Feng shui your car for a relaxing ride

Linda Melone

Road rage may become a thing of the past if all drivers followed the latest advice from the Ford Motor Co. regarding ways to feng shui your car. "With the ever-increasing time that consumers spend in their vehicles," the automaker says, "staying relaxed and focused can be beneficial while on the road."

Feng shui refers to the "art of placement," with the belief that organizing objects in a certain manner produces a more relaxed environment. The principles of feng shui suggest that your environment reflects aspects of your professional and personal lives.

Creating calm

Typically, the concept of feng shui is geared toward creating calming atmospheres in homes and offices. In fact, major companies - such as GE, Mercedes-Benz, Eli Lily and Honeywell - hire feng shui specialists to design their offices to boost productivity and reduce stress.

Some of these same principles may be used in your car. "Greater comfort equals better feng shui," says Cathleen McCandless, a certified feng shui consultant whose clients include Mercedes-Benz.

Practical feng shui

Ford's guidelines suggest imagining a life map - or "bagua," as it's formally known in the practice - on the top of your car. Each section of the car represents a different aspect of life, such as health, wealth, family and relationships.

While this may work at home, McCandless doesn't agree with this map for your car.

"A grid on top of your car won't work because it's based on compass points," she says. "Your car is in transit and the directions would constantly change."

As a former scientist, McCandless takes a more practical approach to feng shui. She focuses on the calming effect of elements found in nature. Studies prove that human beings are instinctively soothed by images of nature, McCandless says.

"We, as a species, have lived in the natural world far longer than we've lived in manmade surroundings, so we are hard-wired to respond to the natural environment and the materials from it," she says.

For example, when McCandless worked with Mercedes-Benz, she suggested the automaker add wood accents to the vehicle interior, including the steering wheel. The brain positively perceives wood, since it's from nature, McCandless says.
Part of feng shui includes eliminating stress as much as possible, McCandless says.

"When human safety and comfort needs are met in any space, including automobiles, people relax, enjoy themselves more and are more capable of paying attention to the task at hand — in this case, driving," she says.

In addition to looking for a car with wood accents, other tips for good car feng shui include:

1. Keep up with repairs and maintenance. "Being safe reduces stress," McCandless says.
2. Keep it clean inside and out. "The number one enemy in feng shui is clutter - no matter where you are," Catherine Hilker, a Detroit feng shui consultant, says in a Ford news release.
3. Buy it in a color you love. "In feng shui, color is very important," Hilker says. "Choose a car color that balances your personality. For example, fiery Type A individuals can choose a water element color like black to calm down -- and perhaps avoid tickets."
4. Make sure the seat is ergonomically correct and supports your lower back.
5. Play soothing music; avoid talk radio and heavy metal.
6. Don't add artificial scents to the car. That can accentuate the unpleasant scent of the car's manmade materials.
7. Repair any chipped or cracked windows.

Peaceful precautions

Using a few feng shui principles - or any calming precautions at all - in your vehicle may help keep you on the good side of your insurer. Any tactic that reduces stress can control aggressive driving, which add points to your driving record and lead to higher auto insurance premiums.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's defines "aggressive driving" as a combination of moving violations that "endanger other persons or property" - such as speeding, tailgating and unsafe lane changes.

In addition to affecting your insurance, this dangerous behavior on the road can result in a car accident. If you are determined to be at fault, an accident can increase your car insurance rates by 10 percent to 20 percent, says Billy Van Jura, an insurance broker in New York.