Optimizing My Commute

As someone who commutes almost every day, I used to resent my frequent drives to and from school. I often sat in rush hour traffic, bored and annoyed. And while I love listening to music, it got irritating when that was all I was able to do for 45 minutes twice a day. It made me irritable and anxious, and often put me in a bad mood for large portions of the day.

Researchers say that commuting has a large impact on an individual’s happiness, and that those who commute shorter distances tend to be happier and healthier overall. But what happens when you love your home, and your job/school, but they just happen to be a little too far apart for your liking? Well, I say that there are ways to revolutionize the commuting experience. Before, my commute was a boring chunk of wasted time. Now, it’s a part of my me-time and self-care. It’s a time to relax, learn, and decompress. I did this by making a few key changes, and you can too!

I started listening to podcasts

Once I discovered the wonderful world of podcasts, I never went back. I hardly ever listen to music in my car anymore. Podcasts give you brain material, geared to you and your interests to help you stay engaged to something meaningful. Here are a few of my favorites:

ETU- Earth to Us: a podcast by Hannah McNeely and Evan Oliver about their diverse interests including (but certainly not limited to) veganism, social justice, creativity, art, food, and fitness

The New Yorker: Fiction: A conversational podcast with Deborah Treisman (fiction editor at The New Yorker) with a writer who has chosen a story from their archives to read and discuss

Dear Sugars: a heartfelt and often philosophical advice podcast featuring Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond and of course, the letters from their dear listeners

Mile Higher Podcast: a podcast that’s sure to appease all of the conspiracy theorists, alien lovers, and connoisseurs of all that is creepy and out of this world, husband and wife Kendall Rae and Joshledore chat about everything to the moon and back

The Everything Bagel Podcast: alright… I don’t listen to this one. I make it. This is a podcast about the weird and wacky world, sometimes about society and culture, sometimes about health and wellness, sometimes about true crime and conspiracy theories. Jamie Kahn (myself) and Camilla Macia are the lovely and beautiful hosts! (Sorry I succumbed to self-promo- I’m human, what can I say?)

Available on podcasts.com

I got an Audible membership

Audiobooks sometimes are in the same vein as podcasts. They give your brain something to bite onto on those long drives! Did you ever wish you could spend an hour a day reading! Well, now you can. I use Audible, and there are so many wonderful benefits to it, but if you’re tight on cash, your local library probably has lots of books on cd that you can download to your iTunes library!

I make myself some tea

In the morning, I make myself a cup of tea to go that I can sip slowly during my drive. I usually go with a calming herbal for a nice, soothing pick-me-up. It’s important to give yourself the true self-care experience!

I do some deep-breathing 

As a yogi, I know all of the fancy yoga breaths (pranayama, as it is called in the yoga practice), and I often practice them for a little while as I am driving. But sometimes I do a regular, full breath, repeating the complete filling and emptying of my lungs…you know how it goes! I feel that this really helps relax me and get me ready for a calm, peaceful, and productive day! One basic yoga breath that you can try if you’d like is ujjayi breath, or ujjayi pranayama: breathe in through the nose and fill the lungs completely, and release the breath audibly, as if you are trying to fog up a window. You can release the breath through the mouth, and once it becomes easier, through the nose eventually.

So, while you may not be able to get rid of your commute, you can definitely make it a lot more enjoyable, relaxing, and even productive. I’ve hacked my commute so that it is no longer a hindrance to my happiness. In fact, I’ve used it as an opportunity to carve out time for things that boost my happiness, and I hope that can be true for everybody. Not everyone can have a short commute, but we call can have a commune that works for us!

-Jamie Kahn

Ashley Hengerer