Do you find yourself dragging into work and falling down exhausted into your chair after a long day on the job? Some of that might be about more than just the time you spend toiling away when clocked in at work.
Studies show that your commute to and from work might be a significant culprit when it comes to your attitude throughout the day and into the evening. Stressors from the average commute (which adds up to about an hour per day -though for some people are much more!) release cortisol hormones in the bloodstream. The effects of higher cortisol can be suppressed immunity, hypertension, insomnia, and even fat build up. All that just from worrying about the traffic on the way to work or being tense in the car on the way home.
In addition, boredom and loneliness can set in during that time that seems just thrown away, giving your day a bad beginning which can cut into productivity and your ability to collaborate effectively. You might find that looking at ways to improve your commute will give you a boost to make your work and personal life better. Answers might be simpler than you think – but where do you start?
The Zebra has devised a few suggestions based on research they uncovered that give you some places to begin if you want to cheer up your commute. Some of the ideas are simple, like adding citrus juice to your morning to suppress cortisol or commuting with a friend to combat the lonely trek into work. Or if you want to challenge yourself more significantly you can look at commuting time as your chance to build endorphins through exercise.
There are tips for every personality type, from those who might love to laugh at stand-up on the way in, to people who feel like a calm bit of mediation would be just the ticket.
Bike to work at least twice a week
Take time to ride your bike to work. It’s a great way to incorporate some fun into your daily routine. Health guidelines recommend about two hours of moderate activity each week to combat stress, so biking a 25–to-30-minute commute a few times each week will help you hit this goal.
Cycling helps lower blood pressure and boost energy, and exercise of any kind has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression.
Outdoor exercise also improves your mood by releasing endorphins and stimulating neurotransmitters, the signals that control emotional response.
Drink a citrus smoothie along the way
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day — it kick-starts your metabolism, gives you energy and has even been shown to improve concentration.
Include citrus and green tea into your morning drink when you’re feeling stressed. Citrus prevents spikes in cortisol — the smell alone can be enough to calm your mood. Green tea is another must-have when it comes to your stress-fighting breakfast. It boosts dopamine and serotonin, the “happiness hormones.”
Make yourself laugh
Laughter has mood-boosting effects that can leave you feeling relaxed and happy no matter where you are.
Laughter induces physical changes in your body including boosting endorphins, increasing heart rate and blood pressure and stimulating circulation to aid muscle relaxation.
If you drive to work, a comedy podcast or talk show is a great way to get a good laugh in before work. For public transportation commuters, there’s nothing quite like watching videos of stand-up comedians, cats doing weird stuff, or laughing babies.
Carpool to work with a friend
Sometimes talking with a friend is the best medicine for a stressed mind. Just being in the presence of a close friend has been proven to lower cortisol levels. One study found that spending time with someone who is happy makes you more than 15 percent more likely to be happy yourself.
Riding to work with a friend or coworker is a great way to squeeze much-needed social time and fun into your busy schedule. Grab some coffee and hit the road to work with a buddy to boost your happiness levels and theirs too! You can also call a friend or family member on your way to work for a chat — just use hands-free if you drive!
Do something nice for another commuter
Altruistic behaviour produces a ‘reward’ in the form of happiness and an improved mood. Think of this as giving yourself a mental pat on the back after doing something kind for someone. In one study, Americans who demonstrated altruism consistently were 48 percent more likely to be in excellent health.
Fight stress on your commute by doing something nice for another commuter. Give up your seat on the bus to an elderly woman or let another driver into your lane during rush hour. You might even make a new friend!
Use a guided meditation app
Meditation has been shown to decrease stress by reducing the inflammation caused by cortisol hormones. It can also alter brain function by increasing the physical volume of areas of the brain dedicated to emotion regulation and self-control.
You can practice meditation wherever you are — whether you walk, bike, take the subway, or drive yourself to work. Guided meditation utilises visualisation and auditory instructions to walk you through a short meditation session. Apps like Calm or Headspace provide guided meditation sessions that you can listen to and follow no matter how you commute.
Check out the full guide here for the advice that fits your lifestyle and start powering up your commute instead of just powering through.