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  • The nation’s happy place is behind the wheel this Christmas

The UK's happy place is behind the wheel this Christmas

Dan Powell

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Dan Powell

Driving
  • Christmas is when motorists enjoy driving the most, according to a poll of 3500 drivers
  • One in three believe that using their car has a positive impact on their mental wellbeing
  • New driver survey lifts the lid on the UK's feel good moments behind the wheel

Christmas is when Britain’s motorists enjoy driving the most, according to a survey of 3500 drivers.

Sixty six per cent of drivers who took part in our poll said that getting behind the wheel over the festive period beats any other time of the year, while almost half (45%) say hitting the road is essential to get the most out of the holiday season.

One in two (52%) will go for a leisure drive during the period when roads are typically less busy, while a third (34%) go as far as decorating their cars for the Christmas holidays.

The research has also uncovered a link between driving and positive mental health. One out of every three people (35%) believes that getting behind the wheel has a positive impact on their wellbeing. Two out of five (43%) meanwhile, say that going on a solo drive helps them combat stress.

Curving motorway sunset

The study of 3500 adults found that happiness (38%) is the primary feeling the nation experiences behind the wheel, followed by a sense of calm (30%). One in five (19%) find it exciting while for 13% driving is a source of anxiety. Ten per cent say it makes them feel nervous while it makes 4% angry.

Dr. Megan Barnard, from the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology, is a renowned expert on the link between driving and happiness. Her research has demonstrated that the feeling of control we get behind the wheel is one of the key elements that contribute to a sense of happiness when driving.

She explains: “The act of being in the driving seat has a really significant and immediate effect on our mood. 

“It provides us with the sense that this is an environment that we are fully in control of and comfortable in, which are key factors in contributing to feelings of happiness. 

“By the same token, when we feel most unhappy on the road, that is generally as a result of actions that are beyond our control - primarily other road users.”

Dr. Barnard’s tips for feeling happy behind the wheel

  • Set a goal: We are emotionally driven by the goals we want to achieve in life, and when we do accomplish them - whether that’s getting from A to B, or nailing a three point turn, we feel happier within ourselves
  • Know where you’re going: Plan your route carefully. Getting to your destination in the quickest time possible makes us happier as it lessens the chances of having any stressful encounters on the road
  • Keep calm and carry on: Often when drivers are angry on the road, it is because of the behaviour of another road user. By reminding yourself you are driving responsibly, this will help you feel calmer and happier
  • Be kind to other drivers: Research has shown being considerate to other road users boosts your mood. If you let a driver out of a junction, then that is likely to stick in your mind - providing a happy memory
  • Enjoy the surroundings: When drivers are asked to recall what they enjoy most about their journeys, they often talk about the things they have seen. So take time to make yourself aware of your surroundings when on the road

 

The most feel good moments behind the wheel

Based on a poll of 3500 drivers

Rank

    • 1)
    • 2)
    • 3)
    • 4)
    • 5)

Feeling

    • Driving on an empty road
    • Arriving earlier than thought
    • Smooth reverse park
    • Driving on twisting rural road
    • Gliding onto a motorway from a slip road

Percentage

    • 51
    • 36
    • 21
    • 17
    • 11

Our favourite activities while driving

Top five most popular pastimes when driving

Rank

    • 1)
    • 2)
    • 3)
    • 4)
    • 5)

Activity

    • Listening to music
    • Singing
    • Listening to sports
    • Listening to podcasts
    • Doing nothing

Percentage

    • 70
    • 21
    • 15
    • 14
    • 13

How does driving make the nation feel?

Drivers share their emotions behind the wheel

Rank

    • 1)
    • 2)
    • 3)
    • 4)
    • 5)

Feeling

    • Happy
    • Calm
    • No feeling
    • Excited
    • Anxious

Percentage

    • 38
    • 30
    • 21
    • 19
    • 13

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