According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the average one-way commute time is 26.1 minutes. If you commute five days a week, that amounts to 4.35 hours a week or nearly nine days a year. And if you live in a large metropolitan city, your travel time to work may often involve gridlock and lots of aggravated, aggressive drivers. Inevitably, this means that you are likely going to encounter a situation that provokes feelings of anger from time to time.
Research indicates that the situations that are most likely to provoke anger for drivers are those that allow the driver to blame other drivers for the delay (Stephens & Groeger, 2014). Specifically, a perceived discourtesy from others such as driving too closely, someone cutting in front of you, or a driver stealing a parking spot frequently elicits the highest level of driver anger (Stephens et al., 2018). Ways of expressing this anger may include blowing the horn and even chasing another driver down with the intention of some sort of retribution. This type of behavior is commonly known as “road rage”. Many of you are probably saying I would never do that. But, I bet if you were honest, you would admit that you do occasionally feel angry, even if you choose not to do anything about it. To make this situation worse, we also tend to hold an inflated positive view of our own driving in comparison to other drivers (Groeger & Grande, 1996).
Recently, there has been an interest in exploring mindfulness as a means to help drivers adopt a more adaptive, and less angry or aggressive focus while driving. A recent study of 309 active drivers found that individuals with higher levels of mindful attitudes tended to experience lower levels of anger across driving situations and less aggressive expression of anger driving (Stephens et al., 2018).
TRY THIS THE NEXT TIME YOU FEEL IRRITATED
Whether you use mass transit for your daily commute or drive yourself, the next time you start to feel irritated or notice anger start to arise, why not take this time to:
Take a few slow breaths noticing the tension in your body.
As you take these breaths, take note of the areas where you tend to hold tension, such as in your neck and shoulders.
Visualize with each breath that you are releasing this mounting tension and soothing this internal irritation.
You may even want to tune into some relaxing, soothing music.
Or, turn your attention to other drivers and consider what challenges they may be having and wish them well. Maybe it’s a single mom rushing home to pick up her children from day care or someone who has received some bad news. Then consider how fortunate you are and take a moment to consider all that you are grateful for.
Admittedly, we all feel a little self-righteous and outraged when another driver does something to cause us to have a near-miss accident or to slow down our progress. But I assure you, if you take the course of relaxing into this feeling, instead of allowing it to overtake you, you will arrive at your destination in a much better state of mind. To help make your next commute much more enjoyable, we have attached one of our many practices that you can use during your commute.
Groeger, J. A., & Grande, G. (1996). Self-preserving assessments of skill? British Journal of Psychology, 87(1), 61–97.
Stephens, A. N., & Groeger, J. A. (2014). Following slower drivers: Lead driver status moderates driver’s anger and behavioural responses and exonerates culpability. Transportation Research Part F: Trafﬁc Psychology and Behaviour, 22, 140–149.
Stephens, A. N., Koppel, S., Young, K. L., Chambers, R., & Hassed, C. (2018). Associations between self-reported mindfulness, driving anger and aggressive driving. Transportation research part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 56, 149-155.