What are you thinking about in the car?
That’s a funny question, right? But in this fast-paced world, we rarely have any time to ourselves. Most of us are on responsibility overload, meaning our plates are more than full. From the moment we get up in the morning, to the moment we finally drift off to sleep at night, our minds are going a million miles a minute. Recent studies say that on average, we have over 6,000 thoughts per day…that’s a lot. That’s 250 thoughts an hour. It’s easy to see why we feel overloaded, overwhelmed and mentally fatigued.
If you are anything like me, you don’t have a lot of alone time. Between kids, spouse and co-workers, there’s not a lot of me time. The most “me time” I get on average, is in the car. After school drop-off, on the way to the gym, on the way to work…I’m typically by myself. Just me and…my thoughts.
This realization led me to ask the question, “What am I typically thinking about in the car, when I am alone? What do I spend my time, as I drive, thinking about or contemplating?”
I’ve realized, as I have processed and pondered this question, that what I think about in the car says a good deal about where I am mentally and spiritually. Why do I say this? For this simple fact:
The car used to be the place I would rehash and rehearse all the things in my life I didn’t like; the hurtful thing someone said to me, the event I was negatively anticipating, the scenario or situation I wished I could change. I don’t know how many times I got in the car and immediately allowed my brain to take me down a rabbit hole of negativity. Sometimes, even speaking out loud what I’d like to say to someone. Rehearsing my big powerful line. This never accomplished one single thing. It just made me more and more agitated at whatever situation I was hashing out, (by myself) in the present moment.
As I type this, I think about how ridiculous I must have looked driving along, telling the steering wheel how it was going to be. Geez. Hindsight is always 20/20.
Can you relate? I’m guessing at least most of you can. Often, when we do finally get a moment to ourselves, the mind automatically goes to those negative thought patterns, especially if it’s in the habit of doing so. One thing I have figured out about the mind, from my own experiences and research, is that it will always want to take the path of least resistance. Meaning, whatever it is used to thinking about, it wants to keep thinking about, because this pattern is already established and well rooted. The synapses are already firing and they’re firing hard and strong. To change these thought patterns means work.
It is said that our thoughts determine the way we see ourselves and the world around us. If this is true (and I believe that it is), then shouldn’t we be intentional with our thoughts? Shouldn’t we train our brains to work in a direction of positivity instead of negativity? Shouldn’t we have an awareness of where the mind wants to go when we have these moments of solitude, or really any moments for that matter?
What’s interesting is that we are often completely unaware of the thought patterns we have because they are so deeply engrained in us. We can think in ways that are detrimental to our mental health and reinforce negative beliefs for years and not even know it.
So, the next time you get in the car or the shower, or wherever you tend to be alone in your thoughts, think about this blog. Become an observer of your mind. Observe the thoughts that are rapidly coming in and going out. Are they positive and lifting you up? Are you feeling peace and at ease? Or, are these thoughts dragging you down, making you feel agitated and on edge?
Take mental inventory and if your thoughts are the latter, start doing things to help yourself in this area. Some of my favorite mindful practices that have helped me tremendously include the following:
- Listening to an uplifting podcast or talk while I drive
- Incorporating planned, daily quiet alone time (car or shower does not count!)
Find what works for you and don’t give up! Take control of your thoughts! For me, this is a daily intentional practice that I will do for the rest of my life. If I can do it, so can you!
Drive and shower happy.