In this day and age, we can all use tips on how to keep your brain in shape while driving. This becomes increasingly important as we spend more time than ever behind the wheel. And if we aren’t actually controlling the vehicle, we are sitting in one that is controlled by someone else (subways, buses, etc.).
The problem is that it is incredibly difficult to maintain proper intellectual stimulation and physical activity when we spend large portions of our lives behind the wheel. This can be anything from fatal at worst (considering instances of falling asleep while driving, or blood clots caused by chronic sitting), to unhealthy at best (in terms of mental sluggishness and atrophy).
We zone out and daydream or in a torturous fashion, watch the minutes go by in what seems to be slow motion. So, how do you make that transit time useful and productive for both your mind and your body?
While most of us can’t immediately change our current job/travel situation, we can adopt little tricks to help time pass by more quickly and help keep your brain in shape.
- Focus on Posture, Fresh Air
Driving can be fun, but on long or frequently taken trips, it doesn’t stay interesting for long. Truck driving from state to state, long commutes, or frequent cross-country drives (even flights) are some challenges that, over time, can make you want to fall asleep and become intellectually passive on the job more than anything else.
To help keep your brain in shape and your mind alert, get some fresh air as often as possible (granted, this looks different on a plane or subway, but I will try to only address driving here).
If you’re driving long distances, roll down the windows. Take at least one 10-15 minute standing and walking break every 2 hours to move about and loosen up those limbs!
Keeping your muscles loose by stretching, and your veins full of richly oxygenated blood by rolling the windows down (unless you are in a smoggy city!) is the surest way to keep your brain in shape, well fed and alert.
On top of what you do during your driving breaks, people who spend large portions of their days sedentary, need extra exercise in their free time to ensure that their muscles are staying limber and their blood flow, steady.
- Make Some Form of Mental Exercise a Central Part of Your Life
No matter how “mentally fit” you think yourself to be, it is important to get additional “exercise” when you’re on trips. Human beings are designed to require just as much mental exercise as physical. That’s why people were often physically healthier and more robust when thought provoking manual labor was a regular part of life!
I have heard of people learning new languages, exploring interesting topics, memorizing spiritually significant writings, and becoming better informed employees during their transit time by listening to audio books, conversing with a fellow employee, or practicing their Spanish with audio language tools.
While it may be hard to motivate yourself at first, you’ll go to work the next day with a clear and focused mind—and, who knows, you may find a new hobby or passion! In fact, studies have shown that giving intense mental focus to something (listening to an audio book) while doing an unrelated action (driving) can help keep your brain in shape, boost your ability to multitask, and think deeply.
- Pack Your Lunch (If and When Possible)
While it’s not possible to always pack your lunch instead of eating fast food on the run every day, it is possible to routinely eat well by making healthy choices instead of impulsive ones. When you eat well, your mind can function at its highest level. Eliminate high fat, greasy food like burgers and instead pack nutrient-rich foods (turkey sandwich, salad, vegetables and fruit with your favorite dip) and drink plenty of fresh water to keep your brain in shape and your mind fresh!
- Avoid Sugar
While it may be tempting to stop off for a Snickers bar when you feel sluggish or just plain bored on the road, try to refrain. Being bored in the car can easily make anyone feel tired, and sugar and carb-rich foods are what most people tend to gravitate towards first. However, after that initial sugar rush, you’ll end up more sluggish than when you started.
For a trucker, that means not being as alert as you need to be while driving and for any office worker, less productivity for the rest of the day. Additionally, despite the good advertising, avoid relying on artificial energy drinks such as Red-Bull, Monster, and 5-Hour Energy.
Ethan is a regular contributor for HowToLearn and provides valuable information and insights regarding how to keep your brain in shape while driving.