We’d all like to make a living by blogging from a hammock in the Seychelles. Or writing bestselling novels from a pimped-out shed. (OK, maybe it’s just me).
But if, like me, you’re not there yet, you probably travel to your place of work. And the journey can take as much out of you as the work itself. Worse, it can feel like wasted time. I should know – I commute for two and a half hours a day.
With that in mind, here are my top mindfulness tips for a conscious commute:
1. Work on something while you travel
This is one way to reclaim your daily commute. If you travel by train and you can snag a table and write, draw or study – great. You could also learn a language with an audio course or listen to instructive podcasts while travelling.
2. Lift-share or find a travel buddy
Transform that dead time in the morning and evening into social time. You could travel by bus or train with a friend, cycle together, or save on fuel costs and cut your environmental impact by car sharing. It’s a win-win.
3. Listen to audiobooks
This is my all-time favourite way to survive a long commute. I choose audiobooks carefully for length, genre and quality narration, and when I get it right, my time in the car flies by. I’ve just finished Runemarks by Joanne Harris – essential listening for conscious commuters.
4. Listen to podcasts
Like audiobooks, you can listen to them pretty much anywhere, and learn pretty much anything. I’m subscribed to 600 Second Saga – 10-minute sci-fi and fantasy tales. But you could listen to entrepreneurs, film critics or happiness experts on your way to work.
5. Turn off the radio and think!
Sometimes I appreciate being on my own for an hour and a quarter, because I can use it to think deeply. Most days, I don’t want to fill up my head with chatter, dodgy tunes or anxiety-inducing news stories before I get to work, so I leave the radio off.
6. Listen to a playlist of your favourite songs
The right music can lift your mood and fill you with energy for the day ahead. Create a playlist of your favourite songs – perfect for mornings that are going less-than-swimmingly. Mine starts with Conga, because it reminds me of my favourite feelgood film, The Birdcage.
7. Say your affirmations
Recently, I was in a foul mood on my way to work. There was no reason for it – I just was. I decided to say positive things about myself – things I would like to be true – until I felt better. It totally worked! (I’ve long stopped caring what other drivers think of me, by the way!)
8. Make the most of flexi-time
Lots of companies offer flexi-time – a chance to start work earlier or later depending on what suits you. I’ve played around with start times a lot, and I prefer to start work early and finish earlier. I see the sunrise most mornings, which boosts my mood for the day ahead.
8. Cleanse your car
If you drive to work, try smudging your car next time you give it a clean. Great vibes don’t stop at home. Try wafting some of your favourite incense inside your car to get rid of any stress, anxiety or road rage-related negativity lingering inside.
9. Protect your journey
If travelling makes you anxious, take tip#8 one step further and protect yourself and/or your car using visualisation techniques. I like to visualise my car surrounded with violet light, and if I was using public transport I would protect my aura in the same way.
10. Bring a talisman
After graduating I moved to London and started a new job. I lived with my sister for two weeks while I looked for a flat every day after work. I took Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters with me everywhere like a shield, to re-read when I found the trains and tube overwhelming.
11. Try deep breathing
We tend to take shallow breaths, not helped by the poor posture that comes from hunching over a computer screen. Repeat this x3: take a quick, deep, powerful breath through your nose; pull it into and expand your belly (not your chest). Breathe out through your mouth.
12. Get moving
If you cycle or walk to work, you’re already winning. For the rest of us, the combination of a sedentary but often stressful commute is not conducive to health. That’s why I like parking a little further away, and walking the scenic route to the office to help me destress.
13.Practise reaction and non-reaction
A hectic commute is the perfect way to practise responding to things that would normally wind you up in a balanced way. On mindful mornings, I try to remember that bad drivers probably just made a mistake and are not, in fact, trying to kill us all.
14.Visualise your day
Imagine your day ahead going perfectly: you smash your to-do list, have great conversations, enjoy a sociable lunch and thrive in a harmonious working environment. Visualising what you want to achieve is a powerful first step to getting it done.
Have I missed anything? What are your favourite commuter coping tips? Let me know in the comments below.