What started out as “National Slacker Day” in Britain back in 2001 has become “National Relaxation Day” here in the States — a day to focus on our minds, on our breathing, on reducing our stress levels. Relaxation and mindfulness exercises are increasingly popular, but today I want to hone in on what we can do on National Relaxation Day in terms of driving.
Some folks like me don’t mind driving at all and even rather enjoy it. Others get annoyed at the drudgery of a congested daily commute, road raging at the slightest slight by another driver. Worse still, some people have serious driving anxiety and honest-to-god phobias when they get behind the wheel.
In the hopes of helping all drivers get the most out of National Relaxation Day, here are three completely different ways to chill out while you drive about.
1 — Make Driving Itself an Act of Relaxation
I have a bit of a lead foot myself, but some drivers take to the absurd extreme and are super overaggressive on the road. You’ve seem ‘em (or may you are one…). They’re the ones driving full speed toward a red light just to slam on the brakes at the last minute, the ones driving full speed toward a stopped car in front of them just to slam on the brakes (it’s these people who make traffic jams worse), the ones who lay on their car horn the millisecond that a light turns green. Settle down, people. We all know how this plays out. You’re gonna blast ahead of the pack just to have the pack catch right back up with you and think you’re a loser.
This all too common scenario is the opposite of relaxing, but driving can indeed be a relaxing, even therapeutic experience. I’ve often found myself driving aimlessly just to clear my head.
And Professor Lynne Pearce, of Lancaster University’s Department of English and Creative Writing, has a brand new book that explores this concept: Drivetime—Literary Excursions in Automotive Consciousness.
Here’s the summary from the publisher, Edinburgh University Press:
Engages literary texts in order to theorise the distinctive cognitive and affective experiences of driving
What sorts of things do we think about when we’re driving – or being driven – in a car? Drivetime seeks to answer this question by drawing upon a rich archive of British and American texts from ‘the motoring century’ (1900-2000), paying particular attention to the way in which the practice of driving shapesand structures our thinking. While recent sociological and psychological research has helped explain how drivers are able to think about ‘other things’ while performing such a complex task, little attention has, as yet, been paid to the form these cognitive and affective journeys take. Pearce uses her close readings of literary texts – ranging from early twentieth-century motoring periodicals, Modernist and inter-war fiction , American ‘road-trip’ classics , and autobiography – in order to model different types of ‘driving-event’ and, by extension, the car’s use as a means of phenomenological encounter, escape from memory, meditation, problem-solving and daydreaming.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read it, but if and when I do y’all will be the first to know.
2 — Buy a Car that Knows How to Relax You
Fitbits, Apple Watches, phone apps that monitor your sleep — fitness trackers and wearables are all the rage. And Audi thinks that connecting these to your car can help you mellow out behind the wheel.
Audi Fit Driver is a new Audi project intrduced at CES 2016 that combines health data from wearables, like your heart rate and skin temperature, with vehicle sensor data like driving style, traffic, weather conditions, even your breathing rate. The system is designed to crunch all this together to deduce the driver’s state of mind. If there’s room for improvement, the vehicle can optimize the driving experience through seat massage, climate, lighting, and more.
Not sure if/when this will be released, but fascinating nonetheless. Would you want your car to know your vitals?
3 — Embrace Your Daily Commute.
Driving to work 5 days a week is a fact of life for so many of us. If that time spent in the car is inevitable, might as well make the most if it, right?
The Huffington Post article “Commuting Stress: 6 Ways to Enjoy a More Relaxing Daily Commute” offers these 6 tips:
- Take control over your commuting decisions.
- Find enjoyable activities to pass the time.
- De-stress with a “Sounds and Thoughts Meditation.”
- Listen to classical music.
- Use your commute as an opportunity to be more mindful.
All good words of advice. And it got me thinking, if we’re trying to so hard to make commutes more enjoyable, are commutes themselves the issue? Specifically, driving yourself versus public transportation?
Whenever returning to Cleveland from Chicago or New York where I depend on public transportation, I’m always excited to reclaim the freedom that owning a car provides me. Yet I sometimes find myself wishing the public transportation in Cleveland was more robust so I could rely on it for my daily commute.
I stumbled upon this paper, “Commuting and Well-being”, that discusses the merits of both and of commuting overall. What really hit home for me was that automobile transport seems more entrenched in psychology and emotion, while public transportation is more practical and utilitarian.
Compared to public transportation, private transport can encourage feelings of self-esteem, prestige, autonomy, and more. According to the paper, some people even wish they had a longer commute or intentionally drive more than is needed.
Which of these National Relaxation Day tips for drivers appears to you the best? Got any of your own driving relaxation tips up your sleeve?