Getting to and from our workplace is most often one of the biggest triggers of stress for many of us. And the longer and more stressful the commute, the more anxiety builds up. I mean, how often does it really happen that you start your day off all sunshine and rainbows, happily awaiting what the day has to offer you?
It is more likely, that we get emotionally caught up with whatever happens in traffic. We get annoyed when the bus is too crowded. Or are bored out of our minds and are dreading the long ride to work.
Also, mornings are always a little hectic, right? And most of all, they set the tone for how the rest of your day is going to turn out.
How to Have a Happier Commute and Relieve Yourself of Stress
In this post I want to introduce you to a couple of easy and really effective techniques to practice mindfulness during the busiest time of your day. Some of these exercises can have an immediate effect and you will notice how much calmer and relaxed you go through your day. Others might set you up for a calmer state of mind in the long run. But one thing all of them do have in common: They will definitely make your day a lot easier to handle. 😉
Create Rituals for Yourself
Instead of mindlessly wasting precious time with negativity, try planning out your time intentionally and be present. Be right where you are at that specific moment. For some people, doing additional work during their commute is the way to go. Others like to be creative and come up with new ideas for different types of projects. Usually, our brains are most productive during the early hours of the day. So, why not make use of that by creating your own mindful morning commute routine?
In the car
Either do those activities before you start the engine, after you dropped the kids of at school, or when you’re stuck in traffic. Make use of a couple of minutes to create a ritual that is all about yourself and your wellbeing. Even taking little steps like practicing mindfulness on your commute to work will ultimately develop a mindset towards more self-love, growth, and positivity.
Enjoy 5 Minutes of Silence before You Start Driving:
These days silence is a luxury that we don’t have that often. Our days are usually packed with activities, and things to do. And then, there is that constant white noise in the background. So, why not take 3 – 5 minutes before you even start thinking about starting the car to just sit and breathe. Make a relaxing experience out of it by noticing what you are feeling physically and emotionally. Maybe close your eyes for just a moment and breathe in (count 1, 2, 3) and then breathe out again (count 1, 2, 3). Try to be right where you are with your mind and body. Everything else is meaningless in that exact moment of time. Everything that happens outside of the car has no place with you. You are with you right now.
Feed Your Curiosity
Curiosity is such a great and exciting part of life. It is all about learning and being interested in something. It is about gaining knowledge and expanding your horizon. Being mindful helps you tune in to that curiosity. Part of having a growth mindset is thinking that you can develop your personality and intelligence. And you do that by being curious.
So, how about listening to a podcast you’re really interested in? It could be about mindfulness and self-love, or it could be about, sports, books, politics, psychology, whatever floats your boat and sparks your interest.
Slow Breathing Exercise
It is so easy to get overly annoyed with the traffic situation. Someone cuts you off, another one won’t let you switch lanes, and on top of that, you are stuck at every single traffic light there is. It can get really rough in the mornings. I totally get it!
But here’s a thought: What is really changing if you yell at the driver in front of you? What purpose is there to getting upset about something you have no influence over?
Something I learned pretty early on is: If you can’t change the situation or the circumstances that you don’t like, then change the way you think about it. One thing you can change is your attitude towards it.
So, how about instead of creating all that tension before your day has really begun, you just sit back and let things take its natural course. Why not use the extra time in traffic to do a little breathing exercise?
Start by taking a deep breath. Continue by holding it for a few moments. And then exhale as fully and completely as you can. Then repeat.
This exercise is not only calming your mind and bringing your focus onto you and to yourself. It also relieves physical tension in your body. This way you can start your day relaxed and at ease with yourself. 😉
Take your morning tea or coffee with you
I love and absolutely need my morning tea! I admit, I’m not a huge coffee fan, but without my tea, I feel like something is missing. And I really hate it when I have not enough time to finish it in the morning or have to rush drinking it. Having my tea is my calming ritual in the morning. But sometimes, there’s just no way around it, and I do have to rush. If that happens, I like to take my tea with me in a Thermos and sip it while sitting in the bus or train. It is just something that relaxes me on a deeper level.
