I Bought A 'Harry Potter' Coloring Book, And It Changed My Life

by Lydia Mansel

In the past year, I've learned constantly thinking about your job (and dealing with really horrible hangovers) is part of being an adult.

Everyone talks about how you should have a pretty even work-life balance, but I'm anal, ambitious and relatively psycho. Work is what makes me happy and what pays for my expenses, so I care -- sometimes a little too much.

It's also difficult for me to shut off work mode because my job is all about the Internet. News is constantly breaking, and the Kardashians are constantly posting Instagrams or app updates. There is always something I could be doing to benefit the website.

But I don't want to go completely insane, so in order to de-stress or get my mind off anything to do with Elite Daily, I call my mom.

My mom is my go-to. Even if she can't fix the problem in the moment, just having her listen helps calm me down.

For a few weeks, I was more stressed out than normal. Instead of just listening and reassuring me it would be OK like she normally does, my mom kept telling me to buy an adult coloring book. For a while, I would reply with "Sure, Mom," and then continue talking about what happened to me that day.

Last week, though, I finally listened. I walked all the way to McNally Jackson Books and picked out a "Harry Potter" adult coloring book and a set of sharpened colored pencils.

For the next six days, instead of reading or working before bed, I turned off my computer, put my phone where I couldn't see it and colored for about 30 minutes.

This is what happened.

I had fewer headaches.

Recently, I started dealing with minor headaches. I would attribute them to dehydration, all those hours in front of a screen or my dependence on that Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte from the Starbucks on 29th and Park.

But since I started my coloring book, the headaches became few and far between. Unlike before, I didn't wake up with a pounding in my head that lasted for a solid portion of the day.

Stress, which can cause stiff muscles and teeth grinding, tends to produce headaches.

According to The American Art Therapy Association, "any form of art can have stress-reducing value," and taking a colored pencil to paper is no exception. When you're coloring, you're focused on a single thing; you aren't being bombarded with tweets, Instagram notifications and group messages.

All you have to worry about is staying inside the lines.

My lower back pain subsided.

Like the headaches, I also self-diagnosed my annoying lower back pain and wrote it off as the result of a combination of too many spin classes, walking in heeled boots and sitting at a desk all day.

Yeah, I could've gone to a doctor or taken some Advil to alleviate the pain, but I'm too lazy, so I just complained to my mom and treated myself to two massages. Needless to say, the pain didn't go away.

I had gotten so used to the dull ache that the first few nights I colored, I didn't realize my back was feeling better. By night three, I made the connection.

While back pain can be caused my multiple factors, the above-mentioned stress can definitely play a role. So once again, my coloring book saved the day.

I got more sleep.

I basically sleep with my laptop and my phone. I try to be in bed with the lights off by 11 pm, but most nights that means 11:30 and looking at my Instagram and Twitter feeds until a little after midnight.

And that bad habit is scientifically proven to f*ck up your sleep schedule.

Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, an associate neuroscientist, told Huffington Post,

Light from screens in the evening alters sleepiness and alertness and suppresses melatonin levels.

So when your phone is the last thing you look at, sleep might not come easily.

Coloring, an activity with absolutely no screen, is the perfect alternative to watching Netflix or scrolling through your Facebook.

Art therapist Lacy Mucklow told USA Today,

The repetitive actions [of coloring] release serotonin, the brain transmitter responsible for relaxation.

It's just like knitting, sewing or cooking: creative, yet soothing.

And I ate less.

There is nothing I love more than ordering Seamless and watching "The Office" in bed... but it also isn't the healthiest habit to indulge in. Eating in front of a screen often leads to consuming 10 percent more food than you'd normally ingest.

Luckily, I use my left hand for both holding a colored pencil and holding a fork, so coloring and eating don't mix well.

Plus, I'd prefer to keep my chicken Pad Thai away from my masterpieces.