No matter your circumstances, a commute can become tedious. Whether it’s traffic nightmares, packed subway cars, delayed busses, or even unpleasant encounters along your bike route, commuting will always come with its fair share of frustration.
Since they’ve yet to invent a teleportation device to get us to work without the tiresome commute, the best thing we can do for our mental health is take advantage of the time we spend commuting by working toward making it a more pleasurable experience.
Everyone can benefit from some self-care every once in a while, but who has time in their busy day?
Well, there’s no better time to boost one’s well-being than during the commuting routine. Heck, even if it’s not a routine and you’re on the move for any reason, utilizing that time wisely can help you to arrive at your destination happier and more alert.
Here are a few ways to take control of your travel time and use it to advance your happiness.
LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE SONGS
Nothing makes a commute more pleasurable than jamming to your favorite songs, no matter your music style. Studies show that our favorite music aligns with mindful meditation. It can help to improve mood, and it can increase awareness.
Consider repeatedly listening to one or two of your favorites. Each time you listen, focus on a specific layer, like the harmonies, the drums, or the guitar. As you practice this exercise, you will find increased joy, cultivate mindfulness listing to specific parts while filtering out others, and your commute time will pass you by in a flash.
PRESENT YOURSELF WITH CALMING SCENTS
Is there a particular scent that brings joy or appeals to your senses? Consider getting a whiff before heading out on your journey. Break out that lavender-scented pillow or apply some citrus-scented hand lotion before walking through the door to set your mind on the right path.
Aromatherapy is quite beneficial for mental health. Mint and lavender are two scents that can positively affect your mood and bring calm to your commute. If you can, bring them along for the ride.
REMEMBER TO BREATHE
If you are feeling anxious or stressed, your body may switch over to “fight or flight” mode, causing an increase in breathing and a tensing of the body. By taking deep breaths, you can activate the body’s parasympathetic response throughout the nervous system bringing you a greater sense of calm.
Take three really deep breaths, four seconds on the inhale and eight seconds on the exhale. When you couple this breathing exercise with your commute, say as you start your car or step onto the train, you will quickly create a healthy habit pattern, and the practice will become second nature.
CONNECT WITH LOVED ONES
We’re all busy, and finding time to truly connect with the ones who bring us happiness and joy can be challenging. What better time to pick up the phone for a chat than on our commute? A phone call to family members or friends can help us feel nurtured and supported, improving our overall mental health, and it can make our commute less time-consuming and tedious.
CHECK OUT AN AUDIOBOOK OR PODCAST
When you listen to podcasts or audiobooks that make you laugh, you’re bound to feel happier. Avoid anything focused on the news or your industry, as these can add stress to your already stressful commute.
Consider a mental health podcast or a self-help book that can provide insight into new coping mechanisms or help you ease any stress or anxiety you might be feeling. Ask for recommendations from trusted friends, family members, or your physician or therapist.
REWARD YOURSELF AND SPLURGE
If you can, consider switching up your route and rewarding yourself with a bit of a splurge. It could be as simple as taking a scenic route once a week to soak up nature’s beauty on the way to work or stopping off at your favorite bakery for a treat to enjoy with your morning coffee.
The key is to seek out those small pleasures that bring us happiness and joy and then intentionally weave them into our everyday, mundane routine. When you make these rewards a routine in and of themselves, you will regularly give yourself something that you can look forward to, and you will undoubtedly boost your happiness.
MAKING ROOM FOR HAPPINESS
Finding time to make room for the simple pleasures in life that bring us happiness and joy can indeed be a challenge. Even if we love what we do, the daily grind of our careers can take a toll on our overall mental health. That’s why using our commute to and from work is the perfect way to get in that time that we all need to increase our overall mental well-being and put us on the right path toward happiness.