🖊 This article was last updated on February 27, 2020
Commuting can take a toll on your health, affecting everything from your stress levels to your feelings of social isolation, so it’s no surprise that most Americans dread their daily commute. In fact, 35% of Americans would take a pay cut in exchange for a shorter commute, according to a recent survey by The Zebra.
A change in perspective could be the key to enjoying your morning drive to work. After all, you don’t have to lose all that time traveling. If you transform your daily commute into a productive part of your morning routine, you can spend time enjoying this part of your day rather than dreading it.
Here are some tips to get more out of your morning commute:
Spend time brainstorming
Get your brain moving early by spending your commute thinking productive thoughts. Each morning, review your calendar before you get in the car or subway. Are there projects or meetings you need to brainstorm for? If so, a long and lonely commute is the perfect opportunity to spend some time problem-solving. You can download relevant podcasts or audiobooks to learn more about a particular subject you need to brainstorm for. Further, research has shown that morning is the best time to make decisions. You never know what solutions you may uncover on your way to work.
Listen to a business podcast
Listening to podcasts lets you learn on the go. Spend some time researching podcasts that are relevant to your field, or that tie into relevant skills needed for your position. There are so many podcasts out there to choose from! You don’t have to listen to podcasts five days out of the week, either. Find one or two business podcasts that get updated weekly, and spend your other commutes listening to entertainment podcasts for fun. We also recommend checking out motivational podcasts to get you inspired for the day ahead. Some of our favorites include: Ted Radio Hour, the Quote of the Day Show, and Optimal Living Daily.
Clear your mind of stress by meditating on your commute to work. Focusing on mindfulness will help prepare you for the day ahead and it will decrease anxiety. One study revealed that meditation reduced anxiety 60% of the time. There are plenty of guided meditation apps you can download and follow such as Calm, Aura, or Headspace. If you’re just starting out meditating, we recommend 10-minute sessions. Practice connecting your meditation practice to your breath by taking slow, deep breaths, and exhaling slowly out of your mouth.
Practice your conversation skills
Not all commutes have to be lonely. If you travel to and from work on public transit, try engaging in conversation with someone next to you. This can help you improve your conversation skills, and it will help wake you up and get ready for a day at the office. You also never know who you could meet! If you commute to work in your car, you can still improve your conversation skills by setting up hands-free BlueTooth and making telephone calls to colleagues, family, or friends.
Prepare for a meeting
Your commute is a great way to practice an upcoming project or meeting. Spend time on your commute rehearsing and memorizing what you are going to say in your next meeting. You can never be too prepared so even if you don’t have a meeting or project scheduled that day, you can start early. You can record your voice as you speak and then go back and listen to your responses. You can even use this time to memorize names and practice pronunciations.
Learn a new language
There are many benefits to learning a foreign language, including improving your decision-making skills and your memory. One study even revealed that being bilingual can ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s. Learning a language is also a valuable skill for your career and resume. Since learning a new language is time-consuming, there’s no better time to start than on a long commute! You can spend time learning on the go that way you don’t have to spend energy on it when you get home from work. Take advantage of one of the many language apps such as Duolingo, Memrise, and Babbel. You can download them straight to your phone and practice sounding out words and phrases as you drive or ride to work.
Set positive intentions
Did you know that practicing gratitude can raise your happiness by 25%? Spend time on your morning commute reminding yourself of things you are thankful for and watch as your life and perspective begins to transform. You can jot down or make mental notes of your gratitude, and also set your daily intentions. What is your main goal for the day and week? On your commute home, you can spend time recapping the day and reminding yourself what you learned, and what your favorite moment was. Revisit these favorite memories at the end of each week and month to remind yourself of the best moments and take a few moments to be grateful for the little things.
Take a different route
Train your brain to problem solve and find creative solutions by taking a different route to work. You’ll be inspired by the new stimuli you see on your drive and challenge yourself to be engaged throughout the ride to work. If you commute on public transit, try switching up the station you get on or off at and spend a little more time outside walking. This small change to your routine can have big effects on your brain and you can also save gas by skipping left turns along your drive.
Commuting may cost you in tolls, gas, tickets, car insurance, and time, but it doesn’t have to cost you your mental health. If you shift your perspective and add one of these self-improvement tips into your daily routine, you may even find yourself enjoying your ride in.