Cast your mind back to 2015. It was a time when Trump was mostly still a reality TV star, everyone wanted to see that hot new musical Hamilton, and Instagram was the cool new social network.

It was also the moment of another huge craze most of us have long since stopped thinking about, but which neuroscience suggests might be due for a comeback — adult coloring books.

A fun, brainless hobby for a simpler time?

Adult coloring books were previously a quirky niche hobby, but 2015 saw demand soar. By the end of the year, nearly 12 million such books had been sold. Bestseller lists were peppered with adult coloring books and the media was peppered with think pieces about just what was going on.

Why? Maybe people were looking for a digital detox. Maybe the colorful pages made good Instagram fodder. Maybe it was the ideal childish activity for a more innocent period in American culture. Or maybe it was just cheap and fun.

Whatever the reason for America’s obsession with this pleasant but fairly brainless activity, it was soon over. Sales slipped back to a steady but significantly lower level, where they have remained ever since.

Perhaps with yet another Trump-dominated election looming and our screen addiction problem far from solved, it’s time to return to adult coloring. New psychology research shows that with a few simple tweaks, it can be a profoundly effective way to reduce anxiety and stress.

The research-backed benefits of adult coloring

As psychologists Michael Mantzios and Kyriaki Giannou explained on The Conversation recently, coloring is basically a form of mindfulness. (Adam Grant and other experts have made similar points about all sorts of engrossing hobbies like baking and knitting.) It is an activity that pulls your attention, keeping you rooted in the present and distracted from worries about the past and the future.

For this reason, coloring can have some of the same benefits as more formal (and sometimes more difficult to start) mindfulness practices. “Although the activity might be simple, our research has shown coloring really can be an effective way of reducing stress and improving wellbeing. We’ve shown that coloring is an easy way to lower anxiety and reduce burnout,” write Mantzios and Giannou.

In a head-to-head comparison, the researchers found pulling out your colored pencils worked just as well as one type of formal meditation (loving-kindness meditation).

How to turn coloring into stress-busting mindfulness

To maximize the relaxing benefits of adult coloring, however, you need to approach your new hobby in a specific way, the psychologists say. They offer step-by-step instructions in their article:

  • Find your space. “Start by finding a quiet and comfortable place where you can focus without distractions.”

  • Choose your materials. “Having too many colors may be distracting. Abstract coloring pages can be more useful in allowing you to focus on the activity, rather than choosing logical colors for objects — such as trees or eyes.”

  • Observe your thoughts. “If [your thoughts] wander off, or any other thoughts or feelings come up, simply let them go. Refocus on the colors transferring onto the page or your hand movements. It’s all about being present, so every time your mind wanders off, let it go and refocus on coloring.”

And that’s about it. Like Grant, Mantzios and Giannou note that this simple procedure can be transferred to other quiet activities like drawing and walking as well. Some experts have even suggested you could make chores like doing the dishes an exercise in mindfulness.

Whichever activity you choose, just remind yourself of the benefits of a mindful approach. Science is clear that just a few minutes of your preferred brainless pastime, including adult coloring, can have profound effects on your levels of stress, anxiety, and burnout.