If you’re like the average American, you spend about an hour or more each weekday traveling to and from work. That’s at least 5 hours a week you can turn into an opportunity for self-care instead of wasting time or feeling stressed.
How much flexibility you have to change your commute probably depends on your job and lifestyle. However, there are positive changes you can make under any circumstances.
Look through this list of suggestions and come up with your own ideas for making your commute more productive and fulfilling.
What could you be doing on your way to work instead of fuming about traffic or staring out the windows of the train? Spend that time on activities that enhance your mental and physical wellbeing.
More activities can be accomplished while riding on your commute, such as in a carpool or on a bus or train. As long as you avoid distracted driving, however, there are still activities that can make your commuting time feel shorter and more beneficial.
- Continue learning. As long as you avoid distracted driving or other safety hazards, you can study a foreign language or Macedonian civilization. Register for an online course or choose your own books, CDs, and podcasts.
- Plan your future. Figure out what you want to accomplish this week or this year. Daydream about your next vacation destination or set goals for advancing your career.
- Relax and meditate. If you’re on your feet much of the day, you may need some quiet time. Focus on your breath and observe your thoughts.
- Listen to music. An upbeat or soothing playlist can put you in the mood for the day ahead. Discover new artists or enjoy your old favorites.
- Be social. Taking your neighbors and surroundings into consideration, maybe you can spend your commute connecting with others. If voice and video calls are inadvisable, you might still text and post on social media.
- Bring snacks. Small things can make a big difference. Treat yourself to healthy foods or premium coffee to upgrade your travel experience.
- Help others. Trying to be of service can make your commute feel shorter and more satisfying. Pay attention to other commuters so you’ll notice someone who might appreciate a little small talk or help with carrying their packages.
If a long commute is making you unhappy or interfering with your family life, you may want to reconsider the tradeoffs you’re making. Maybe a different job would be more satisfying or perhaps you and your employer can reach a compromise.
- Adjust your hours. The same route can feel very different during peak and off-peak travel times. If your job doesn’t require any specific start or end time, you might be able to start early or leave late so you can beat the crowds.
- Stay home. How much of your job could be done remotely? If your employer seems receptive, propose working from home on certain days of the week. Offer to start with a trial run so you can evaluate the results.
- Sleep in. You might be able to take a nap even if you can’t afford a chauffeur. Some trains have quiet cars where many passengers go to snooze. Organizing a van pool could give you and others a chance to take turns driving while the rest of the group relaxes.
- Walk or bike. Is your office too far away to walk there? You might still be able to travel on foot or bike part of the way so you can enjoy some exercise outdoors.
- Disconnect completely. Studies show that time off from technology makes you more mindful and productive. You may even start looking forward to turning off your phone once a day or more.
Each additional minute of commuting time takes a toll on your mental and physical health, according to a research review by Scientific American. If you’re unable to shorten your travel, you can still make those hours more rewarding by devoting them to self-care.