Zen Driving: Controlling your emotions at the wheel

Do you ever feel like you become another person behind the wheel of a car? We can let out the worst in ourselves when our emotions drive our decisions. But the fact is that emotions are always behind the way we drive. We may not be conscious of it, but the way we see reality while driving can be distorted.

Just as a decision to purchase something can be largely emotional rather than logical, the same can occur at the wheel. Drivers’ emotions can take over when making decisions in situations where their lives are in danger. Studies have suggested that when the actions of another driver disrupts us, we can lose up to 37% of our attention. Having a vehicle right up our backs also triggers drivers, and can increase your heart rate and stress level.

Driving is a complex mental activity in which we make more than 100 decisions per minute. We must be emotionally intelligent drivers in order to be safe. Unblocking the secrets to zen driving will not only help you avoid accidents but will allow you to fully enjoy the driving experience. With these five tips, you’ll be zen behind the wheel in no time.

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Leave your problems outside

Before driving, take a look around the car in order to check its overall condition. Besides avoiding responsibility for damage you did not cause, it will give you an awareness of what you are about to do: drive. And, above all, allow you to leave your problems outside the car. These problems will probably mature in your subconscious and, at the end of your drive, you will see them from a new perspective.

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Find your perfect pose

Perfect driving posture is a personal thing. If you often catch yourself failing to pay attention at the wheel, your posture could be the issue. Just like how a yoga pose like the lotus position is perfect for meditation, optimising your driving position can do as much for the mental side of driving as it can for your comfort. A proper posture at the wheel can help the mind to work better, giving you a clearer picture of the road and your surroundings. Find your zen driving pose, it's worth it.

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Tranquility, even in traffic

Take advantage of inertia: in our busy cities, drivers tend to fight desperately for the most minute gaps in traffic. A competitive spirit can keep you from allowing other drivers into traffic and keep your foot on the accelerator right up until the instant right before you have to hit the brakes. Don’t fight against the flow of traffic. Aim to be like a leaf floating down a river; don’t try to go faster than the others, and drive smoothly and in a way that keeps you braking and accelerating as little as possible.

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Keep it spaced out

It’s important to keep your distance on the road. Not keeping a safe distance can make the driver in front of you nervous. Studies have suggested that this can increase the state of tension that a driver experiences behind the wheel by up to 15%. Always give the car ahead of you at least two seconds or three meters of space. We cannot guarantee that the car behind you will do the same of course, but zen driving is as much about the vibe you give off as it is the one you experience.

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Lanes full of empty boats

Busy roads and traffic jams are breeding grounds for situations that lead to conflict. There’s an old Buddhist story about an empty boat, and there’s a lot we can learn from it when it comes to zen driving. That vehicle that just cut in front of you or cut you off is a boat without a paddle being dragged by the current. An empty boat navigating your river or road. The anger you feel is your reaction - you control your own emotions.

Emotions are essential to life. They drive so many of our decisions, including those that we make at the wheel. We can’t drive without them, but we can learn to drive whilst keeping them under control. Driving in this zen style will not only help you to develop your abilities as a driver but to manage your emotions outside of the car too. Zen driving can help you live better!

David McCourt

David McCourt

Sr. Editorial Content Strategist

"Own less, share more."

David is on a mission to improve the quality of life in cities through modern mobility solutions.