While I was partaking in my daily commute, it occurred to me that most people dread their commute to and from work each day.
I mean I can totally understand it in some situations, cramped public transport, traffic jams, cold weather.. on the face of it, it really doesn’t sound all that appealing. But in my eyes, this creates the perfect opportunity to be mindful; that is, to reconnect with yourself, your thoughts, your emotions, and to be completely in the present moment. Being mindful means that you are able to let life unfold before you, moment by moment, without the interruption of things in the past, or things that haven’t even happened yet, blocking your perception of life as it is now. Most of us completely zone out during our daily commute, because we just see it as a way of getting from A to B. Although this is technically true, a morning commute is an entire journey in itself, if you allow it to be.
So, next time you’re doing your commute, tuck away your laptop into it’s sleeve, take a hold of your favourite takeaway coffee, put on your beats headphones and make the most of your commute. Adding a little zen into your life, especially those times that are stressful, boring or drawn out like your daily commute, can encourage you to have a broader awareness of your current situation, and ultimately your life. Making mindfulness a part of your daily life can be difficult, but by making it coincide with something you do every day, you are more likely to stick with it, and notice the changes that it can make to your life as a whole. Before you know it, your commute will be your favourite part of the day! (It is mine!)
If you like the idea of changing your life for the better by ‘zenning’ your commute, but aren’t sure how or where to start, then I’ve outlined some of my favourite ways below.
Take the road less travelled.
There is nothing more mundane than taking the same route every single day. If you are fortunate enough to be able to walk to get to work, University, or wherever it is you go everyday, then you should make the most of it. Take a different path, walk on the other side of the road, walk the long way around even if it means you have to set off a little earlier than usual. Take a new perspective. The world is a beautiful place, but you will never know this if you constantly look at the same things. You will be surprised about the hidden beauty that lies within it, that you’ve never even noticed, all because you weren’t paying attention.
We can all admit it. How many times have we intended to leave on time, even early, but before we know it we’re hitting the snooze button for the third time running, our hair is takeing longer to dry than expected, and we can’t find the other matching shoe? Naturally, we’re sprinting out the door for the second time already (bearing in mind that it’s only Tuesday), with hardly the chance to be aware of ourselves putting one foot in front of the other, let alone your surroundings. If there’s one thing I have taken from mindfulness, it is to not rush. You will be surprised what you will notice by taking your time through life, because I can assure you it will be things you have never noticed before. Like how beautiful the willow tree is that you just walk on past everyday. Like the birds singing in the trees. Like the way the sun shines through the trees and makes patterns and shadows on the pavement. Don’t rush, take the time to notice.
Experiment with silence.
Whenever I see fellow commuters, I see them plugged into their phones. I appreciate that music is important to a lot of people; heck, it’s pretty important to me, it’s got me through a whole host of life experiences, but listening to it on a commute can be wasted. Appreciate the natural sounds of the world. Unplugging means you can listen to the world around you; those birds singing in the trees, people’s voices and accents as they talk to their friends, the rain hitting the window beside you, the quiet hum of the engine of your car. When you’re in silence, your senses work better together. Have you ever turned down the radio to look closer at a road sign? Because I certainly have. Opening up your senses in this way can give you a better understanding of your surroundings.
Use triggers to focus on your breathing.
When stresses, rushed or uneasy, focusing on your breathing is a great way to bring yourself back to the present. Rushing to work or class can leave us short of breath, flustered and completely unprepared to start the day. Instead, use triggers as an opportunity to take a deep breath, or three, and calm your inner being. For example, when I’m walking to Uni in the mornings, every time I walk past a red light I take this as an opportunity to concentrate on my breathing, and remind myself to stop, slow down, and gain control back over my breathing, my thoughts, and my behaviour.
Just to point out the obvious – please don’t do this if your commute involves driving, riding a bicycle, or anything that requires your full attention. Reading can be a great way to control your thoughts and behaviour during your commute, if it requires walking, sitting on a train, a bus, in a taxi, etc. I often use reading as a way of relaxing; once you get your mind immersed in a brilliant book, you’re drawn into another world. At the moment, I’m reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban from my Harry Potter collection (for the second time, every girl loves something!), and I quite often take this with me in case I decide that I want to read and take my mind elsewhere. Although reading doesn’t really tune you into your senses in the same way as mindfulness, it does prevent you from stressing and worrying, so can be the perfect exercise.
Change your attitude.
If you change the way you perceive your commute, you will already be one step in the right direction. If you want to make a positive change to the way you commute, then you have to change your attitude towards it. Tell yourself that this is going to be a great journey, as it’s going to give you the opportunity to be in the present moment, to leave your stresses and worries behind, and have time for serious ‘me time’ before you get your day started. If you adopt this new attitude, you will notice the positive impact it has on your life almost immediately.
Give it a go this week. See if ‘zenning’ up your commute has had a positive impact on not only your journey, but your day, and your overall outlook on life. How do you use mindfulness on your journey? Please feel free to comment below!