So why would you choose to practice mindfulness while driving?
There are numerous reasons why being mindful while driving can be incredibly beneficial to a daily commuter. First of all through being more 'present' while driving and not having your mind elsewhere you can better learn to enhance your focus rather than reduce it. Many road accidents tend to result from people driving without due care and attention because, for one reason or another, their minds are more focused on the day ahead rather than the road ahead. Apart from making driving safer, mindul driving can also ease the stress associated with commuting so that you can arrive at your destination more energised, refreshed and focused, rather than frustrated, irritable and unproductive.
Let's try a short exercise. Next time you are driving try switching off your phone, or at least make sure its silent or placed where it can't distract you. Avoid eating and just for this exercise, as a kind of experiment, switch off any background music or radio so that you can give your full attention to the exercise. Now as a first step, give your full attention to what's going on around you. Notice everything from the cars, trucks, bikes in front to any you can see with the use of your side and rear view mirrors. Notice your speed, if you know intuitively that you are going faster than the limit try slowing down. Remember this is just an experiment to teach your subconscious more mindful living. With me still? Great let's continue….
Back to driving within the speed limit. Too often we are in a hurry to get somewhere even though it's only an illusion born out of our 'go go go' society. You are more likely to reduce stress by driving slower if you know as a rule you may not always honour the code. Moreover you will also be setting a good example to all drivers. Just making this very small change can help you switch out of the normal habitual state of mind, which for most people is part of the subconscious norm which is responsible for more stress in life than we actually need. Next instead of focusing on your radio or background music which actually can make you more mindless than mindful, focus more on your breathing as you drive. Take a deep breath in through your nose and as you exhale, breathe slowly out through your mouth while paying attention to how calm that out breath makes your entire body feel. Repeat this over and over and as with any new habit you will begin to realise that not only is your mind feeling more clear but you are more readily able to concentrate on your driving almost without effort. Instead of getting lost in trains of thought, you can feel more present and aware. At first your mind may try to wander, so simply keep bringing your attention back to your breathing each and every time this happens until it becomes trained to 'behave'.
While driving and as you keep the majority of your attention on your driving, turn a percentage toward your bodily sensations. Scan for any tension and release that tension if you can. Be aware of any feelings of ligament or muscle tension in your head, shoulders, neck, back, torso, hips, legs, calves and feet and simply choose to let those areas go limp loose and relaxed. If you can't then just be aware of whatever comes and accept that awaress. This is what we refer to as mindfulness. Next you can open your attention to your surroundings again. If you approach a red light, try to slow down and see the red light as an opportunity to pause rather than something you should resist. The red light is there to remind you to pause. While you pause take some more mindful breaths maybe focus on the colour of the sky or shape of the clouds or if you are in the UK more likely listen to sound of the rain. With practice you can end up looking forward to the red light instead of dreading it, seeing it as a chance to breathe and refocus.
Even traffic jams can become a mindful experience. Realising that the traffic is already there you can learn through mindfulness to accept not resist. Fighting the traffic, constantly trying to win the lane battle, ultimately makes no difference. Instead let your mindful attitude encourage smiling and again just focusing on the breaths. Use this time to glance at other drivers and mentally wish them well. This may sound an unsual practice, but as you do this you will notice your attitude automatically becoming more friendly toward other drivers. Even when someone cuts you up while driving use the same technique to wish them well and hope they will be happy. You will find that swearing at people or feeling angry has only one outcome to enhance your overall stress and it's too late anyway so just let it go and return your thoughts to your breathing.
Mindfulness can help the journey be far more enjoyable and can make the entire experience on average sixty to eighty percent safer and more focused. As you drive in this mindful way, feeling more present, value your driving and arrive at your destination in a far more positive and balanced frame of mind.
Here at the Cumbria Hypnosis Mindfulness clinic we teach several strategies as well as mindfulness to anyone wishing to overcome any limiting belief, behaviour or emotion. If you would like to learn more then please click here
Wishing you a balanced and positive day
David Faratian (NLP Practitioner and Clinical Hypnotherapist)