Practice Mindfulness: Safe Driving

safe_driving

In everyday life, practice makes perfect.

I’ve been changing my life for stress relief and to embrace more peace and calmness. This is a big change as I am very demanding and frequently push myself, sometimes beyond healthy limits. As I’ve gotten older, my body has been telling me to SLOW DOWN in subtle and not so subtle ways.

One way I’ve been working on this is by practicing mindfulness – being aware and conscious of the present moment, without making judgments.

When I first heard of mindfulness I thought it would be easy, until I actually tried it. I was surprised.

My mind is so accustomed to thinking about the past or the future, that staying in the present is a major challenge. At first, I set aside a specific time for practice, but this didn’t work.

Mindfulness needed to become a part of my everyday life. I began to practice this awareness in one or two-minute increments of time, while going about my daily routine and even while driving.

How to relax while driving.

One of the first things I practiced was to drive more mindfully. This is embarrassing, but I tend to be a pushy driver. I am always rushing and often arrive at my destination feeling exhausted and stressed. So, I made some changes in my driving habits to incorporate mindfulness and reduce stress. Here are some tips:

Slow down (literally) – When I catch myself driving too fast, I take a deep breath and slow my speed down. I still drive the speed limit, but I’m not rushing from light to light or pushing through traffic. I’m making myself drive more calmly and peacefully. Interestingly, I’ve found that when I’m driving this way, I don’t get as many red lights and traffic seems to flow more smoothly.

Turn off the noise – I don’t listen to the radio or CDs when I drive. They distract me. Instead, I choose to become aware of what’s around me. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what I’ve noticed when I’m paying attention.

Take deep breaths at stoplights – While waiting at a stoplight, I make a conscious effort to take deep breaths. I’m still aware of the lights, but I’m also paying attention to my breathing. I’ve realized my breath is more shallow when I’m driving, which in turn makes my body tense. When I breathe deeply I can feel my body relax.

Be patient with impatient or distracted drivers – I used to get annoyed by impatient drivers and drivers who weren’t paying attention. I used my horn a lot and said unmentionable things to my steering wheel. Driving more mindfully is helping me to be patient with these drivers. I don’t fight them and this has helped me avoid anger and frustration.

I’m not always successful at driving mindfully. There are times when I forget and that’s okay. Like any new skill, it will take practice. I have become a more relaxed and calm driver just by practicing this for short periods of time.

Now, instead of rushing from one place to another, the drive has become almost as important as reaching my destination. And upon arriving, I feel so much better about the trip!

If you want to practice mindfulness while driving, give these suggestions a try. Let me know what you think. I encourage you to leave a comment with your own ideas.

What would you do to practice mindfulness and reduce stress while driving?

Enjoy your drive.

Sara