On average, we spend over a year of our lives getting to and from work. That’s over 13,000 hours that we will spend stuck on a crowded train, struggling to ignore people blasting their music and clenching our fists when the person sitting opposite us whips out a stinky tuna sandwich.
We spend a huge amount of time commuting, and it’s time to start making the most of it, but you don’t have to complete the world’s hardest crossword puzzle or slog through the entirety of War And Peace to accomplish something on your journey.
Here are 7 easy ways to make the most of your commute:
Meditating is one of those things we know we should do but sometimes struggle with — a bit like drinking more water, eating more broccoli or spending less money on overpriced coffee. Luckily, your journey to work opens the doors to another journey towards a calm and focused mind. Just 10 minutes on your morning train can transform your mindset for the day, helping you to feel more focused, energized and ready to take on whatever the day throws at you.
I use the app ‘Calm’ to do my morning meditation, and it honestly does transform my day. The app contains an entire section on commuting, and the meditation times vary from 2 to 90 minutes, so there is something to suit even the shortest of journeys. Calm also includes meditations for anxiety, gratitude, and a deep sleep.
Meditation has a whole host of benefits, and your daily commute is the perfect opportunity to take 10 minutes for yourself, and see how it impacts the rest of your day.
2. Start a gratitude journal
Writing down the things in your life to be thankful for (no matter how small!) can lower stress levels, increase empathy and improve sleep, among so many other benefits. A good place to start is to simply write down 3 good things about your day. It only takes 5 minutes, and it can help you feel so much more appreciative of what you have.
Gone are the days of getting frustrated because someone bought the wrong milk. When you welcome gratitude into your life, you will start to see the best in difficult situations, while also appreciating the good things in life – a good cup of tea or the sun on your face in the morning. Gratitude makes us happier, healthier and just a general dream to be around!
3. Learn a language
I’m sure many of us were forced to learn either French, German or Spanish at school and, if you’re like me, these lessons were the definition of hell. Hours slogging away at French grammar that will still be useless to me when I do finally visit France isn’t the most rewarding of tasks.
Now, thanks to podcasts, language apps and YouTube, there are so many ways to start learning a new language and your commute is the perfect time to get started. My favourite app is DuoLingo, and I also listen to the News In Slow Spanish podcast.
Let’s face it; the British don’t have a great track record when it comes to language learning, so let’s forget the ‘everyone else speaks English excuse’ and start practising. Not only is it extremely rewarding, but you might even be able to bargain and get better deals if you visit the countries whose language you can speak. Add in being able to chat to locals while challenging Britain’s reputation as terrible language learners and you’ve got yourself an invaluable skill.
4. Fall in love with reading
My mum has commuted 2 hours into London every day for the past 14 years. After falling asleep at 8:30 pm for the fourth night in a row, I asked her how she did it. She replied that she would never have been able to if it wasn’t for her love of reading.
Reading is something so many people would love to do but claim they don’t have time for, so spend your commuting time getting stuck into a great book. It doesn’t have to be anything difficult; my favourite genres are psychological or murder mystery thrillers like Gone Girl (or anything by Gillian Flynn) and Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. They are so gripping you may find yourself looking forward to your train journey.
So switch off your phone and dive in.
Once you’re home, you are free to binge watch Game of Thrones to your heart’s content–you’ve earned it.
5. Set daily goals
It goes without saying that a train journey is a great time to get yourself organised. For this reason, I always keep a journal handy so I can jot down thoughts as they come into my head. I usually make a list of things I want to accomplish that day – including what I’ve already done just for that little ego boost (we’ve all done it).
I list my tasks into high priority: things that I will do as soon as I get to work, and low priority: things I do when I have time. As well as tasks, I also write down things I want to focus on that day. These usually involve staying present and mindful, alongside a rough plan of things to do when I get home from work – something that doesn’t involve watching TV while eating half a loaf of bread,
My journal is the one thing I couldn’t live without so try taking 10 minutes at the start of your day to write down all your plans and daily goals, then put it away and relax for the rest of the journey.
6. Get inspired
Whether on the train, bus or tube there is always inspiration to be found. Instead of gazing mindlessly out of the window for the entire journey, try taking a few minutes to notice the people around you. Notice their clothes, the books they’re reading, the general vibe they give off. Perhaps you like their shoes, have never heard of the book they’re holding, or you’re wondering how they’ve managed to eat a BBQ chicken wrap so neatly.
There is always value to be found in simply noticing what is around you, so next time you feel your thoughts running away with you, try tuning into your senses to see if there’s anything that sparks your interest.
We zone out so often throughout the day and do the majority of our mundane tasks on autopilot (remember how you brushed your teeth this morning?). By simply taking the time to notice what’s going on around us, we can ensure that we don’t just let life pass by unnoticed.
7. Practise tolerance
People are annoying. We all know it. We can probably be annoying ourselves. But the simple fact of life is that we have to deal with people we don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with on a daily basis, and disputes are rarely solved by losing our tempers. When I first started commuting, I would raise my eyebrows if anyone so much as blew their nose in my vicinity, and God help anyone who put their bag down on the seat next to them.
It sometimes feels like there are more commuting faux-pas than there are commuters, so there are ample reasons to get frustrated on long journeys. Add to the mix a delayed train during a heatwave and you are looking at a seriously angry group of people.
But we all know getting angry is a waste of time and energy. Practising tolerance, or at least learning to recognize when you feel frustration rising, will help you in all areas of life.
So, next time you are on the train, and someone takes their shoes off or scoffs down a bag of cheese and onion crisps, take a few moments to control your emotions before they begin to control you. When you feel angry emotions starting to take over, try not to react, just simply be aware of your anger. Notice the physical sensations that arise with it, whether you start to feel hot, out of breath or getting tight in the shoulders. Take a moment to notice where your anger is stored in your body and try to imagine yourself breathing into that specific area, and allow the tension to soften as you exhale.
This does not mean you are suppressing your anger. Instead, you are choosing not to react. You are simply observing what the emotion feels like and allowing it to pass. By practising this on the train or bus, you will be far better equipped to handle difficult people throughout the day.
For many of us, commuting is an unavoidable part of our working lives, but there is no reason for it to become something we dread. These little hacks will help you to make the most of your commute, and soon your journey may become a positive start (and end) to the working day.
Featured photo credit: Charles Forerunner via unsplash.com