How to make the most of your time when commuting?
One in ten Brits commute at least over two hours a day statistically. It is researched that commuting isn’t great for your health; mind and body and it has been linked to a 40% increase in divorce Mark Ekghari, Forbes contributor says in his article ‘A long commute could be the last thing your marriage needs’.
A few years back I had to commute through central London to get to North London to a charity I was working in. I’ve always hated commuting and crowds and have thus consciously avoided working centrally at all cost.
This was only a three times a week project but by the time summer and it’s heat had arrived I was having little panic attacks just with the thought of having to wait, surrounded by huge crowds of people, in the area of Waterloo where they cattled crowds of people before letting them down to the hot and jammed Jubilee line trains due to fears of overcrowding.
My body was feeling so uncomfortable with the heat, crowds and small spaces that my mind also started to go into overdrive and create catastrophizing scenarios which were unlikely yet a possibility in London.
My initial reaction was to distract myself from the situation I was in by listening to music, reading or planning my week but those moments when the tube stopped and waited in the tunnel; lights flickering, sweat dripping from my face, the air-conditioning blowing hot air , for what it seemed like hours, my mind many times raced to a state that could have escalated into a full blown panic attack had the train not moved and we reached the station.
So I decided to find a different route to get to my destination by cycling to my nearest station that took me overland to North London. Not only was it more human friendly it was also cheaper and amazingly my cycle ride took me via beautiful Richmond Park in the mornings and afternoons and didn’t entail hot underground journeys. Unsurprisingly my misery improved instantly.
Do you suffer from an unpleasant commute? Here are some tips you can take to make your commute more enjoyable.
Change what you can
If you can’t swap your lengthy commute for a shorter one consider looking into alternative routes that enable you to go through nature or at least be outside. We all know the calming and centring powers nature has on us (research shows having more trees in a neighbourhood reduces depression). Walk to the next train stop or bus stop and start your commute from there. Even little bit of exercise each day helps with our bodies and minds and adds up to your one hour exercise recommendation for the day. Benefits all around.
Mindful over mindless
Research has found that taking the initiative in a situation, like planning your day/week/month ahead and setting goals or revising your goal in a situation where we feel we are out of control or can’t escape makes us happier than watching mindless TV or playing video games to pass the time.
Be in the now
This is an interesting one. Oliver Burkeman talks about this in his book 'The Antidote: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking.' Trying to remove yourself from the situation of a commute and the smelly armpit in your face or someone standing too close to you, he says it is better not to block it all out as it causes extra annoyance as all the annoying stuff that is happening around you is a reminder or intrusion into reminding you that you are stuck.
Do relaxing stuff
Oliver Brukeman also suggests not to do any work on your commute but to do stuff that is relaxing. This is your time before work - what can you do to make the most of this position you cannot do anything about? Oliver Burkeman suggests writing, reading and sketching to pass the time.
Whenever I'm commuting or in a long queue I always carry a book or something I'm working on with me, that I’m passionate about or that uplifts my spirit or educates my mind and enables me to look at work with fresh eyes. People write their books on a commute and set up businesses before they go to work. If it is your passion and fun in your eyes, do it. What will you do?
Big thank you for reading my article.
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