Many people find driving a stressful and anxiety provoking experience, and driving can be tiring. Quite often people come to me for anxiety which manifests itself most prominently when they are driving, so I thought it might be helpful to give you some ideas about the benefits of driving mindfully and compassionately.
Mindfulness simply means paying attention to the present moment on purpose and without judgement. The driver in front may be going slowly, the traffic lights may be changing to red but it is our judgement that may or may not cause us suffering. We have a choice.
Have you ever noticed or thought about how you drive, what your mood is like, and how much you remember of each journey?
So often I hear people saying “the driver behind is going too fast” or “the driver in front is going too slow!” By creating an inner story of how those drivers are being deliberately annoying, we can lose a sense of reason and tolerance- this can lead to road rage and anxiety on the roads.
I have found by practicing mindful-compassion at the wheel, people become calmer, and more considerate and careful drivers.
For me, practicing mindful driving has made my driving journey more enjoyable. I notice more along my journey, taking traffic jams and red lights as opportunities to focus on my breathing and relax a little. I find it helpful to set off on my journeys a little earlier where possible to make allowances, and to remember that I can’t control the flow of the traffic if the road is busy. By being mindful I can feel the steering wheel in my grip, it’s smoothness, paying attention to each gear change, my speed, and paying careful attention to the road ahead- remembering- there is a reason the windscreen at the front is bigger than the rear window! All this makes for a better and more relaxing journey.
If you suffer from driving anxiety then taking a few moments to focus on your breath before you start the car engine can be very beneficial and settle down into the present moment by becoming fully aware of the contact your hands make with the steering wheel, what you can see through your windscreen etc. As your journey begins, pay attention to the road ahead and see what you notice, perhaps wind the window down a little to feel the fresh air, listen to some gentle music, or simply focus on all the new things you being to notice on your journey.