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Published on December 04, 2015

Got the blues? Grab some crayons!Got the blues? Grab some crayons!

Just before bedtime, there’s nothing mother-of-four Starr Butson enjoys more than picking up a good book – a coloring book.

“After a long day chasing the kids, I like to have some ‘me time,’” she said. “This is mindless work for me. I’m not thinking about the kids, house cleaning or bills.”

Adult coloring books, one of the hottest trends in publishing, feature black-and-white illustrations that you can bring to life with color. But you end up with more than some snazzy artwork. You can end up with a better state of mind.

Butson, who lives in Brewster, colors her books about four days a week, sometimes for several hours.

“I have a few that I’ve finished and framed, hanging on the wall,” she said. “It’s a fun, soothing activity.”

Brewster-based psychotherapist Molly Eldridge’s expertise includes helping patients with anxiety and depression. She learned of the coloring book phenomenon from clients who are doing it.

“I encourage them to continue because it’s relaxing, self-soothing and calming,” she said. “Any time you’re doing a right-brained activity, using the creative side, it’s taking you away from the daily stress of technology, language and letters.

“It’s a way to feel better and take care of yourself when you’re in a bad mood. When you’re in a ‘flow’ state, you lose of track of time and place, in a good way. It’s a positive thing.”

A recent peek at Amazon’s top 20 best-selling books showed two titles by Johanna Basford, right up there with new books by John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, Bill O’Reilly and Dr. Phil.

Johanna who?

Basford is the leader of the hot new genre of coloring books for adults. Her “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book,” released in 2013, has sold more than 1.4 million copies. Other illustrators quickly joined the trend. On a recent day, six of Amazon’s top 20 were coloring books for grown-ups, and the genre has its own Amazon section.

In addition to Basford’s garden-themed books, other illustrators have filled books with abstract patterns, while some have created coloring books focused on Harry Potter, “Game of Thrones” and Marvel comics.

On her web site, Basford tells why she thinks the books are so popular:

  • “They allow people to unplug for a bit and focus on something real and tangible.”
  • “They conjure up fond memories from the coloring books of childhood.”
  • “Coloring lets adults tap into those creative impulses they don’t get to explore all that often.”
  • “Coloring books require an amount of focus that calms the mind and lets us allow the rest of the world to just go away for a little while.”

Eldridge added a few more benefits. “It’s inexpensive so people don’t feel bad about indulging,” she said. Also, it’s a confidence-booster. “You’re going to be good at it no matter what your artistic ability.”

“I recommend it as a relaxation technique,” psychologist Antoni Martínez told the Huffington Post. “We can use it to enter into a more creative, freer state. I recommend it in a quiet environment, even with chill music. Let the color and the lines flow.”

Butson, who has four children – ages 9 months, 4, 9 and 14 – saidthe older three enjoy drawing or doing crafts projects with her. That’s quality time with the kids, but she also treasures the time she spends on her own coloring book projects.