5 quick ways to boost your mental health — even from the backseat of a Lyft ride

Dr. Clifton Berwise - May 8, 2024

In 2017, when Clifton Berwise wasn’t working toward his Ph.D. in clinical psychology, he was driving with Lyft. It helped him bring in some extra money but also, he says, gave him “very hands-on experience using my clinical skills.” He would identify stressed passengers and offer a listening, sympathetic ear. 

Today, Berwise is a clinical psychologist for Modern Health. He may not drive with Lyft anymore, but you can still benefit from his in-ride expertise with this quick guide to DIY back-seat mental-health practices. 

Berwise’s quick tips for boosting your mood

1. Set a timer 

Riders often came into the car in a rush. They’re on the go, and that makes sense. But once you’ve sat back, can you set a timer for five minutes for yourself? Listen to your favorite song. If you’ve just gotten off a stressful work shift, like an ER, it is OK to distract yourself — that will help reduce your stress. 

Or do something for your body. Stretching, neck rolls — anything that gets you in your body. Even a ten-minute nap is fine. 

2. Breathe deeply

When people are anxious, they’re in a heightened emotional state and tend to think about worst-case scenarios. If you’re relaxed, you’re able to tap into what I would call your rational mind or your wise mind. Even if you’ve just got a few minutes and you’re feeling anxious, you can always put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach and then take a deep breath, hold for three seconds, and then let it go. Do that for about ten repetitions. That’s a strategy you can do to ground and relax, especially in a quick ride. 

3. Get in touch with your senses

If you have a little more time, a grounding exercise is a great way of centering yourself in the moment. 

Ask yourself: What are five things that you can see right now? It could be inside the car or outside of the window. What are the colors that you see? 

Then, what are four things you can hear? If you need to, ask the driver to turn down or turn off the radio. Do you hear the wind against the window? Do you hear bees outside? 

What are three things you can feel physically on your body? Is it the fabric of your shirt? The armrest? 

Lastly, what are two things you can smell and one thing that you can taste? 

Putting so much focus on what is happening around you allows your nervous system to relax — now you’re not thinking about your concerns of the past or future. You’re just in the moment. 

4. Spark up a conversation — and listen

Some of my best conversations came while driving. And that social connection — having casual conversations, hearing other people’s points of view and thoughts — is vital for us as human beings. But for that connection to happen, work on your listening skills; it’s important to have a conversation with someone instead of talking at someone. 

5. Jot down some reflections

I encourage people to journal as a form of reflection. Not everyone walks around with a pen or a paper, but you can use your notes app on your phone to write down your thoughts. 

Bonus: Record a voice note

Once you get out of the car, take five minutes to record a voice note about how you’re feeling. Even if you don’t revisit it, you can get something off your chest and release some stress or concern or sadness. People underestimate the importance of a release.