Calm through Colouring on the Cancer Ward

“An oncology floor is a pretty stressful place, but I’d slide (the colouring sheet) onto the table, and within minutes, the parents would be colouring,” Darby said, “I remember one mother – her child was undergoing brain surgery in the next room – and she couldn’t believe how much (colouring) relaxed her” (Johnson, 2015).

Colleen Darby became the “artist in residence” at the Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo oncology ward after discovering first-hand the calming effects of colouring. Darby had been diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, and one day her young daughter gave her a small break from all the worry and fear in the form of a colouring book.

Darby was amazed at how the simple act of colouring gave her a small respite from the worry and fear. “When I was colouring with (my daughter), it was the only time I forgot about the cancer, “Darby said. “It was only for a few minutes, but it surprised me” (Johnson, 2015).

Creative interventions, like colouring, have been shown to improve psychological outcomes in adults with cancer, reduce stress and depression, and improve mood (Rigby, 2016). It helped Darby through a very frightening time. Best of all? Darby beat cancer!

If colouring can reduce stress and worry during such a scary time in one’s life, could it also help you to reduce stress and worry too?

The answer is yes!

Once considered an activity for children, there is now scholarly, scientific research on how adult colouring can help us to feel less stressed, depressed, and anxious.

In one study, 115 women between 18 and 38 years old were randomly selected to participate in colouring or logic puzzles each day for seven days (Flett et al., 2017).

  • Anxiety was assessed using the 7-item Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.
  • Perceived stress was assessed using the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale.
  • Symptoms of depression were assessed using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale.

The results showed that those in the colouring group reported reduced stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, and those in the logic puzzle group did not. The control group participating in daily colouring even scored higher levels of resilience!

Could you use a little break from stress, worry, or anxiety? I have created a colouring page just for you! Visit Scroll down to find the colouring page, download, print, and colour your way to calm.

by Denise Marek, December 5, 2022.


Flett, J. A. M., Lie, C., Riordan, B. C., Thompson, L. M., Conner, T. S., & Hayne, H. (2017). Sharpen your pencils: Preliminary evidence that adult coloring reduces depressive symptoms and anxiety. Creativity Research Journal29(4), 409–416.

Johnson, C. (2015, December 21). In distracted world, coloring books offer peace through play: Salt Lake Telegram. Deseret News.

Rigby, M., & Taubert, M. (2016). Colouring books for adults on the cancer ward. BMJ (Online), 352, h6795–.