Why and How to Use Meditation to Beat Driving Anxiety

MeditationYou may have heard murmurs that meditation can be a marvelous way to alleviate stress and help beat driving fears and driving anxiety. You heard right. But you may also be under the impression that meditation is some mysterious practice that is reserved for monks, yogis and people who have hours on end to spend chanting in a dark room with incense wafting through the rafters.

There you’ve heard wrong.

Why You Want It

Meditation can be and probably should be used by everyone, at least it should be if we’d prefer a world of calm, level-headed and even serene people rather than one chock full of chaos. Although the average Joe or Jane can benefit from regular meditation practice, it can be especially helpful for those suffering from mental health issues and disorders.

“Stress management techniques and meditation can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and may enhance the effects of therapy,” according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.

Numerous studies back up the benefits of meditation, such as the one in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity and another in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Both studies looked at mind-based stress reduction (MBSR), which is a specific meditation technique you can learn more about in our Mindfulness or MBSR for Treating Anxiety post. Both showed MBSR to be incredibly helpful for reducing stress, one by alleviating loneliness and its related health risks and the other by decreasing negative emotions.

Meditation that does not fall into the MBSR category can also be helpful for decreasing stress and increasing focus, as noted in our focus post. Ready to give it a whirl to help your driving anxiety?

How to Start It

Beginning a meditation practice is not a tough task at all. In fact, three easy steps can get you started.

  1. Find a meditation spot. The spot should be quiet, devoid of distractions and include a chair or pillow on which you can sit comfortably with your back straight and your head in a neutral position.
  2. Set a timer. Start small with a session for about five minutes. Work your way up to greater lengths as you become more comfortable sitting still.
  3. Close your eyes and begin. Exhale deeply through your mouth, counting to six in your head.  Inhale just as deeply through your nose, counting to three. Make sure your breathing lets your diaphragm do its full job, expelling all the air out of the deepest crevices of your belly and inhaling just as deeply. This deep breathing and counting will help you focus only on your breath, which is exactly where you want your mind to be. Continue to breathe deeply and count until the timer goes off. Then congratulate yourself for a meditation well done.

Any meditation is well done, simply because you’re doing it! Even if you have one of those days where your mind is louder than a dump truck, sitting quietly in meditation can let you relax as the thoughts scurry and scramble through your brain. The trick is not to grab on to them or follow them. Just let them flow like the incense through the rafters. Remind yourself you are a human being, not a human doing. So sit there and be. The incense, of course, is not mandatory but it certainly adds a soothing touch.