taking a daily “happy” vitamin

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I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for quite some time. In fact, I have a little memo in my Blackberry where I keep ideas for future posts, and this topic has been sitting there since May. The idea came from an article I read in Body + Soul written by Cheryl Richardson (one of my favorite contributors). The article was called “Your Feel Good Plan” and talked about how we take suppliments for our health but we don’t take time to do things we enjoy and make us happy. She believes by carving out specific time for the things we enjoy, we will decrease our stress and improve our health. It’s not necessarily a groundbreaking idea, but I liked the concept of making joy a ritual to honor daily.

Her suggestion in the article was to seek out at least one thing that makes you happy and do it everyday. She also recommended making a list of several things you enjoy and picking among them each week. We go out of our way to eat vitamins each morning, but somehow these small acts of joy can slip by in a busy schedule.

My New Happy Vitamin

I thought about the idea quite a bit. I contemplated what I would do as my “happy vitamin.” I wanted to choose things I don’t already do. Cooking came to mind, but I cook pretty regularly and it seemed a bit too utilitarian. I wanted to do something that had no “practical use” or social aspect, since those actions were already incorporated in my life.

What has become my new happy vitamin is the simple act of coloring. A few weeks ago my Prismacolor colored pencils resurfaced among a sea of boxes. They had only been used two times since high school, but for some reason I kept them tucked away. Recently I decided to sharpen them and put them in a vintage glass near the tv – hoping that I would one day begin sketching again.

They sat there for two weeks, untouched.

Then finally, after staring at them between episodes of Chopped and Greek, I decided to try to sketch some flowers in a vase on the counter. I found myself being pretty critical of my work and frustrated that I wasn’t automatically as good as my high school ability. And that wasn’t relieving stress. I was creating another pressure on myself. The thought “I must now improve at drawing” was not a recipe for fun and relaxation.

So I took a step back. I thought about why I still had these color pencils despite countless exfoliations.

Quietly, a memory of my first experience in middle school with Prismacolor pencils came to mind. I used to be fascinated with Prismacolor pencils in art class. I loved how smoothly they colored inside ink drawings and how awesomely the white pencil (my favorite) blended two different hues. That was what I found joy in.

With that realization, I decided to print out coloring pages found online and color them in. No pressure, no inner critic telling me my perspective is off or proportions are wrong. Just the simple act of making the colors as bold and blended as possible.

Sometimes I don’t get around to coloring, but more often than not I color for at least a few minutes (or petals). I’ve even noticed on my runs near flowerbeds, that I take a closer look at the shading and naturally occurring color combinations for future coloring pages.

So what about you? Any coloring fans out there? Any other Prismacolor addicts? Other “happy vitamin” suggestions?

UPDATE (10/3): I find the coloing pages by Google Image searching the term “flower coloring pages” – and I print the ones I like.

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  1. Jill

    Jess… LOVE this! Coloring is such a great activity! I should do it with my kids more! I remember in high school sitting at the kitchen table with my mom coloring we were by most accounts “too old” to color. But it was soothing for us and a great way to connect. For me the activity is knitting. I often tie my emotions to the outcome, but have been better about doing it for the activity. Now I have a bin of mishapen sweaters that I have knit in the basement. I can’t part with them, but they aren’t really wearable. The hours that the yarn “soothed” me though is inmeasurable!

  2. B

    I was just telling my husband that I miss coloring. I have no natural ability to draw or paint, but I find coloring so very soothing. My friends and I used to color in college, and those are some of my best memories.

  3. allison

    i love this idea…. i’ve had a bunch of pencils just sitting unused for ages…. where did you download the coloring pages? i’d love to know!

  4. Eva

    Same here!!! Where do you download the coloring pages?! I love this idea!!! You are the best!

  5. j

    We always take colouring-in away on our family holidays – even though we are now all ‘adults’…I also would love to know where you have downloaded such beautiful colouring pages from.

  6. I was never a great artiste, but for some reason, I have that same box of prismacolors in my office still (even though I’m 26). I am as curious as the rest of these folks – where do you download the coloring sheets?

  7. Jess

    @ Allison, Eva, and TheRachel: Sorry it’s taken me a bit to get back to this question! I actually just Google the types of pages I want to find. So far I’ve stuck to flowers, so I Google Image search “flower coloring pages” and print the ones I like.

  8. Julie

    I’ve always loved to color – even though I don’t do it often. Your post has prompted me to put my prisma color pencils in plain sight where I’ll be reminded to stop, breath ….and maybe color too. ūüôā

  9. You’re absolutely right. That IS the way to do it. I’ve had people try to convince me otherwise, but know that’s 100% right.

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