8 Ways to Enjoy Your Commute!
How to Have a Happy and Productive Journey
Commuting can be a frustrating, stressful experience, especially if you're battling with traffic or being let down by public transport.
It can also take up a big chunk of your day, with the average American commuting for 26 minutes each way, or a combined 29.6 billion hours every year for U.S.'s 140 million commuting workers.
But, with a change in your mindset and a little preparation, your journeys to and from work can be a positive time – a chance for thinking, reflecting, relaxing, or learning new skills.
In this article, we'll look at eight tips for making your daily commute an enjoyable and productive experience.
8 Ways to Enjoy Your Commute
1. Adopt a "Me-Time" Mindset
Some people view their commute as a chore or something they just need to "get through" to do their job. But, this type of thinking can increase stress, negativity, frustration, and resentment.
Try flipping this mindset on its head, and view commuting as valuable "me-time" – an exclusive part of the day where you can do things that you enjoy, pursue personal goals (such as learning a language), or reflecting on your achievements (and the things that you're most thankful for).
Or, you could simply sit there and relax, and let your mind wander. If you drive to work, you could listen to audiobooks, audio courses or downloaded podcasts.
It's likely that most of the people around you on your commute will be a similar situation to you, possibly feeling stressed or frustrated. So try to empathize, and don't let their bad mood bring you down!
Talking on the phone or texting while driving is dangerous, even with a hands-free kit. To stay safe, turn off your cellphone's ringer as soon as you get into your car.
2. Learn to Relax
Using physical relaxation techniques can be very useful for reducing stress during a commute. Such techniques involve focusing intently on relaxing one set of muscles at a time, from top to toe.
For example, start with raising your eyebrows and closing your eyes. Then, open your mouth as wide as possible, hold your arms in front of you and clench your fists, pull your shoulders up toward your ears.
If you're seated, push your thighs together, tighten your abdominal muscles, and curl your toes downwards.
Also, practice deep breathing whenever you start to feel tense or stressed. Instead of just breathing with your ribs, you breathe so that your lower belly expands.
All you need to do is sit comfortably, take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, and focus on what feels like filling your lower belly with air.
You could even try meditating during your daily commute, to calm and clear your mind at the beginning and end of each day. Guided meditation apps can be useful – see our review of Headspace, for example.
Research has shown that listening to classical and "self-selected" music can help you to relax during stressful journeys. However, when on public transport, always listen to music through headphones, so as not to annoy other passengers.
3. Get Active
Regular commuting can have serious health implications, such as elevated blood pressure. However, adding physical activity to your commute is a great way to alleviate these concerns. You get more exercise, feel energized, and decrease your stress levels.
In fact, research has shown that people who walk, bike or run to work are more likely to enjoy their commute, after finding an intrinsic value in their journey.
If you can't bike, walk or run the whole way to work, perhaps you could do part of it instead. For example, could you park several miles away from your office and cycle the rest of the way? Could you get off public transport several stops early and walk or run to work?
4. Watch Your Posture
Pay attention to your posture, and make sure that your back is straight, your shoulders are pulled back, and your feet are flat on the floor. This will help you to avoid any back, neck, or shoulder pain.
When standing, avoid putting all your weight on one foot; this can cause back pain over time. Also, consider using a small pillow to support the small of your back if you sit during your commute, to ease back pain.
Another way to stay healthy, and to make your commute more enjoyable, is to bring water and healthy snacks (such as nuts or fruit) to eat. Hunger and dehydration can make you irritable, and can lead to poor food choices.
5. Get Organized
Rushing your commute is a surefire way to ramp up stress levels and bring on hurry sickness – which is described as the continuous struggle many people feel to accomplish more and more things in less and less time. So, slow down and allow yourself plenty of time to complete your journey.
For example, if your bus or train is often late, consider making the effort to get an earlier one. It might mean arriving at work early, but that's better than being late. And you could use that extra time to collect your thoughts and prepare for the day.
Try to prepare as much as you can the night before (such as things to read or listen to, and what clothes to wear) so there's no "mad rush" in the morning.
Also, if you're always rushing to grab food "on the go," try to get up earlier and have breakfast before you set off for work.
6. Get Things Done
Productive use of travel time can positively affect your attitude. But in the middle of a tough commute, being productive doesn't have to mean "working."
If you want to spend your journey staying up to date with developments within your industry by reading online articles or trade journals, that's great. Also, getting ahead of the working day by sorting emails and thinking about coming meetings can also put you in a more positive state of mind.
If you use public transport to get to work, you could also use the time to look ahead, think about your goals, or decide a plan of action for the day, week, or month.
7. Plan for the Unexpected
However you travel to work, on some days you'll face unexpected or unavoidable delays, and the lack of control this creates can be very stressful.
Working out a couple of alternative journeys will give you options when a delay strikes. For example, you might be able to take a couple of buses instead of a train, or vice versa, or go by a different route if roadworks pop up.
Occasionally, you might want to voluntarily take a different route, or a different mode of transport, to add a bit of variety and interest to your commute.
However, always check that there are no delays or cancellations on your alternative route, and leave yourself enough time to make any bus or train connections.
8. Negotiate Different Hours
Try to negotiate flexible working hours with your boss if commuting continues to be a stressful and unpleasant experience.
Ask whether you can work from home on certain days, or shift your hours forward or backward in the day to avoid the worst of rush hour. Even half an hour could make all the difference.
Commuting can be a frustrating, stressful experience, and can take up a lot of time each day. But, there are ways to make it more enjoyable.
For example, you can enjoy a far better commute when you view it as an opportunity to do something for yourself, take some "me-time," make some plans, or do something physically active.
You could also use your commute to listen to audiobooks or podcasts, or learn something new, or just relax yourself and plan for the working day ahead.