We spend a lot of time in our cars, but most of the time its haphazard, ad hoc and discombobulated. American drivers spend an average of more than 17,600 minutes — or about 293 hours — behind the wheel annually, according to a new survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. All told, it adds up to about seven 40-hour work weeks each year behind the wheel.
But what if we made car time less neglectful—and more intentional? What if instead of feeling driven, we made driving fun? Think of it as your office on wheels. Ready to spiffy it up? Here’s how.
1. Sit tall
They key to enjoying driving is good posture. Make sure the car seat back has you sitting as straight as possible so your arms are parallel to the steering wheel. As far as seat position, according to yourmechanic.com, ensure your legs are parallel to the ground when sitting and when the brake pedal is fully depressed, your legs should still have a bend in them of about 120 degrees. Finally, if you don’t have built in lumbar support, add it yourself. You can find several varieties of lumbar cushions and props that make sitting straight easier.
2. Pimp your ride
A messy car, just like any form of chaos, can trigger stress. Throw out trash regularly, including the bottles and bits of paper that accumulate in the car. You might want to invest in seat covers, a car trash can and other accessories that help bring order and harmony to your vehicle.
3. Deploy the crumb police
Food spills—that means you, unidentified substance at the bottom of the cup holder—quickly grow bacteria and possibly mold. Spray and wipe with a nontoxic cleanser on a regular basis. Vacuum regularly, dust monthly, including high touch places such as wheel, door handle, and gearshift. Keeping good car hygiene will make you feel better, especially when you are stuck in traffic and steering at the interior.
4. Clear the air
Instead of trying to cover funky smells with phthalate-packed artificial air fresheners, which can throw our hormones out of whack, consider using essential oils while on the road. To spread the smell, you can buy a car oil diffuser online. For a cheaper, DIY version, try attaching a cotton ball to a safety pin. Place a few drops of a natural, quality brand essential oil onto the cotton ball, then put the safety pin through the car vent to attach.
If you want to take it a step further, create a diffuser than can hang from your rearview mirror. Purchase a small piece of wool felt from a local craft store (you can also use a wool dryer ball). Shape the felt into a small, satchel-like ball and tie the top with string, including a loop for hanging. Then, drip your favorite essential oils directly onto the felt every week or so and inhale the goodness.
Here’s a cheat sheet of the best essential oils for common driving ailments.
Road rage: Frankincense, rosewood, pine. ylang ylang, bergamot.
Drowsiness: peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, lemongrass.
Car sickness: ginger, orange, peppermint, cardamom.
Lack of focus: cinnamon, bergamot, lemon, patchouli, clary sage.
5. Find your groove
Politics and abrasive talk radio can provoke the fight or flight response, or worse, road rage. If your goal is calm, cool and collected, aim for mind-expanding podcasts (I like On Being, This American Life, and Mars Patel for the 12 and under set). Or make a playlist of your favorite tunes that you can belt out at the top of your voice.