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Hate Your Commute To Work? It’s Probably Because You Have The Wrong Mindset

Hate Your Commute To Work? It’s Probably Because You Have The Wrong Mindset

A huge amount of us have some kind of commute to work each day. Whether it’s by car, train or bus, our commute can sometimes take a large chunk out of our day and studies are showing the greater distance there is between home and work, the more likely you are to feel isolation, have sleep difficulties, stress, emotional problems and general burnout. Whether we realise it or not, our well-being and happiness is taking a massive beating.

Researchers found that each minute spent on commuting is identified with a 0.0257-minute exercise time reduction, a 0.0387-minute food preparation time reduction, and a 0.2205-minute sleep time reduction. An example of what this equates to is someone who commutes for a total of 3 hours a day in their working week for a year, will miss out on half an hour of sleep each day.

How Can You Combat The Commuting Blues?

If you find long commutes don’t affect you that much, it could be because you have a certain trait in your personality that gives you a slightly different mindset: self-control.

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A survey of 225 London commuters found that dissatisfaction and unhappiness in their jobs was high in those who had longer commutes with the exception of those who had self-control as an integrated personality trait.

So what does someone with self-control do that others don’t? Well, they are more likely to spend their time forward planning during their commute. In other words, they ask themselves goal-oriented questions such as: What do I need to get done today? How is this related to the rest of my week? And is this all contributing towards my overall career goal?

The reason this particular mindset works is because, even just done for a few minutes, it allows us to transition much more easily, both psychologically and temporally, from our home life to our work life. By doing this people are less likely to experience stress and general lower well-being in their lives.

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The Biggest Commuting Mistake We Make

Some of us may use our commute to read a book, answer emails, take a nap or just generally space out. While some of what we do may feel like a productive use of our travel time, what we’re fundamentally doing is isolating ourselves from others.

As humans, we are extremely social and during our commute we are surrounded by a lot of people but actively choosing not to interact with them. We’re very used to doing this, especially on a packed train or bus but the solitary and unsociable way we behave is actually very detrimental to our overall well-being.

Have you ever wondered why people stand almost touching arm to arm on crowded transport but never even look each other in the eye? Under normal social circumstances being that close to another person means there’s a social connection but on a commute this is acceptable because we tend to look at people as ‘part of the furniture’ rather than as human beings – this allows us to mentally disengage ourselves from those around us.

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How Can We Help Ourselves To Have A Happier Commute?

Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago says we are using our commuting time all wrong and mistakenly seeking solitude on our way to and from work. What we really need to do is spark up conversations with those around us.

“People tend to think others just aren’t that social and that if you started a conversation it would be unpleasant, but that’s what commuters are getting wrong,” says Epley. “What we learned from our experiments is that the biggest cost to commuting – the unhappiness that shows up in almost every survey you find – can go away just by talking to a stranger.”

It seems starting simple conversations and interactions with your fellow commuters is enough to quell the negative influence that commuting has on our happiness and well-being.

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If you’re thinking that no one ever looks like they’ll welcome a conversation from a stranger, you are wrong. The study Epley and his colleagues conducted showed the average person believes only 40% of their fellow commuters would happily engage in a random conversation with a stranger but, in fact, this actually turned out to be 100%.

It doesn’t have to be an in-depth discussion either – just simply complimenting or making an observational remark could be enough to make a difference to both your journey and someone else’s. So if your commute is causing stress, anxiety, and lowering your mental and physical well-being, it’s either time to seriously re-think your reasons behind such a long commute or simply stop isolating yourself and say hello to the person sitting next to you.

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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