According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans now spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work. To put this in perspective, that’s more than the average two weeks vacation our working population takes in a year.
I could go on a tangent about how we have it backwards in America with this whole work-life balance thing and how we could take a page or two from European countries handbook/way of life but that’s not the focus of this post. Instead, I was inspired to do a post on how to improve the dreaded commute to and from work because-lets face it, we won’t be changing the standardized American work week or calendar anytime soon.
I spend a lot of time commuting because I live in one of the most desirable parts of the country and with that comes a lot of people = lot of cars & traffic.
If you know me you know that it is LITERALLY painful for me to sit still. I readjust my position at least 20 times during a movie, cannot sit for long car rides and would rather be multi-tasking or walking around than being enclosed in a space for any length of time.
Unfortunately this doesn’t make the 45+ minute commute I drive 5 days a week an easy endeavor. To help turn my attitude around about commuting I really did some trial and error and believe I finally cracked the code on a more enjoyable/healthier commute, so I had to share!
First things first, I am ALWAYS in the mindset of making something more efficient or healthy. I constantly ask myself what ways can I incorporate exercise, nutrition, or things on my to-do list. So when it comes to driving in the car for any period of time, I look at it as another opportunity to involve some healthy habits.
I didn’t just begin commuting with a positive mindset, I literally had to live through a few meltdowns (I can’t work so far away anymore, let’s move! I refuse to get in the car one more time). It took some painful episodes of self-reflection, deep thought and experimenting of what would ultimately make my commute bearable and do I daresay-enjoyable?
Let’s begin where I began.
In thinking what I SHOULD be doing to improve my health while commuting I first looked at what I felt I was missing out on by being in the car AND what I would rather be doing instead of driving. I also took a look at what bothered me the most about my commute and where the negative feelings about commuting were generated.
To address my concerns I began by making a list of positive things that brought me joy (friends, family, mindfulness practice, health, wellness, learning, music, efficiency).
I then looked for ways to incorporate some of these things while driving to make my drive productive and joyful instead of unproductive and dismal.
I started slowly and am now at a place where I can truly say I look forward to my commute, because I feel like I can accomplish a few things and be my efficient self.
A typical commute for me now includes starting off with some decompression, taking long, deep breaths and often times I fix some comforting tea or a large ice water that I can enjoy during my ride (it’s always important to stay hydrated especially when you don’t know how long you will be in traffic).
I then try to focus on keeping anything work-related or distracting in the back seat or trunk so that I can focus on things that clear my mind and allow me to focus on the “me time” I am creating in this new environment.
I also look to listen to how I’m feeling and the day I’ve just had so that I can adjust my commute. My podcast, music or phone conversation (hands-free!) I’m going to have may change depending on my feelings. No day is the same, therefore no commute is the same so I adjust accordingly.
Sometimes I choose to start my ride in silence, just reflecting on the day and preparing my mind to clear so that I can begin my mental to-do list or block out unproductive thoughts and feelings that are not serving me.
As well as being productive, I aim to include things that will make my commute healthier. Three things I try to incorporate for a healthier ride are outlined below.
Top 3 Ways to Make Your Commute Healthier
Clear Your Mind- When you enter your car, choose to make it an oasis rather than a cage
- I put on calm, mood-lifting music or uplifting positive affirmations (there are a few apps I have downloaded on my iPhone that work well)
- I incorporate essential oils in my car by using a USB diffuser that I plug into the center console. I choose lavender, rose or peppermint (scents that remind me to relax and de-stress work best), a standard air freshener or sachet works too
- I make sure my front seat and passenger side are free of clutter by keeping up with car detailing (sometimes I splurge a few times a month to get it professionally vacuumed) this ensures my tranquil spot is tidy
Protect Your Skin–being in an enclosed space with the elements surrounding you can leave you extremely vulnerable to sun damage
- Skin cancer is continuing to spread and is something we can prevent with simple habits
- I came across a picture of a truck driver that I cannot get out of my mind. It’s chilling to see how far the sun has aged the driver’s side of his face after years on the road. (one side is completely smooth, free of wrinkles and sunspots; the other is weathered and ages the man 20+ years)
- Take the opportunity prior to being in the car to be proactive and apply sunblock liberally, use sun protective shields when necessary and utilize driving gloves which will protect your hands from aging rapidly
Feed Your Soul– there are certain things that make us happier
- Happiness can be catching up with friends or family with hands-free conversations, singing at the top of your lungs, shoulder dancing to some tunes, or listening to a favorite program on satellite radio/podcasts
- Whatever the case, there is something out there that you can incorporate in your ride that will add joy (this is so important for health and wellness and often something we forget to do for ourselves)
- 8 hours of sleeping, 8 hours of working and 8 hours of playing-that is the recipe for a balanced life and something I aspire to
It’s never too late to incorporate healthy habits to your day or learn new ways to improve your health and wellness, every little choice adds up to an even bigger result. You can find me in my clutter-free front seat, oils diffusing, podcast going, green-tea in tow with a new perspective on commuting.
What ways can you change your outlook on commuting? I would love to hear them!
Happy trails and be safe on the road!