For many working Canadians, commuting takes up a significant part of their day. Since 1996, the number of commuters has risen by over 30 per cent, and a large percentage of those people take public transit and have an average commuting time of over 45 minutes one way according to Statistics Canada.
“Commuting can be extremely stressful,” says Dr. Katy Kamkar, Clinical Psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; however, how people react to their daily journey to work is highly individualized. Some people look forward to the solitude of their daily commute. Here’s how to make peace with your commute and maybe even become one of those people who looks forward to your time on the train.
1. Make Your Commute a Complaint-free Zone
“Pledge to make your commute time a complaint-free zone,” says Ashley Burton, founder of Your Power Yoga, a corporate wellness company. Complaining about how long your commute is or the smelly guy next to you on the train will only bring you down, so push all the negativity away.
By using your commute time to map out your week, you will feel more efficient, in control and may be better able to find more time for yourself.
2. Find Your Inner Zen
Research from the University of Miami found that mindfulness training can get you through heavy periods of stress, and also promotes cognitive resilience and boosts attention spans. “You don’t need to sit on a pillow with complete silence to meditate,” says Burton. You can do it anywhere by focusing on your breath to create ease.
To start, Burton suggests breathing in through your nose for a count of four and out through your nose for a count of four. “Longer breaths increase calmness, so gradually work your way up to a 10 count.”
Just five minutes of focused breath on each ride may help reduce the chatter in your brain and increase the quality of your thoughts. If you would rather listen to a guided meditation, Burton suggests those from BaptisteYoga, Louise Hay or Paige Elenson — all of which are available on YouTube.
3. Plan Your Week
“Try to use your time as productively and efficiently as you can,” says Kamkar. By using your commute time to map out your week, you will feel more efficient, in control and may be better able to find more time for yourself. Even drivers can use some of their commute time to make lists and plan activities. “Those who have longer commutes find it more difficult to juggle their work and life balance,” says Kamkar.
4. Brainstorm on a Work Project
Some of your best ideas might come from commuting periods free from interruptions. Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows it’s often more productive to brainstorm alone. In fact, 50 years of research suggests that the best ideas often come from people working solo. Before you travel, think of a problem you need to tackle; then sit back and let the great ideas flow.
5. Enjoy Book Time
Books have long been a favourite pastime of commuters. Now there are more options than ever for those wanting to escape with a story or learn something new.
“I switched to audio books because it’s so wonderful to be told a story — a joy I thought I’d left behind in childhood,” says Tracy Nesdoly, Vice President, Communications at Kobo, and mega commuter. “It’s also useful to listen to a book rather than reading one when the subway is packed and there’s lots of jostling.”
Commuter reading or commuter listening can take so many forms; there are books that give ideas on how to manage your life more effectively, those that teach, the great escape, and those that inspire. Nesdoly adds that some of her favourite audiobooks include: Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, Furiously Happy, and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Commuting is also a great opportunity to expand your mind and learn something new. Language apps can be a great choice, as are podcasts that run the gamut of every topic you can imagine.
6. Learn Something New
Commuting is also a great opportunity to expand your mind and learn something new. Language apps can be a great choice, as are podcasts that run the gamut of every topic you can imagine. “Podcasts have revolutionized my life,” says commuter Meira Arkell. “I wish I had a longer commute sometimes so I could listen longer.”
7. Take a Nap
Long commutes can cut into your sleep. “Taking a nap might help if using public transit,” suggests Kamkar. For commuters, it can be a great way to make sure you get your eight hours a day. The GO train has quiet zones that may be perfect for those looking to catch up on sleep.
8. Take Care of Errands
Make lists of tasks and errands you need to do while en route to the office. Then, catch up on some of those errands on the way to and from the train station. Many retailers now have express locations near the train terminals so you can grab dinner, get your nails done, or even do your banking. RBC has a new ‘On My Way’ location in the PATH near Union Station, where you can perform quick transactions and get answers to your banking questions from onsite experts.
9. Walk to and from the Train
Research on commuting in Preventative Medicine suggests that commuting by public transit was, in most cases, better for wellbeing than commuting by car. While the exact reasons for this are unclear, the activity of walking to and from the station at both ends of the public transit journey likely plays a role. “This opportunity to do physical activity as part of the daily routine could be very valuable, says Dr. Adam Martin of the University of Leeds and lead researcher on the study. If it’s a nice day, get off transit a stop earlier and extend your walk to the office. The fresh air and exercise can do you a world of good.
Try adding one or more of the above tips to your daily commute, and you may soon find that you're looking forward to the alone time, rather than dreading the journey.
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