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

6 comments on “Practice Mindfulness: Safe Driving

  1. Hi Sara – Great ideas. Like you, I’ve also turned off the music. It is a distraction to me, too. I also find if I leave earlier than I think I should, I allow time for delays. I hate being late, so this has helped me a lot.

    Sometimes I pretend I’m a tourist in my own town (even though we’ve lived here over 20 years). I look in awe at the mountains or the other scenery and at times, feel like I’m seeing it for the first time.

    A book that really helped me to learn to practice mindfulness and to live in the moment is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..Attract Readers – Make Your Blog A Safe Haven

  2. Davina says:

    Hi Sara. The best part of what you’ve said is realizing that this takes practice. It’s great that you make it ok when you forget. That takes a huge weight off your shoulders… it’s hard to take a deep breath if you’re carrying too much weight around 🙂 Excellent tips! Thanks for sharing them.

    Your Welcome Page looks great!

    Davinas last blog post..Romancing Your Resolutions

  3. Patricia says:

    Sara,
    Nice post and I appreciated the steps to mindfulness while driving. I always thought I was a nervous driver and then I got a new car and wow – not so small and scary. This helped a great deal. Not having the radio on is helpful too and slowing down saves money going into the gas tank.
    I also allow a few extra minutes to get someplace/check out the back roads and not the main routes.
    I find talking to distracted or mindless drivers in a soothing calm voice seems to help also
    Thank you I needed this refresher course

    Patricias last blog post..After Math

  4. WOW! What a concept!!! Making getting there part of the “vacation” so to speak!!!

    I always view the “getting there” as a “have to” instead of something to enjoy. Whether it’s by car or by plane, the travel is something to be endured to get to the destination in mind.

    I think that a simple attitude adjustment might actually make it so I could ENJOY the process of travel instead of simply enduring it!

    Thanks – and enjoy your drive!

    Kathy @ Virtual Impaxs last blog post..Shameless Self Promotion in a Graceless Age

  5. Sarah says:

    @Barbara — I love the idea of being a “tourist” in your own town!!! I’ll have to try it as I’ve also lived in my town for many, many years. Also, thanks for mentioning the book, the Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. I’ll have to read it.

    @Davina — You’re so right. Practice is the main part of any kind of mindfulness! Thanks for your comment.

    @Patricia — I’m glad your new car is helping you and I loved you mentioning saving gas by slowly down as well as your mention of taking back roads, instead of the main ones. Very good points! Thanks!

    @Kathy — I agree that enjoying travel is so much better than enduring it. I also appreciated you minding me that mindfulness TRAVEL includes more than just a car!

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