Wellness and driving habits might not seem like they’re built to intermingle at first glance, but just like any number of unrelated ideas, you might be surprised at how closely they can interact.
You might be one of the many people who spend hours each day in the car as a part of your daily routine. While there have long been solutions to the boredom that can often arise, there are ways to occupy your mind in a different sense and bring you peace rather than distraction.
That sense of clarity can come from mindfulness and mindful driving. Mindfulness is a technique that involves an awareness of your surroundings. It’s about tuning in and recognizing the world around you and how it contributes to your experience.
Using mindfulness while you drive can bring a sense of calm and peace and perhaps even make you a safer driver. Here are five tips that can help you practice mindful driving.
1. Tailor Your Listening Material
While you should be focused on driving, your sense of hearing is often free to consume whatever you’d like it to. Many people enjoy listening to audiobooks, radio shows and podcasts so they can escape into another world. Especially for those who have long commutes and don’t enjoy the feeling of stagnation in the car, having an ever-changing and developing source of entertainment can be the difference between boredom and stimulation.
However, if you want to practice mindfulness while driving, you might prefer silence or soft music without lyrics — such as chakra meditation music or classical soundtracks. That way, you can engage in that same mental stimulation that comes from internal motivation rather than external entertainment.
2. Relax Your Body
Even though you can’t sit down on the ground and meditate, feeling all your muscles relax while driving can be a great introduction and reminder for a mindful driving practice. Remember, meditation can take many forms. Feeling comfortable in your seat is a great place to begin mindfulness, driving or not.
3. Use Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is another way to relax the body and mind, and you can do it while driving. If you have a specific exercise that comes naturally to you, use it to relax your mind as you practice your breathing on the road.
This can be a great ritual for your body and help you achieve a sense of routine relaxation. One great example is the act of counting your breaths. You can count up to ten and count backwards from ten, or you can square off your inhales and exhales by counting to even them out.
4. Focus on the Road
Since we’re talking about the act of mindful driving, driving is the most important part of the equation. Mindfulness is all about being aware of your surroundings and taking in the sensations of the world as you experience them, and that’s what driving is all about if you’re doing it right. If you’re looking for the simplest way to practice mindful driving, you can start by keeping your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
Paying attention to the cars around you and the bumps you may encounter are fundamental skills for safe driving, and it’s important to keep your focus on those things no matter how you drive. Really, you can look at this as a way to become a safer, more aware driver, even when you aren’t actively trying to use mindfulness techniques.
5. Practice Non-Judgment
One of the primary pillars of mindfulness is abstaining from judgment — or trying to remain neutral as often as possible — and sometimes, we could all use a little bit of that on the road. If you tend to experience road rage or judge traffic or your own driving skills, taking an approach of neutrality can help you maintain a calm, positive outlook.
It’s much healthier and safer to let things go and focus on safety in the moment than to hold onto the tension of moments that have already passed. Non-judgement allows you to maintain more positivity on the inside, and be a better driver on the road.
Mindfulness Is Everywhere
Mindfulness can be a beneficial practice in so many aspects of life, and driving is no different. Whether you tend to get heated on the road and you’re looking for ways to find calm or you have a long commute every day and you’re starting to get tired of it, relaxing your body and keeping your mind at ease is a worthwhile goal to shoot for. You don’t have to get mad just because your key won’t turn or something similarly small.
Remember, mindfulness is a practice, and the more you try, the better you’ll get — one mile at a time.