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Commuting is one of the daily realities of modern life, but finding a better, less boring, less stressful way to do it can be tough. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Americans take 1.1 billion trips every day, which averages four trips for every person. Daily travel averages almost 40 miles per person each day, adding up to 11 billion miles. This, for context, is not one but two complete round trips from Earth to Neptune and back. In other words, every single day, people in America alone cumulatively commute to the end of our solar system and back — twice.
According to data from the 2017 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey published by the Washington Post, commute times in major metropolitan areas are getting longer.
If your daily commute feels like it stretches to the run time of the latest action movie, these tricks might help reduce some of the strain on your brain and body. Or, you could do what David Pike does, and commute by jet ski, but parking might be a problem if you’re landlocked.
FIRST, ADMIT THAT COMMUTING REALLY IS STRESSFUL
Plenty of studies have shown the ways commuting can wear down our bodies and minds, causing stress that builds over time. In 2010, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveyed 173,581 employed adults over the age of 18 about commuting, and found those with long commutes have physical health problems, including neck or back conditions that cause recurring pain as well as higher cholesterol and a higher body mass index.
STRESS HACK — TRY SWITCHING TO CLASSICAL MUSIC
Classical music is more than soothing background noise; it may help your commute go by easier, and can boost your health as well. One study from the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who listened to classical music had significantly lower blood pressure than those who didn’t listen to any music during the study. Another study of 60 participants with chronic pain found those who listened to classical had less pain, depression and disability than those in the control group.
The Journal of Behavioral Medicine also reported that people who listened to classical music showed a notable reduction in brain activity and a lower heart rate, which made them feel more relaxed. So, the next time you’re feeling frazzled during a commute, switch the dial from Rage Against the Machine to Chopin, and feel yourself melt into the journey.
BRING A BUDDY
Commuting can be a lonely activity, so use it to build relationships instead of isolating yourself. Find a rideshare program online that operates in your area to meet someone new or check with neighbors to see if anyone’s going your way every day. Using a commute to create or build a friendship not only keeps you from being bored during a long drive, it saves gas, is better for the environment and contributes to less overall traffic.
Plus, if you connect with a fellow carpooler, you can take turns driving. Some insurance providers will offer extra savings for lower mileage because fewer miles mean less chance of an accident, so sharing the commute could save you even more than you expected. Plus, if your city has carpool lanes, you’ll get there much faster.
CHANGE YOUR SHOES
Dress shoes for the office are not necessarily built for comfort, which counts while driving, too. Dress shoes can have slippery bottoms that aren’t as helpful for maintaining control of the gas and brake pedals, causing extra stress on your ankles and tendons. And we won’t even mention high heels. You invest a lot of time and energy picking just the right mattress because of all the time you spend sleeping, so why not make your commute more comfortable, too? Look for a lightweight, comfortable shoe that fits well, allows ankle movement, has a good grip, and is easy to slip on and off and store under the seat. Still not sure where to start? Carbibles.com has ranked and reviewed 15 of the best driving shoes for 2019.
If you think you never have enough time to read, you do on your commute, even if you have to drive. Audiobooks are easier to access than ever, with plenty available from the digital branch of your local library, music streaming services that keep adding new titles and services such as Amazon’s Audible, which offers a free audiobook or two every month on top of the title included with membership.
Whether you want to sink your brain into that juicy thriller you keep meaning to read, go on mini vacations with travel titles or learn something new with a nonfiction book you just never have time for, audiobooks offer a more long-term listening option than podcasts, with the added bonus of feeling like you’re accomplishing something you otherwise don’t have enough time to do. Plus, knowing you’re in the middle of a good story gives you something to look forward to, not dread.
CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT COMMUTING
One of the reasons commuting is stressful is because people perceive it as tedious or a waste of time. Try reframing the way you think about commuting, and it may start to give back more than it takes away. Instead of seeing commuting as a stressful way time is stolen from you, view it as an oasis of time you can use as you please. Listen to new podcasts, cruise the radio and try out stations you normally wouldn’t be into or make up stories about the commuters around you. If you drive, you can use that time to catch up with friends or family on the phone.
Commuting is a space of time where you aren’t burdened with chores or other activities, so see it for what it really can be — an opportunity to relax and enrich your life.