8 ‘Rules of the Road’ for Better Mental Health

I drive to and from work five days per week and I have well over a half million miles as a driver under my belt since learning to drive as a teenager. Over the years, I’ve certainly seen my share of both good and bad driving behaviors. And yes, I’ve been in a handful of minor fender-benders (and that one time when I almost drove up under an eighteen-wheeler on the interstate).

Lately, for whatever reason, I’ve become more aware of the all too frequent discourteous and often downright unsafe behaviors out there on the road. As I’ve reflected on several of these common driving behaviors, I think they also offer us some life lessons for better relationships and improved wellness. So, here are my top eight ‘rules of the road’ for better mental health:

1) Slow down

I may sometimes drive a few miles above the posted speed limit, but I’m constantly passed by folks who are going way, way faster, often at seemingly breakneck speeds. There are several benefits from slowing down on the highway and in life, including reduced tension, increased relaxation, and greater appreciation for the journey. Or as Eddie Cantor said, “Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”

2) Yield the right of way

It’s far too common for other drivers to not yield the right of way at four-way stop signs and other intersections. Due to inattention or carelessness, they will often proceed out of turn through the intersection, wreaking all sorts of havoc. Both on the road and in life, remember to be fair and courteous and learn how to be patient and wait your turn without taking advantage of others.

3) Use your signals

When you don’t use your turn signals, people don’t know how to anticipate which way you are heading and this can cause accidents. Just as you should use your signals on the road, let people know your intentions and plans in other life circumstances so they can see where you’re headed. Then they can be in a better position to either stay out of your way or to offer assistance if you need it or request it.

4) Keep some distance

It’s very uncomfortable when someone follows too closely and rides your bumper. Remember to respect others’ personal space both on the road and in your personal interactions with them. This can include not only physical proximity but also respecting others’ privacy and time, as the situation warrants.

5) Stay in your lane

Lots of drivers will veer into your lane or suddenly cut over in front of you without warning. This is not only dangerous, it’s scary and can lead to disastrous outcomes. Whether we are driving or negotiating personal situations, we need to learn to be less impulsive, and to stay in our ‘lane’ without suddenly cutting someone off.

6) Follow directions

Even with GPS, old-fashioned maps or verbal directions, it’s still easy to get lost, particularly if we don’t carefully follow the directions (or if we think we can get to our destination without any). While behind the wheel and while navigating life’s challenges, remember to be planful and to chart your course in advance. Once you embark on a specific journey, pay attention to the landmarks and signposts along the way so you can reach your desired destination safely without getting off course.

7) Come to a complete stop

Seems like everyone rolls through stop signs or runs red lights on a regular basis, putting numerous other drivers at risk for accidents. Just as you need to stop fully at a stop sign or red light, it’s often healthy to stop during your daily routine. Take a deep breath, reflect, and make sure you’re on the right path for the day.

8) Pay attention

We’ve all read about the many documented hazards of distracted driving, from accidents to fatalities. Far too many of us are talking, texting or just not paying attention while behind the wheel. It’s important to maintain focus on the road to get to your destination efficiently and safely. Similarly, in life, focus on your primary goals to make sure you can achieve your desired outcomes.

I hope these ‘rules of the road’ might help all of us both be safer and more courteous drivers, as well as giving us some simple strategies to better navigate common situations with friends, family and others we encounter in our daily lives.

Here’s a question: What are some other ‘rules of the road’ you have found that help you focus and meet your personal goals? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!

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