When you stop and think about it, it’s pretty alarming just how ingrained bad driving habits are becoming. With the rise of texting and driving, alongside other common struggles that stem from the anonymity of driving, it can be very easy to lose your wits while behind the wheel.
Bad driving habits, though, aren’t only rude and lacking in the tenets of mindfulness and patience, but they’re obviously extremely unsafe habits. So as we grow and mature, being a mindful driver becomes key.
The average American spends approximately 17,600 minutes driving per year. That’s a lot of time behind the wheel! However, by noticing the world around you, limiting noisy distractions and changing your attitude on the road, you can spend those 17,600 minutes knowing you’re doing everything you can to be a safer and much calmer driver.
Change your listening habits
You’d be surprised how much of a distraction background noise is, particularly when it consists of a series of less-than-subtle advertisements, loud songs or negative news reports. As an experiment, try switching off the radio and sitting in silence for a bit.
More than likely, you’ll experience an almost instant increase in alertness and perhaps even in calmness. You can choose to let the silence empower you by using it to direct your thoughts to intentional, enriching subjects instead of allowing yourself to be bombarded by mixed, overwhelming messages.
If you absolutely can’t stand the silence, find a quiet and calm soundtrack for your driving time—such as a combination of podcasts on subjects that are relaxing and not too distracting. As opposed to distracting your mind with less-than-helpful noise, come prepared with some listening material that won’t distract you from the road.
Be aware of your body
You may get into the car and leave it with high levels of stress and tension, perhaps due to contemplating a wrong move you made in a meeting or rushing to your next appointment. When this happens, simply acknowledge your physical status and identify any areas where your muscles are retaining more tension than usual.
When you observe the physical manifestations of anxiety and how they’re affecting you, you can move onto changing your thoughts and emotions. This will help you calm down on the road, and then you won’t be as quick to react haphazardly to impatience and road rage.
Relax and slow down
Instead, try driving a little slower than the speed limit and witness the tension fade away. Try moving into a slower lane for a bit. You may at first feel antsy, but you’ll just need to slow down and notice how much more relaxed you feel. In the right lane, there’s no pressure to go fast, so you can settle down for a bit. It’s actually quite nice if you think about it in the right way!
Furthermore, why not try using red lights as a prompt to notice your breathing? This could make the practice of stopping and waiting more enjoyable. No matter how stressful or irritating the commute becomes, you can always choose to create a relaxing experience for yourself instead.
In 2013, one news station ran an experiment on how many drivers adhere to—or don’t adhere to—road signs, namely stop signs. About 75 percent of cars failed to stop entirely, which hints at an underlying issue when it comes to how we view road rules. Given that these are largely in existence for our protection and that of others, reconfiguring your approach to them could be life-saving.
Engage with the world around you in a pleasant way, repeating affirmations to drivers who are reckless or pass you by.
Beyond this mindful intention, see how you feel after offering other drivers room in front of you or waiting another minute to allow an oncoming car to pass. Recognizing that we’re all in this together will take the sting out of many situations that would otherwise cause you anger or resentment.
A final word on mindfulness
Countless stories throughout time have demonstrated the positive effects mindfulness has on people’s lives. Being more mindful truly wakes you up to every moment, allowing you to take part in the present instead of always itching for what’s coming next.
Achieving mindfulness is something we should all be striving for in our day-to-day lives, and it’s an excellent practice to apply to your driving. It might even save your life!
I hope you’ll try some of these tips out. Got any others? Leave a comment below!