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BE: Traffic Meditation

Commuting is not easy. Few things are worse than having to get up early, encounter unexpected traffic, and lose precious time, all while the genius in the left lane is driving 15 mph under the speed limit. Most likely, you can feel your blood boiling, as you grow more and more irritable with every passing minute. These daily stressors add up, and as you can imagine, a long, traffic-filled commute can take a fairly serious toll on your mental and physical wellbeing.

Why is this? Research shows many associations between long commutes, (those over 10 miles either way) and increased risk of certain disease, and higher blood pressure. You may have heard recently that sitting is slowly killing Americans. Those scientists were not just referring to sitting at your desk. The truth is that even people who exercise are not immune to this effect. Sitting and prolonged periods of sedentary behaviors are associated with poor health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

In addition to the increased risk in physical damage, you might inadvertently spiral into a negative whirlpool of emotions. It’s often hard to coach ourselves out of a bad mood, especially one aggravated and reinforced by sitting on a highway resembling a parking lot. The inability to compartmentalize these negative thoughts and emotions means they can bleed out to other areas of our lives, including personal relationships and career.

Although you’re probably hoping for a new plague to wipe out the majority of commuters (and who could blame you?); consider using the time you spend fluently cursing under your breath (or loudly) to your advantage. Use your traffic time to focus on self-preservation and meditation. We know you cannot get out of your car to stretch your legs while in gridlock, but you can step away from the traffic mentally, and exercise your mind.

If you’ve ever wanted to try meditation, but don’t have a dimly lit room, sandalwood incense or a yoga mat, you’re in luck. Driving is the perfect time to practice mediating because you’re already doing something familiar. This simple meditation just requires you to be present and grateful in your driver’s seat.

Commuters Meditation:

Prepare by taking a few deep breaths, slowing down inhales and exhales to a three to five second rhythm. Notice the feeling of the air rushing into your nose and exiting out the mouth. Seal the lips and continue with the slow breath, inhales and exhales solely through the nose. Notice the body, your weight in your seat, the feeling of your hands on the steering wheel. If (when) someone decides to cut you off, just acknowledge the thought and let it pass. In fact, do this with any thought that might enter the mind. Focus on the breath and on the feeling of your inhales and exhales.

Ah, wasn’t that nice? It is really that deceptively simple. Give it a try—you will definitely thank yourself, and your body will too!

Please remember to obey all traffic laws and keep your eyes on the road.

Want to learn more about mediation? Explore NMCSD’s Mind-Body-Medicine: NMCSD Mind Body Medicine Site