A Guide to Being Mindful on the Road

Guest Post
A Guide to Being Mindful on the Road

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Congested highways, booming horns, unruly drivers and pedestrians — they form a familiar picture when you think about your daily commute. It’s easy to give way to distraction, whether it’s road rage, gadgets, or something outside that piques your interest. But as Portland Mindfulness Therapy wrote a few years back, if there’s any place in the world where you need to pay full attention, it’s out driving on the road.

Mindfulness vs. Meditation

When you practice mindfulness, it’s really about noticing three things: your body, the sights, and the sounds. It’s all about deliberate actions and harnessing a deeper consciousness. Once you unlock this, you’ll be rewarded with the ability to make better decisions behind the wheel—a quality that should be present in any driver.

A lot of people confuse mindfulness with meditation and while the two concepts are closely related, they’re not exactly the same. Meditation includes techniques for focusing the mind, often on a single sensation such as breathing. That kind of “single-point focus” isn’t the best kind of mental state for driving, which requires flexible attention — when you are behind the wheel, conditions can change quickly and you will need to respond accordingly!  Mindfulness practice off the cushion involves cultivating flexible, responsive awareness of the present moment. To be mindful is to be conscious not just of a specific sensation, or of thoughts and emotions, but more importantly, to be aware of the things going on around you.

It sounds easy enough on paper but it’s actually much harder to apply especially during monotonous tasks. Greater Good Magazine cited studies on mindfulness as an effective way of training the brain to respond to new information. While driving, you do and see so much of the same thing–sometimes for hours on end–so your auto-pilot mode may be triggered. But when you’re deliberate about taking in the things you see and hear, you can avoid this mindlessness and enhance road safety. Practicing mindfulness throughout the day prepares you for driving, as well as anything else life throws your way.

We tend constantly to distract ourselves, such as with our cell phones. We feel we must be busy all the time, and tend to reach for our phones the moment we feel a bit of boredom or discontent. That tendency gets in the way of enjoying our lives; when driving however, it could bring our lives to a sudden end. Texting and driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. Many people normally think that our minds are wired to do two things at once, but Time Magazine reiterates that multitasking is a myth. Yes, it is possible to text while driving. However, by constantly switching your attention between tasks the process becomes slower and slower, inhibiting your ability to function fully and effectively. This is why it poses a risk to driving, which constantly requires agile reflexes. You can actually get served with a fine of $130 to $2,500 for using your phone while driving here in Oregon. It’s one way for authorities to reduce trouble on our roads due to distracted driving.

Mindfulness also involves awareness of our impact on the others’ lives. Remember that you’re not just putting yourself in harm’s way by being careless, but everyone else you may come across on the road as well. This is especially true for larger vehicles that can create a much bigger impact should a driver suddenly become distracted, fall asleep, or lose control. Truck drivers who are on the road during the wee hours of the night sometimes exhibit unsafe habits such as speeding. In fact, Verizon Connect highlights that improving driver behavior, which includes staying within the speed limit, is one of the main focuses of GPS trackers. Many truckers, like average drivers, just want to get to their destination after a long and tiring day of driving but fleet tracking solutions encourage drivers to stick to their schedules and exercise safe practices to avoid getting into accidents. For other drivers, ensuring the safety of others and yourself should serve as an adequate reminder to be a responsible driver.

Driving While Mindful

To be mindful while driving, we need to prepare ourselves by practicing mindfulness regularly. Ideally we should meditate, practicing focused mindfulness every morning. At minimum, we need to cultivate bodily awareness and notice what we are seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting throughout the day, tuning in to body sensations regularly. We can set our phone to remind us every hour or two to check in with the body. That way, before even starting the car, you know how to take a few deep breaths and start becoming aware of your body. Feel how your back fits against the cushioned seat. Take a moment to adjust it until it feels just right. For your first exercise of mindful driving, try not to put on the radio. Practicing mindful driving this way will allow you to give your full attention to the commute. You might notice a street sign that you were vaguely aware of before, or that your hands are not in a relaxed position as you drive. You might even enjoy your commute a lot more!

Take note of the different sounds outside your vehicle or the slow humming of your air conditioning. Put your phone on silent mode or place it inside your bag so you won’t be tempted to reach it even when waiting for the light to turn green.

Mindfulness requires commitment to practice. Reading this article only helps if you decide to start practicing. Even 5 minutes a day is a great way to start. Not only your driving, but every aspect of your life will, in time, improve — because life happens here, now. Always.

Post solely for the use of PortlandMindful.com

By: Bella Grace

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Bella Grace

I am a freelance author, looking to develop my portfolio and expand my knowledge through writing and having my work published online.

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