Picture this: you’re cruising down a country road, enjoying the scenery and humming along to the radio. Suddenly out of the abyss appears a speeding pickup truck – one of those raised up monsters with a menacing posture – the automotive equivalent of a pit bull. Initially appearing as a speck in your rear view, this truck arrives at your bumper at warp speed. Rather than passing you to move onto their next victim, the driver opts to ride your tail aggressively. What seconds ago was a pleasant drive has now become a life or death pursuit. You hate this truck and your day is now ruined.
Rewind: I once wrote about the virtues of walking. Summed up, walking is designed by nature to calm you down and we should walk as often as possible. However, walking isn’t always an option. On trips to other cities, our daily commutes or times where we simply are in a rush, we drive.
Surely we will one day in the not-so-distant future reflect back on the reality of driving with a mix of shock and mock-amusement. Our grandkids will scoff, “You’re telling us that you used to travel at speeds of over 100 kilometers (65 miles) per hour, using self propelled, fossil-fuel powered machines!?”
For some, driving is a leisurely activity to look forward to. For the rest of us, driving is often tedious and stressful. It seems that when you place a human behind an automobile, increasing their size, speed, and power, you also increase their capacity for error while lowering their threshold for anger.
This is why to some degree we all experience the sensation known as road rage. And honestly, road rage sucks. Traffic jams, construction, terrible weather, rogue animals and debris, potholes, confusing GPS, and pure human stupidity – when you are on the road there are a lot of factors lurking to spoil your mood. Unless you are a passive-aggressive evil genius who is capable of subtly manipulating entire traffic systems to your own advantage, you need to consider the alternative option in these situations and just relax.
Relaxing while you drive is an invaluable habit to attain. Here are a few reasons why:
Relaxing while you drive raises your threshold for stress.
As the title states, if you’re happy while driving, you will be happy in general. Unforeseen tragedies aside, the majority of your days will consist of less chaos, confusion, danger and frustration than does your average 10 minute drive.
While driving, try to remind yourself that it doesn’t matter if there’s a traffic jam, it doesn’t matter if the person ahead of you has been driving 45 in a 60 for the last 5 minutes with their right turn signal flashing, it doesn’t matter if a spandex wearing cyclist with a death wish feels like cruising in the centre of your lane, it doesn’t matter if an overeager teenager in a ’94 hatchback decides to tailgate you for 10 minutes on the highway only to follow when you move to the other lane, it doesn’t matter – you are still going to get where you are going.
Accept the chaos that you will encounter between point A and B and make an effort not to care. Unless you live to see some dystopian future in which vehicular weaponry and automotive warfare are the norm, you have no control over the choices that others on the road are going to make. As with life in general, you only truly have control over your own thoughts and actions, so drive well and think positively.
Relaxing while you drive promotes mindfulness.
While you are driving amidst the array of unpleasant factors mentioned above, how do you force yourself to be at peace with the mayhem that surrounds you? You do what centuries of humans have been doing to divert their minds from unpleasant thoughts, you practice mindfulness.
Closely tied to gratitude, mindfulness is the practice of being conscious and appreciative of your immediate surroundings. It’s anti-destination-oriented thinking, the mental antidote for impatience, and it’s a useful mindset to adopt when you face interruptions en route to your next destination.
Being mindful while driving can involve admiring the vibrant autumn leaves or the soft rhythm of spring rain on your windshield. It can involve singing along to your favourite song on the radio or cruising in silence and appreciating the gentle rumble of the engine. It’s not always easy, but practicing mindfulness while driving can transform your car from a confined cell of chaos into a beautiful floating pod, a seamless extension of your body granting you freedom and power as you glide through the glory of your surroundings.
Relaxing while you drive allows you to arrive at every destination feeling calm.
Imagine arriving home after a long day of work, emerging from a vehicle in which your only thoughts for the past 30 minutes consisted of simple positives: Wow, this sunset is stunning; This song is great; I’m so grateful to have this time to reflect and be calm.
Now imagine arriving home after the same day of work, emerging from a vehicle in which your thoughts for the past 30 minutes consisted of anger and frustration: Hey idiot, use your turn signal; Stop riding my tail you asshole; I can’t wait to get home and be done with this awful drive. Except your mood doesn’t improve when you arrive home because you’ve worked yourself into an irritable state.
You can’t control what you will encounter on the road. The sloppy drivers, the tailgaters, the potholes, reckless pedestrians, traffic and bad weather will always be there, but this is your life and it’s your birth-given right to take control over how you perceive things, the good and the bad.
So the next time chaos forces its way into your commute, think positive and remind yourself that if you can emerge from this drive with a smile on your face, you can smile through anything.