Most people don’t enjoy commuting to and from work. The minutes spent idling on the highway, the last minute gas station stops before your morning meeting, spilling coffee down your shirt!
For those of us forced behind the wheel each morning, there has to be a better way to spend those minutes than stressing about the day ahead. Luckily, commute time can also be used as impactful alone time, maybe one of the only times you get to be alone all day. Turn stress into stress relief.
Be intentional about what you do during your commute to and from work with these easy tips. Here’s how:
Practicing meditation on your commute is a great way to set a positive tone for the workday ahead. While this can be particularly difficult for those who have overly-anxious minds or those utilizing public transportation to get to work, there are methods to finding mindfulness and inner peace at this critical part of the day.
There are many different types of meditation, perfect for different types of people. Start by meditating a few minutes before you leave the house–this can be as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths or a moment of silence in bed before you get up or as you sip on your morning coffee. Not only will this bring you a sense of calm, but it’s a good way to focus and ensure you drive safer. Meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm are great resources for beginners or those who just want a little more guidance. They have diverse levels of structure, from breathing technique and guided prompts.
Once you get in the car (or on the bus or on the train), take a moment to establish your posture. On your commute, pop your earbuds in or sync your phone to your car speakers so you can ride along with the app. Another alternative is to listen to meditative music or use noise-canceling headphones that can create a tranquil bubble and block out the distracting world around you.
Listen to Positive Influence Podcasts
Most commuters travel at the same time, making that hour or so in the morning extra busy and stressful. Change your mindset so that instead of this chunk of time feeling like a waste, it can be a time to learn and live a healthier life. Listening to a podcast will help your brain focus on relaxing and let the surrounding traffic and people melt away.
Holding Space by Dr. Cassidy Freitas is a great podcast that breaks down the scary barrier to mental health and therapy by sharing stories and connections of the human experience. Selfie is another helpful podcast that explores topics like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and balancing the body, mind, and spirit.
You’ll learn something new every time you tune-in during this time of the day which will help you look forward to your commute, instead of despising it. iPhones and Android phones both have built-in apps that let you download and save podcasts to listen to whenever you’d like, making them accessible both in the car or on a train that may lose service.
Use the time for Self-care
Another great use of this time is to practice self-care. Often times, our own feelings and mental state of being get pushed back behind the needs of work, family, and friends.
If you take a bus, train or subway, start by packing a journal that you can write in every day on your commute. The act of writing is mindful and meditative without actually meditating. Ask yourself to write out a list of everything you’re grateful for if you don’t know where to start. You’ll find that the pen takes over as soon as you start to let go and be honest with yourself.
Remind yourself what is truly meaningful to you in life and let your brain clear of all the clutter to come in the rest of the day. Other things to note are simply a to-do list, goals for the week, long-term goals, and even just daydreams. Physically releasing onto a piece of paper is therapeutic by having yourself let go of emotions but could also help you gain a new perspective on your life and what you want.
If you drive to work, take advantage of the voice-recording app found on iPhones and Androids to record your thoughts and feelings. You can also take advantage of this time to reach out to your loved ones–write them an email or text about how much they mean to you and wish them a good day. If available, call them up while commuting to check in. This is both a productive and relaxing use of commute time.
Do What Brings You Joy
Depending on how you commute to work, pack or download a great book for your commute that you can read as a distraction from everything going on around you. Chances are you’ve memorized your commute down to the minute, so you’ll have no trouble getting to work on time (instead of getting lost in the story).
Bring along a pen to highlight favorite passages that you can return to later in the day if things become overwhelming.
Adult coloring books are also super fun and are known to help reduce anxiety. If you can find a seat on a train, break one of these out and let your stress levels decrease as you color away.
And finally, there’s nothing like turning up the sound system on your favorite song. Listening to music can help boost your mood, to create a specific playlist to turn on while commuting. Add songs that are upbeat, loud, and fun for your trip to work, and more mellow, calm songs for your trip home to help you unwind. These songs can be your anthems (instead of an annoying alarm clock) and help you head into work with a positive attitude.
And there you have it. The next morning you hop in your car to head to work, try one of these surefire ways to get in the zone for your big day ahead. What are some ways you’ve turned your commute into quality time with yourself?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Casteris is an avid writer and explorer of all things travel, mindfulness, and financial health. You can find more of her work in her portfolio