Mindfulness exercises. The term conjures up an image of a monk meditating in a forest, doesn’t it? Many people have an instant negative reaction to this mental picture. It sounds hard, or like it takes lots of training. It sounds like something only hermits do. Or just plain weirdos. But the truth is, mindfulness exercises can be very easy, and very applicable to everyday life.
Driving Anxiety Responds Well to Easy Mindfulness Exercises
Mindfulness exercises are simply a way to focus your attention on what’s happening in the moment. That’s it! There are no complicated philosophies, no difficult or strenuous spiritual disciplines. Andrew Cunningham and I devoted a whole section of the Driving Peace program to easy mindfulness exercises as a tool for driving anxiety. These are quick, simple exercises that stop your anxiety by clicking you back into the present moment, usually in a matter of seconds.
If you’ve tried meditation and thought it was a real drag, or if the idea of “living mindfully” sounds scary, relax. Mindfulness is a lot easier than you think. These exercises will show you very simple techniques for easy, mindful driving.
Here Are 5 Easy Mindfulness Exercises to Help Your Driving Anxiety
- Take three deep breaths — Get into the car. Before you turn on the engine, take three deep breaths. Really let go on the out breath. Repeat when you turn the engine off, right before you get out.
- Wish other drivers well — Think, “May you be well, may you be happy” as other drivers pass you. Try it out loud too. Use it when cars cut you off. You’ll be amazed how much this helps.
- Take note of your senses — Take a deep breath. Notice three things you can see (visual). Notice three things you can hear (auditory). Notice three things you can feel (tactile). Simply notice, without judgment or analysis. Repeat as necessary.
- Simple half smile — When stopped in traffic or at a red light, crease your mouth into a half smile. It doesn’t have to be a huge, toothy grin. Think of the Mona Lisa. Try it even if you don’t feel like smiling.
- Savor the silence — Turn off the radio. Turn off your phone, your computer, everything. If someone is in the car, ask them if it’s okay to not talk for a short period. Notice the world around you. Notice the other cars. Notice the sky. Notice the sides of the road. When you notice your attention has wandered, just come back to noticing. Do this for three minutes.
It’s easy to incorporate mindfulness exercises into your daily routine. All it takes is a little practice. You can do most of these in 30 seconds or less. One word of advice: there will be days when noticing the present moment will feel next to impossible. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It happens to everyone. Just keep practicing. Come back to it when you’re able, and you’ll see what a powerful tool mindfulness is for driving anxiety.
Bonus: Short Video of Easy Mindfulness Exercises