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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

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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