So, maybe next time, try bringing your morning coffee or tea with you, too, and see what it does to your state of mind. 🙂
Related Post: 7 Easy and Simple Tips to Practice Self-Care Every day
Listen to Relaxing Music, or Music That Inspires You
It is amazing how much music can influence our moods and state of mind. If you engage with it on an emotional level, you can actually lift up your mood. Music can influence the neurotransmitters in your brain towards more positivity and growth. Also, music is an art form. A pleasure, an entertainment. It is a way to produce beauty and harmony. And I always find that beauty in any form or expression has a great healing quality to it.
Show Kindness to Those Around You:
Practice compassion and be courteous to the people around you on the train or bus. Remind yourself that we can show humanity to one another no matter the situation, background, or story. Everyone is someone who matters in one way or another. Sometimes we get so caught up in the judgement of others (If anyone were to ask me, I would have to raise my hand to that, too). Judging people, categorizing them, is part of the human brain structure.
However, we can pay attention to that train of thought. We can remind ourselves that we don’t know the story of the people around us. We don’t know what they have been through. What made them the person they are today. We just don’t know. What we do know is, that all the people around us are humans. And as far as that goes, almost every single person on this planet has been through some difficult times. It is part of life. Remembering that can help us become more aware of our own reactions and behaviors towards others.
Your morning commute can be the perfect time to do some mindful journaling, if you take public transit. I usually plug my headphones in, turn on some inspiring music and then really focus my energy inward. How awesome will your day be, if you start practicing gratitude early in the morning? What I also like is to think of a question that focuses on mindful self-discovery, like e.g. What do you believe in with all your heart? Who has influenced your life to such a degree that it shaped the person you are today? Or what are you feeling right now and why?
You could also do some freewriting. Write down whatever thought crosses your mind. Try not to judge anything or think about it too much. Just let there be a free stream of consciousness. This can be a perfect outlet for any sort of thing. You might feel relieved after, or inspired, or lighter, or thankful. Whichever feeling develops inside of you, you will have started the day of with some mindful ‘me-time’.
This exercise is more focused on bringing your attention outward and away from the self. By mindfully observing your environment, you can practice staying in the present, and you also connect with the world around you. It is all about noticing what goes on around you, instead of just zoning out. You can literally do it from anywhere. Not just on the bus or train. Do it while you’re sipping a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or waiting before your doctor’s appointment. It doesn’t require anything, except focus and mindful breathing.
Here are the basics:
You sit relaxed and at ease in your seat. Choose a ‘target’ which you can easily observe or see from your point of view. This can be an object or even another person (just try not to do creepy staring 😉 That would just be weird and would probably freak out the person you’re watching :D). And now you keep your focus on that object/ person and try concentrating as long as you can. For some people it is easier to pretend that they’re looking at the chosen target for the very first time in their lives. Then it is important to not really think about that object. It is all about noticing its size, shape, colors etc. Appreciate what is there, but try not to judge or project any personal preferences. After 1 or 2 minutes you let your mind wander again. Now, just notice what type of thoughts are coming to mind without placing any value onto them. Just notice. Maybe now can also be a good time to do the freewriting exercise.
Going by bike or walking:
If you go by bike or walk to work, this is a really good opportunity to do some body-scan meditation or mindful walking. Pay attention to the physical experience of what you are doing right now. How do your feet feel on the ground? How does the sunshine feel on your face? What are the body parts that are physically moving the most right now?
By doing this you can train your awareness of yourself. You also learn how to stay focused and mindful which will benefit you even more in the long run. Instead of just mindlessly going your way, you really start using that time to pay attention and acknowledging things, which is a major part of mindful behavior.
Additionally, by working out your body, your brain releases endorphins that work as great antidepressants. Your mood will improve and you will generally feel more positive and lifted.
But please, don’t forget to pay attention to the traffic around you as well. Nobody wants to start their day of with a visit to the hospital. 😉
Start your day of on a positive note by using the time you have on your morning commute for some mindful practice. Whether you go by bus, train, car, or walk, there is always a way to incorporate mindfulness into what you are doing. It can be as simple as doing a quick breathing exercise while waiting at a red traffic light. Don’t waste your precious time to live with mindless behavior towards others or yourself. Enjoy your time, and make the most of it. It will ultimately lead you towards a higher quality of life with an attitude full of compassion, appreciation, and positivity.
Related Post: Positive Thinking: 59 Affirmations to Practice Daily
What are the things you do on your morning commute? How do you spend your time in the car or on the train? I’d love to hear your experiences! Leave me a comment or join me on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. 😉