Enjoy Your Commute!

Learning How to Have a Better Journey

Enjoy Your Commute! - Learning How to Have a Better Journey

© iStockphoto
mammuth

Sergio commutes to work for an hour each way on the subway. However, he doesn't see this as wasted time, because he listens to podcasts and reads e-books while he's traveling.

He has also learned to manage the stress that he used to feel while squeezed into a crowded subway car.

Commuting can be a frustrating and stressful experience, but it doesn't have to be like this. With a bit of preparation, your commute can be an enjoyable time that you use to think, reflect, relax, and learn new skills.

In this article, we'll look at how you can improve your travel experience, and we'll explore how you can use your commuting time more productively.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Commuting

According to the U.S. census, eight percent of American workers commute for more than an hour, each way. Around 600,000 of these people commute for more than three hours a day.

In the U.K., average commute times are similar. A typical U.K. worker spends 41 minutes commuting every day, and one out of every 10 workers spends two or more hours commuting.

Many people see their commute as a negative experience, but it's possible to use this time effectively. For example, you can use it to prepare for your day. And you can use your journey home to relax, before spending time with family and friends.

You can also use your commute to do things like learn new skills or entertain yourself, so that you're in a good mood when you arrive at your destination.

Of course, commuting does have its drawbacks. Long commutes can be stressful, negative experiences, if you don't have the right mind-set. A long commute can also lead to weight gain and high blood pressure.

Strategies for Improving Your Commute

Use the strategies below to have a more enjoyable and productive commute.

Change Your Mindset

Some people view their commute as a chore that they must complete to be able to do their job. However, a mind-set like this can increase stress and frustration. It can also lead to negativity and conflict at work.

Try not to view your commute as a negative experience; instead, try to think about it as time that you can use to enhance your skills, reflect on your dreams and achievements, or just relax.

Remember, everyone around you on the highway or in the subway car is in the same situation. Try to feel empathy and compassion if others get in your way. You could also play games in your mind to turn around a bad mood – for example, think of a sincere compliment for every person you see around you, or imagine what might make a person laugh.

Learn to Relax

A 2000 study found that progressive relaxation techniques are great for reducing stress during a commute. This is when you focus intently on relaxing one set of muscles at a time.

First, focus on relaxing your feet and legs. Then, move up your body, concentrating on one area at a time. Pay careful attention to your hands, neck, and back; many people experience tension in these areas during their commute. Practice deep breathing whenever you start to feel tense or stressed.

Studies have also shown that listening to classical and "self-selected" music can help you relax if you find your commute stressful. Make sure that you have some enjoyable music on your car stereo, or on your smartphone.

Get Active

Adding some physical activity to your commute is a great way to get more exercise and decrease stress.

Recent research shows that people who walk, bike, or run to work are more likely to be satisfied with their commute. These people also benefit physically and emotionally from adding activity into their daily routine.

You might not be able to walk or bike for your entire commute; however, you could do for part of it. For instance, you could park your car several miles away from your office and cycle the rest of the way. Or, you could get off the bus or metro several stops early and walk or run to work.

You could also join a gym close to your office. Working out for an hour before or after work will improve your health and lower your stress levels. It may also help you avoid the worst of the rush hour.

Be Productive

Productive use of travel time positively affects your attitude.

Spend your time on a bus, subway, or train staying up-to-date on your industry by reading online articles, trade journals, or magazines. Or, get an early start on your day's work, read blog posts on your smartphone or tablet, catch up on the day's news, make phone calls (as long as you talk quietly!), and brainstorm ideas and solutions to problems.

You can also listen to audiobooks, courses, or podcasts in your car.

Finding This Article Useful?

You can learn another 69 stress management skills, like this, by joining the Mind Tools Club.

Join the Mind Tools Club Today!

Another way to be productive on your commute is to keep a journal. Use your travel time to think about your career goals and achievements, or the things that you're most thankful for. This can help you reconnect with yourself and your dreams, remind you of what you're grateful for, and give you an outlet to relieve stress.

Warning:

Keep in mind that talking on the phone and texting while driving is dangerous, even with a hands-free kit.

The U.S. Governor's Highway Safety Association 2011 report, Distracted Driving, found that cellphone use in a car increases reaction time significantly. The report also found that the risk of crashing is four times greater when using a cellphone. Many countries, states, and regions now ban cellphone use in the car.

To stay safe, turn off your cellphone's ringer as soon as you get in your car, and leave it off until you arrive at work.

Stay Healthy

Many commuters, especially drivers, complain of back, neck, or shoulder pain after a long day. This pain can result from poor posture while standing for long periods with one arm raised (as many people have to do on the subway), or while sitting in uncomfortable seats on a bus or train.

To combat these risk factors, pay attention to how you sit or stand: make sure that your back is straight, that your shoulders are back, and that your feet are flat on the floor. When standing, try not to put all your weight on one foot, which 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; this can ease back pain.

Another way to stay healthy is to bring snacks and water with you for the commute. This is particularly important after work, when several hours have passed since you had lunch. Hunger and dehydration can quickly make you irritable and can lead you to eat poor quality food, so bring healthy snacks like nuts or fruit to eat on your way home.

If you commute by train, subway, or bus, try not to touch your eyes, mouth, or nose during the trip, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds as soon as you reach your destination. These measures will help you avoid picking up bugs from fellow commuters.

Negotiate Different Hours

Negotiate different hours with your boss if commuting continues to be a stressful and unpleasant experience for you. Ask whether you can work from home on certain days, or shift your hours forwards or backwards in the day to avoid the worst of the rush hour.

You'll feel less stressed and happier if you cut down on your commuting time. This can make you more engaged and productive in your work.

Key Points

To make your commute more enjoyable and productive, change your mind-set. Look at your commute as valuable time to get in touch with your dreams and goals, and to learn something new.

To maximize your commute time, listen to audiobooks or podcasts, read books, and stay up-to-date on your industry. You can also use this time to get more exercise, and to relax.

Pay attention to how you sit or stand, make sure that you keep hunger and dehydration at bay, and consider asking if you can change your working hours to avoid busy times.

Rate this resource

Comments (15)
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    Hi csokad,
    Welcome to the Club and thanks for the feedback. Why not come on over to the Forums and introduce yourself. Also, if you ask that question about helping your team tackle a stressful project, you can receive input and ideas from other members. It would be very interesting to hear what ideas comes out.

    The forums are a great place to learn from each other. So, hope to see you around.

    Midgie
    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago csokad wrote
    Hi!
    I really liked the articles,but could you how could you help your team to tackle with a stressful project?
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    Hi fosterortiz and arthurdexter25,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that there are merits and drawbacks with commuting and each individual needs to assess whether it works for them. It would be great to see employers do more to facilitate things such as car sharing to encourage this practice.

    Midgie
    Mind Tools Team
View All Comments