What do you think of when you hear the word “meditation?” Does it conjure an image of a peaceful background and a person sitting in the lotus position, with their eyes closed and a serene smile on their face?
While it’s true that this is one of the most common ways to practice meditation, it isn’t the only way.
Similar to this kind of concentrative meditation, mindfulness is an even more popular and easily adoptable meditation form, in which you try to remain aware of your thoughts and feelings, while just practicing being open to the experiences of your life.
And in what space could many of us use more openness and awareness then when we’re driving a car? I don’t know what it is about getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, but I automatically become more tense and stressed out. In fact, I used to have a bit of a road rage problem. If someone would cut me off in traffic or if I had to wait in bumper-to-bumper congestion, I would be aggravated for the rest of the day.
Soon after I started practicing mindfulness, things changed. I would do a five- to ten-minute guided meditation session before driving anywhere, and then also try to practice mindful driving while en route to my destination.
And a learned a few things. For one, driving stresses a lot of people out – it wasn’t just me! If I can be one less stressed out person on the road, the better for everyone.
Mindfulness also helped me think about other drivers as people, not just cars on the road in front of me. Everyone else has the same stresses and anxieties that you do: they want to get to their destinations sooner rather than later, they’re worried about being late for appointments, they’re eager to see their families. Keeping this in mind while driving helped me remain calm in otherwise aggravating situations.
Want to find out how mindfulness can improve your life? Start taking advantage of your daily commute!
You’re Not Alone on the Road
Around 143 million Americans spend an average of 25 minutes on the road every single day. While carpooling is popular in many places, 78 percent of commuters drive alone. If you work a five-day week and fall into this category, that’s an average of 250 minutes, or just over four hours that you’re spending alone in your car.
Most of us listen to music, chat with friends on the phone or listen to audio books and podcasts while we drive, but that time could also be spent in meditation.
Meditating Behind the Wheel
Meditation doesn’t always require sitting down with your eyes closed. You can meditate anywhere and any time you have a few minutes to take a deep breath and center yourself. A few tricks that you can use during your commute include:
- Be mindful of your car. Focus on the sounds your car makes, how it moves and the feel of the tires as they move over different road surfaces. Being mindful of your car can help you to relax and center yourself. As an added bonus, you’ll be the first to know if something is out of sorts with your car.
- Pay attention to the world around you. What season is it? What does the weather look like outside your car windows? Taking a few minutes to take stock of the world around you might seem like it would be detrimental to meditation, but paying attention to the details is a big part of being mindful and learning to meditate.
This type of meditation allows you to relax and focus while you’re driving without taking your focus away from the road. Don’t sacrifice safety for a few minutes to meditate.
Why You Should Be Meditating
Meditation has a variety of health benefits that have been studied in detail over the years. On the physical side of things, regular meditation has been shown to increase serotonin production in the brain, which helps to improve mood. It also boosts the immune system and increases overall energy levels.
The mental benefits are much more widespread, including increases in creativity, happiness, intuition and peace of mind. It’s also been shown to be beneficial for individuals who suffer from anxiety, helping to reduce the severity and frequency of their attacks.
If you’re meditating in your car on the way to work, the benefits for you might be:
- Reduced stress. Meditation has been shown to decrease stress, which can be extremely beneficial if your job is high-stress.
- Elevated mood. There’s nothing better than starting the day in a good mood, with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
Meditating during your commute home can also help improve your home life, because it makes it easier to leave work at the office. If you’re a person who tends to drag work home with you, try meditating for a few minutes during your drive.
Don’t Get Discouraged
If you don’t notice changes in your mood or outlook immediately, don’t get discouraged! The positive effects of meditation and mindfulness can take time, just like any other lifestyle change. If you change your diet to lose weight, you won’t see the effects immediately — it takes time for your body to adapt to the new diet and figure out that you’re actually feeding it healthy food. The same train of thought applies to meditation.
You need to practice your meditation every day, which is easy if you’re meditating in the car during your daily commute. You’ve got the perfect schedule to practice every day so you can start seeing results sooner. If your commute is extremely long, you don’t have to meditate the entire time. Instead, spend at least a portion of your commute focusing on being mindful and meditating, and you’ll start to see some amazing benefits.
Meditation is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
By taking advantage of the time you have to spend in the car every day, you can take back some of that otherwise idle time and turn it into something beneficial. You may even start to enjoy your commute a little more when you’re mindful of your car’s tires on the road and the beautiful scenery you’re driving through.
Written by Kayla Mathews
Kayla Matthews is a self-improvement and personal development writer who contributes to The Huffington Post, Inc. and MakeUseOf. To read more posts by Kayla, check out her blog Productivity Theory.