For most of us, especially living in metropolitan cities, daily office commute has become a necessity than a choice. You have to drive the same stretch of road every day, up and down, all getting bored sitting in one seat. This does mean your mind starts to wander away. You lose full concentration sometimes, might drift away from the drive path momentarily before you regain control. But you ignore and keep going. This is daydreaming and is actually a risky exercise which must be minimised.
What is daydreaming?
Daydreaming is a very normal natural phenomenon which occurs to everybody. Do not think that better driving skills means that individual is always alert. Everybody does it and it’s only natural. The human brain is blasted upon with millions of sensations a second. Your brain prioritises the most important ones and approves them to become conscious. Just as details in your peripheral vision only become visible when they act or move. This is the safe working of your brain so as to avoid an overload of senses. The problem arises due to the fact that the brain has a narrower span of attention. The new surround sound television at home you bought recently could distract you for a time span long enough to become dangerous, especially while driving. But this is how the brain works remember, so daydreaming can only be minimised, not eliminated.
How is it dangerous?
While you drive and daydream, you feel that you are totally aware of the surroundings but be out of conscious contact with it. You are looking at stuff, but you may not necessarily be seeing it. Sometimes you snap into sudden consciousness while driving on a long stretch of road. This is so effective that you may not even remember parts of the trip you’ve just driven through. Not to scare you, but your subconscious mind takes over when your conscious mind wanders off. Thanks to a quick reactive system, an emergency situation jolts you back full awareness. However, your reaction time and sense of perception will suffer when you're not paying full attention, which is the risky bit.
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A few steps will help you stay focussed:
- Try to keep your eyes in constant motion. Bring a change in your gaze every couple of seconds. Any longer than that means you now tend to stare, which induces mind wandering and a narrower peripheral vision. And do not think your eyes will get tired as they were designed to keep in motion.
- Keep imagining ‘what if’ scenarios in your environment ahead. Imagine current situation of the oncoming traffic in your head and predict their movement. This constant visualisation will feed your subconscious mind with valuable data to reprogram your brain for your benefit. This could provide you better accident-evasion plans than the one you've imagined should a similar event actually happen.
- Chewing and munching on crunchy foods keeps you alert. If you are not comfortable with that, trying popping a chewing gum in your mouth as an alternative. The constant jaw movement will surely keep you alert at most times.
- Whenever possible, try using different routes for the same commute. The same route over and over again makes the drive boring, and your mind becomes more susceptible to go adrift when it faces the same repetitive situations.
Daydreaming is a very natural phenomenon for humans and everybody experiences it. But what is required from you is to keep your guard up and be prepared for any eventualities. This phenomenon will catch you off guard if you stop paying attention or take steps to avoid it.