Waze and Headspace Want You to ‘Find More Joy’ While You Drive, Whatever That Means

A photo of a person holding a phone with the Waze logo

Waze and Headspace want you to get into mindful driving.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Driving can be infuriating. As more people get back into the groove of commuting, popular navigation app Waze is teaming up with meditation app Headspace to help you calm the hell down while you’re on the road. Or at least that’s the goal.

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The new Headspace experience on Waze was designed to help “drivers learn how to find more joy and meaning on the road.” It includes a new theme with custom navigation prompts from a mindfulness teacher and a selection of five moods: Aware, Bright, Hopeful, Joyful, and Open. And if you can’t stomach seeing your vehicle as a car icon on the app, you can swap it out for a hot air balloon. Perhaps that’s more soothing.

The idea of “mindful driving” isn’t a new concept. It’s similar to mindful eating and exercise. Mindful driving can help you stay focused and avoid being entranced by what’s playing on the radio. It can help you become more aware of the other elements of driving, too, like the spacing between cars and whether the person to your right looks as if they might be the lane-weaving type.

If you want a preview of what mindful driving will sound like, Waze and Headspace have published a Spotify playlist that you can tune into to get a feel for the program. I quickly shuffled through, and it appears to be primarily ambient tracks with Headspace’s guided meditation prompts interspersed in between. If you like what you hear, you can activate Headspace on Waze from your smartphone through Nov. 1 by tapping the banner in the “My Waze” menu.

A diagram photo from Waze

Waze will prompt you to “activate the experience” in the mobile app once it’s available.
Image: Waze

I’m a California driver, which means that I often return home from my journey needing a minute before I can engage with life in a neutral way. I’ve tried playing lo-fi and chill hop playlists to sooth my road angst but have either ended up getting too sleepy to drive or switching the genre entirely to something more energetic to help me get to the same level as the other wild drivers on the road.

The idea that driving can be as restorative as, say, a mindful yoga session doesn’t sound at all possible for those with a daily commute through rush hour traffic. It’s already a slog having to go through the motions to show up for work every day physically. Add bumper-to-bumper traffic, which is excruciatingly dull, wand you’ll more likely want to listen to a podcast or hyped-up music to pass the time than a meditative playlist.

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This collab seems like Waze’s way of establishing itself as an all-in-one driving solution while helping Headspace expand its offerings. But as a person who used to commute daily through the San Francisco Bay Area, which is ranked seventh in the nation for worst traffic, I can say there is nothing joyful or calming about being on the road for hours at a time. I’m not sure even Headspace can help me there.