coloring Therapy: Mandalas

By: Pine Rest Staff

Good news for all of us who like to color, doodle and sketch–coloring isn’t just for kids! And it shouldn’t be viewed as only a guilty pleasure, either. In fact, the pastime is therapeutic for people of all ages.

Many have already discovered adult coloring books in the past year. In fact, Secret Garden by Johanna Basford and others were on the Amazon’s bestselling books last year. The books cover quite a variety of themes including flowers, fantasy landscapes, animals, geometrics, quilts and even ‘Dr. Who’!

At Pine Rest, we’ve used coloring therapy and art therapy for years to assist with the healing process. One of the coloring therapy tools we often use is the mandala.

What’s a Mandala?

Simply put, a mandala is a circle. The word comes from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit, with “manda” meaning essence and “la” meaning container. More than just a circle, the mandala represents wholeness and unity.

Anything circular in our lives can be considered a mandala, whether a physical or celestial object in our environment such as a seashell, a flower, the dome on a building, the sun or the moon or a conceptual circle such as our circles of family, friends and our community.

Using the Mandala in Coloring Therapy

In activity therapy, we use the mandala to represent the self. Patients color the mandala to express the emotions and feelings they are experiencing at the moment of creation. The minutes or hours spent coloring provides a time of focus and meditation, allowing the person to express their individuality and create a self-portrait. Over time, these mandalas become an art journal of their recovery.

The meditative benefits of creating mandalas are many:

  • Aids release of negative thoughts and emotions
  • Decreases tension and anxiety, can be used as stress management tool
  • Increases focus and allows self-healing
  • Increases self-reflection and personal awareness
  • Encourages creativity and self-expression

Emotions and feelings felt at the time of creation are transformed into the mandala itself. The shapes as well as the colors chosen can be as symbolic as the artist wants them to be. Every piece of the artwork is equally important as the other. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to complete your mandala.

Getting Started with Your Mandala

You don’t need much to create your own mandala. Get out your art supplies and simply trace a circle onto a sheet of paper. Here’s what you’ll need.

1. Paper (preferably white to show colors)
2. Crayons, markers, chalks, colored pencils, pastels or paints
3. A bowl or other round item

Want a little more structure to get you started? Try purchasing an adult mandala coloring book; many are available on Amazon or from craft stores. Others are available free online at Websites like

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