I admit it. I am a distracted, impatient driver when stuck in traffic and stopped at red lights. Sometimes I even forget I am still in my car. My kids know it, too, as they often remind me to “stop checking your phone, the light just turned green!” It is time for me—and many other parents—to change. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use (including texting) leads to a quarter of all motor vehicle crashes. We all want our children to be as safe as possible, so we need to start paying closer attention to the road by practicing mindful driving.



My typical driving routine involves waiting in carpool lines and idling at one traffic light after another. During this time, I feel bored and stressed. I wish that I was doing something more productive, so I grab my phone and respond to emails, check the news and scroll through my Facebook feed.

There is a much healthier way to fend off the boredom and stress during stop-and-go driving.


Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in the moment in a non-judgmental way. By incorporating mindfulness into our daily driving routine, we become more focused, relaxed and effective throughout our day.



Whether you are alone or have a car full of kids, you can practice these mindful driving techniques before you depart, while you are driving and when you are stopped in traffic.


  1. Before Driving

In order to start your travels in the right frame of mind, try a few simple steps before you even back out of your driveway.


  • Start by getting into the car and acknowledging your intention to be mindful during your drive.
  • Take a few deep breaths to calm your body and mind.
  • Once buckled up, become aware of your body as you sit quietly. Feel your hands on the steering wheel, your body on the seat and your foot on the pedal. Are you hot or cold? Are you tired or energetic? Are you calm or anxious?


  1. While Driving

Adding mindfulness to your driving routine is simple. The idea is to become continuously aware of your body, what you see, and what you hear so that you remain mindfully present as you drive. First, notice how your body feels. Are your hands clenched tightly to the steering wheel? Are you hunched over? Is your leg getting tired from pushing the pedal? Next, notice what you see through your windshield and in your mirrors. Finally, become aware of the sounds you hear as your drive. Are they soothing, irritating or distracting?


Do your best to stay present for the entire ride, knowing that it is normal for your mind to wander. You will be tempted to check your phone or start worrying about your to-do list. When this happens, deliberately pull yourself back to the present moment.


  1. When Stopped

Being stopped can be a major source of stress and frustration when we are trying to get to our destinations on time. Try using these tools to keep your cool and return to a mindful state.


  1. Listen To Your Children: Make it a point to talk to them when you are stopped at a light. You can even create a game out of these special mindful moments by asking them a question and directing them to answer it in one sentence before the light turns green.


  1. Taillight Meditation: Ronald Siegel, author and assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, suggests drivers practice a taillight meditation while sitting behind other cars. Simply focus on the colors and shapes of the taillights in front of you while remaining relaxed and alert.


  1. Red Light/Stop Sign Deep
    Instead of getting angry and frustrated that you are stuck at a red light or stop sign, smile at it and thank it for helping you return to the present moment. Take these opportunities to practice deep breathing.


  1. Soak In Nature: Driving gives us the opportunity to see new places and enjoy our surroundings. When you are stopped, look around and savor nature’s beauty. Notice the luscious trees, colorful flowers and ever-changing clouds in the sky. Nature provides so many health benefits to us, offering peace and comfort that can’t be found in any artificial environment.



When we are relaxed and focused in the car, our children are safer. Try adopting these fun mindful driving techniques the next time you hit the road.


Sandi Schwartz is an award-winning environmental author and freelance journalist.

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