The average commuting time for UK workers is 55 minutes and, according to the Office for National Statistics, our feelings of happiness and life satisfaction decrease with each and every minute. It’s said that commutes between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes have the most negative effect on everyday wellbeing. These facts make for dreary reading – so what can be done to improve your mood on your daily journey to work?
In the perfect world, commuting would be a positive part of regular life. It would be something that we choose to do (not something that’s forced upon us by our jobs) and something that we enjoy doing because it allows us to manage that perfect work/life balance. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case – the lack of control over transport, traffic jams, bad weather and boredom can all contribute to poor wellbeing. Yet the commute doesn’t have to be this way.
Let’s take a look at 25 other simple wellbeing activities that you can consider for your journey, whether it’s by foot, bicycle, bus, boat, train or car:
1. Watch a TED talk or other online video and learn something you didn’t know about technology, entertainment, business, design, science or global issues. Not only will it expand your horizons but it’ll give you something interesting to talk about when you get to work.
2. Reflect on your life. Think about your daily, weekly or lifetime goals and give yourself a pat on the back for everything that you’ve achieved. You’ve got this!
3. Learn something new. Subscribe to an educational podcast, listen to a language tape, study a book or read a professional magazine. Even if it’s just a new word, learning helps to enrich your life and will make your commute feel worthwhile.
4. Listen to audio books. Choose one of your favourites or pick a new romance, thriller or mystery novel and let your imagination take control. Close your eyes to immerse yourself in the fictional world and feel your troubles fade into the background.
5. Check in with your family and friends. Give them a call, send a round of texts or reply to an email. Social interaction makes us feel loved, worthwhile and happy.
6. Sleep for a few minutes. Depending on your mode of transport, you may be able to sneak in a quick power nap to give you that much-needed boost of energy. Just don’t try this if you’ve got your hands on the wheel or the handlebars!
7. Play games on your phone or tablet that will help to sharpen your mind and memory. There are so many free ‘brain training’ apps which help to keep you alert and improve cognitive ability – all whilst you have a bit of fun.
8. Write something: begin a blog or write a letter to a friend. Use your commuting time to start that novel you’ve always wanted to write or jot down a few lines of a poem.
9. Choose the scenic route. Whether you’re in the car, on a bike or on foot, a change of scenery can alter your perspective and make you feel much more positive about life.
10. Tune in to calm and relaxing music. The Mozart Effect shows how listening to Mozart’s ‘sonata for two pianos’ for 10 minutes can boost your brainpower, so give it a go on your way into the office.
11. Puzzle yourself happy and complete a crossword, Sudoku, wordsearch or other word game. You could even aim to complete a Rubik’s cube by the end of the week. Puzzles will keep your mind sharp as well as distract you from the daily stresses of commuting.
12. Smell the therapeutic scents of essential oils to help improve your mood. Try a couple of drops of lavender, chamomile or bergamot under your collar to relax your mind and body.
13. Switch off technology, including your mobile phone, tablet, mp3 player and radio. Having a tech-free hour will benefit your mental health, allow you to focus on other aspects of the journey and will prevent you from mindlessly scrolling through social media.
14. Craft something. Whether it’s knitting, embroidery or sketching, taking up a creative hobby can be a great way to channel negative emotions into something more positive.
15. Read a book, a newspaper, a blog, a magazine or a journal. This activity is a commuter favourite but one that’s stood the test of time.
16. List your to-do’s for the day. Start your morning commute by feeling productive and making a list of everything that you want to accomplish that day. The list doesn’t have to be solely work related, so include things you want to cook, make, fix and purchase, too.
17. Colour in a picture. Colouring books for adults are a 2015/16 trend that aim to help improve your mindfulness skills. Pick up your coloured pens and devote your full attention to the image on the page.
18. Eat a healthy snack. Choose something that’s packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and/or healthy fats and which will benefit your physical health.
19. Open the window. Fresh air makes a world of difference to how you feel so crank open the one on the train or wind down the window in your car. Breathe in the fresh air with big, deep breaths and appreciate the goodness that it’s doing.
20. Get off the bus or train one stop earlier and take a walk for the remaining part of the journey. Physical activity helps to improve your mood meaning that you’ll arrive at work and home feeling refreshed and energised.
21. Help another passenger. Aid a fellow commuter with a pushchair, volunteer them your seat, lend them a magazine or even buy them a coffee. These small acts of kindness will give both you and them a rush of positive feelings.
22. Watch an episode of a funny TV show or start a film. You could watch a bit more of your chosen film each day. It’s a sure-fire way to make you look forward to the journey into work.
23. Journey through a park or green space if you’re commuting by bike or on foot. Nature is proven to help to lower stress levels.
24. Start a gratitude journal or notebook. Write down one thing each morning and evening that you’re grateful for, even the small things. You might be happy that the sun is shining, that someone complimented your outfit or that you’re having pizza for your dinner. Your mental wellbeing will thank you for being thankful.
25. Stretch it out. When you’re stopped at the traffic lights, stretch out your arms and legs or rotate your wrists and ankles in small circles. Practice paying attention to each area of your body and how it feels. Stretching helps to release any tension that’s built up over the course of the day.
These 25 suggestions should certainly liven up your commute and help ensure that you’re able to enjoy every part of the day – even the ones that you maybe didn’t choose or can’t control. However none of these suggestions are permanent fixes if you’re not able to enjoy the moment – regardless of what that moment is.
‘Mindfulness’ is a bit of a buzz word in today’s society – but for good reason. The benefits of simply focussing on the present moment, acknowledging emotions and noticing the world around us are plentiful, whether you’re using the technique to reduce your stress levels, manage a mental illness or simply with the aim of becoming more ‘aware’ of day-to-day life. Mindfulness is a great skill to have and it’s one that can definitely help to improve your morning commute.
Enjoyed these wellbeing ideas and want to learn more? The following online resources provide some great information about commuting, mindfulness and wellbeing. Perhaps you could read one of them on your way home from work tonight:
Psychologies have a short guide with ideas on how to be more mindful during your commute by car and train.
The Hub features an interesting article about how literature can help to improve your mental wellbeing.
Saltbox’s downloadable guide to improving staff wellbeing is full of suggestions for employers on how to enhance employee welfare.
Mind have a useful guide on how to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing, plus information on how to access support for mental health problems.
Author Bio: Louise Petty is Content Coordinator at High Speed Training, a UK based online learning company that offer various business safety and employee wellbeing related courses.
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Yours in health,