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Why You Just Can't Stop Texting and Driving
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.: Mon, Jun 4th 2012
For some neurological reason, there is something really attractive to many of us about sending a message while we're driving. Is it because the pressure is so high to be productive that we can't wait? Is it because we're unaware of the dangers? Is it because we've lost our ability to just wait a few moments later to communicate? Certainly there was a time before even cell phones and computers where people just drove and communicated when they were able, so we know it's possible.
A greater question is, why are we so willing to increase the probability of getting into a accident when the result could be severe injury or death? The simple fact is, if you text while driving, you're attention is diverted from the cars around you, and you are less likely to react when someone puts on their breaks or changes lanes without seeing you. Simply put, you are at higher risk of hurting or killing yourself or others.
I believe the answer lies in our brains dopamine reward system. Somehow sending messages, receiving messages or even the thought of messages kicks the dopamine reward system into place and it takes over our brains just like it does with addiction. It’s as if the choice to do something different is barely there.
There is always the voice that runs through our heads, "it's not going to happen to me," until it does. Many states have already banned texting while driving, but it's very difficult to actually enforce.
Here's a little something to step into The Now Effect and break the habit:
When you get in the car, allow this trip to be an opportunity to begin investigating the feeling that occurs prior to picking up the phone or text. What I mean is see if you can notice the thoughts and feelings that arise, or even the physical gesture to pick up the phone. Notice if you are more likely to pick up this phone when the little red light blinks or a sound that you've received a text message has signaled.
See if you can just be aware of this feeling and become intimate with it. The fact is, from thoughts come actions and from actions come consequences. It's your thoughts and feelings that are driving your actions. With awareness, you now have a choice to respond intentionally. In other words, let driving be an opportunity to get to know yourself a little bit better so you can live life on your terms, not from a place of auto-pilot.
Why wait until the end of life to become more mindful, let's start now, we must just save a life or two.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.