Mindfullish Days – A Driving Challenge

Being mindful every day can be a hard habit to start, and trying to integrate it into everything can seem impossible. The best way to find the peace of mindfulness is to just do it a little bit at a time. Each day, find something which you normally do but you usually do mindlessly, with distractions even. Mindfullish Days will be a simple post giving you something to pursue mindfully.
I’ve recently been trying to find longer things to do in my mindfulness but the longer the task, the harder it is to STAY mindful. My favorite is to just turn off the radio while I’m at driving. I’ll quickly add that while I’m sitting here writing this I’m doing so with headphones on and music drowning out the background. I like music, it’s great for getting me focused or for helping me shift my mood. Obviously, my 30-minute drive to work in the morning is a great time to get my jam on, and going to a 9 to 5 (adjust with your hours of choice) is a perfect time to try and get your mood adjusted. If I can turn off the music and just be present in the drive then I find I notice my surroundings a bit better and more importantly, I’m less affected by other drivers around me.
I find that having music playing while driving drops me into a path, a stream, a groove. I obviously have a destination when driving, but music gives me some soundtrack with a pace and an attitude while moving through time. Even listening to “happy” music, I will often be moving with enough purpose that anyone getting in front of me is a jerk and anyone creeping up behind me is a madman. Everyone outside is working their level best to affect MY groove and I can escalate into frustration. While that level of frustration is a great topic for finding a mindfullish reaction, today we’re talking about making the drive itself into a mindful experience.
My challenge to you for the day is to turn off the radio, eject the CD, pause the audiobook and just drive. Pay attention to the cars in front you, be at peace with whatever pace the traffic is moving at, and just let yourself move through the city to your destination. You’ll find your mind wandering and that’s ok, as long as you’re still focusing on the drive. You might still get angry, but I’ve found I’m less likely to be emotionally connected to the drive if I’m doing so in relative silence.
You may find yourself getting bored, but that’s a good feeling too, just notice it and acknowledge it and then keep your eyes on the road. Try counting red cars or noticing when those “crazy drivers” pass you, only to be waiting at the next light. You’ll likely find yourself spotting behaviors that normally irritate you, try to recognize them and see if you’re still irritated or whatever emotion you normally feel. If you find yourself getting emotional, for better or worse, try taking a big breath and then audibly exhaling a few times. You don’t have to put on your happy music or peaceful music every time, you can often break free with a breath break.
If you’re really ambitious, try this for both your to and from trips. I find I’m usually in a much different mood on the way home than I was on the way in, I’m usually less stressed or more excited to see my loved ones. When your mind wanders on the way home it often summons your happy, smiley thoughts so notice those as well. Again, notice your pace, notice how you’re feeling about other drivers and just flow again. You don’t have to do this again tomorrow (unless you want to), so just accept this moment right now and do your best to take a little break away from distraction.

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