Why Is Driving So Fun? The Mental Health Benefits Of Driving A Car

Do you enjoy driving? For some of us it can feel like a real chore and an activity to be avoided at all costs. A lot of people don’t enjoy driving lessons and even once they’ve passed, they never really discover the joy of getting behind the wheel. Others hold no strong feelings either way – they simply see it as a means of getting from A to B.

But there are many people out there who take a lot of pleasure from driving, and studies have shown that it can actually be beneficial for our mental health – especially as we grow older. And further research has found that 62% of people do drive for fun, and not always just to get from one destination to the next.

So just why is driving so fun? Here are a few reasons why the joy of driving remains alive and well.

Why is driving so fun?

A sense of independence

The adrenaline rush

Making memories

A chance to explore

Mental health benefits of driving a car

A sense of independence

80% of those who enjoy driving say it’s because it “gives them independence”.

As has already been touched upon, many people don’t enjoy driving and a lot of that stems from taking lessons growing up. We all remember feeling the pressure of parallel parking, stalling at the traffic lights or finding the biting point on those hill starts. But all of that anger and frustration washed away as soon as you’d passed your test and were able to head out onto the road by yourself, revelling in the sheer driving pleasure.

As a newly qualified driver it’s unlikely you’ll have been cruising around in an Aston Martin or a Ferrari, but that didn’t matter. Whether it was a more practical choice like a used Toyota, a second-hand Mini or a rusty old banger, you didn’t care. What counted was that you were independent, with the freedom to come and go largely as you pleased, offering lifts to friends and discovering exactly why driving is fun.

The adrenaline rush

Adrenaline is defined as “a hormone released in response to a stressful, exciting, dangerous or threatening situation. [It] makes the heart beat faster, increases blood flow to the brain and muscles, and stimulates the body to make sugar to use for fuel.” When you get behind the wheel of a fast car – for example a Porsche 911, a Mercedes-Benz SL-Class or a Jaguar F-Type – hopefully the experience is exciting rather than stressful, dangerous or threatening.

But there’s no denying the science behind the sensation, and that adrenaline rush can make you feel truly alive – Lewis Hamilton has often spoken of the huge role it plays in Formula One. Ok, so you’re unlikely to be tearing around a track at 200mph like the six-time world champion, and you should always be mindful of the rules of the road, but putting your foot down is one of the main reasons why driving is fun.

Making memories

Sometimes, the pleasure of driving is not actually about the act itself, but the experiences we enjoy along the way. 55% of Brits agree that driving with family or friends can be a ‘special experience’.

These days, the best family cars are not only safe and sensible; they offer a certain degree of style and sophistication into the bargain, too. Models such as the VW Golf, the Audi Q7 or the Land Rover Discovery Sport are all fun cars for long-distance driving, meaning you and the little ones can settle in for the ride and relax. Playing games, singing songs and taking regular snack breaks all help to strengthen your bond as a family and you’ll be able to look back in years to come and realise you took great pleasure from driving, even on those long trips.

A chance to explore

The term “Sunday drive” appeared in the 1880s when countries around the world embraced the bicycle. It meant taking a trip for pleasure with no motivation other than enjoying a beautiful day, a spot of sightseeing and a picnic lunch. Such drivers often were called “peacock joy riders”.

There are many people who like driving just for fun, and it doesn’t get much more enjoyable than taking your vehicle off the beaten track and away from the rat race. For the more adventurous souls out there, going off-road is the ideal escape and getting behind the wheel of a Range Rover, VW Touareg or Land Rover Defender can make you feel on top of the world, and not only because of their high driving position.

A huge part of what makes driving fun is the opportunity to explore new places and discover fresh sights and sounds. An off-road vehicle can allow you to do exactly that, and expanding your horizons can help you take further delight in the joy of driving.

Mental health benefits of driving a car

Occasionally, we all need a little ‘me’ time. The psychological benefits of spending time alone are well-documented and driving around for fun is a great way to achieve that. If life is getting on top of you, it’s important to switch off – so why not get out on the open road? Listening to music or a podcast can prove hugely relaxing, or you might prefer to drive in silence to help clear your head.

Scientists found that people who drive for pleasure release higher amounts of a hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone, which counteracts stress. A study from Columbia University, New York, found that not only could driving boost cognitive function, staving off conditions like dementia, but it may also halt the ageing process.

In her book, ‘Drivetime’, Professor Lynne Pearce of Lancaster University reveals that driving facilitates the thinking that may be associated with personal reflection, problem-solving, meditation or the practice of mindfulness.

Of course, you need to be comfortable in order to unwind. The likes of the Mercedes E-Class and the Jaguar XF are renowned for their quality in this regard, but in truth it doesn’t matter what you’re driving. What is important is that you’re driving for pleasure, making time for yourself and taking the chance to escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life.

 

Getting behind the wheel doesn’t have to feel like a chore – by embracing some of the benefits outlined above, perhaps you too can remind yourself why driving is fun.

 

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