In our busy lives there is much to trigger our ancient defence mechanisms of fight or flight. Unfortunately that can lead to a range of outcomes from road rage incidents to increased stress.
It is particularly hard to stay calm when there is heavy traffic, or when you are stuck behind someone driving well below the speed limit on a single lane road.
But using mindfulness can help you to stay calm. The more you practice it, the easier it will become.
Here is how you can use mindfulness to calm down while driving:
- Take a slow, deep in breath into the bottom of your chest and belly. Then let that breath out slowly. This sends your brain a calm down, everything is okay, message. This gentle pause allows you to stop and think. It allows you to decide how you are going to respond, rather than blindly reacting.
- Ask the question “What do you need”? It is an important question and helps you to think about how you will respond to what is happening around you.
- Act on what you need. Maybe you need to relax. Give your body a quick mini shake and allow the tension to leave. Is there anywhere in your body that is particularly tense? Focus on releasing the tension. It can be helpful to tense that part and then release it. Continue your slow, deep in breaths. As you breathe and release tension in your body, say things like “May I feel calm, may I feel safe, may I feel relaxed”.
- Now notice the other cars around you. Recognise that the drivers in those cars want what you want. They want to get to their destination. They want to be safe. As you continue to breath slow, deep in breaths, say to the other drivers “May you feel calm, may you feel safe, may you feel relaxed”.
- Continue to focus on slow, deep inbreaths. Monitor your feelings. If you start to feel frustrated or upset, pay attention to what is happening there and attend to it.
Using this method regularly, as well as daily mindfulness practice, will help you to learn to be a calmer, less stressed driver.