One Step to a Better Commute

Published at SankofaPsychology.com

Do you get sick of looking at the same things each day while communing to and from work? As a Chicago commuter, I’ve observed many people including myself that spend a significant amount of time distracting themselves. Whether by catching up on some much needed sleep, reading a book, listening to music, or staring into the endless entertainment of the iPhone, people consistently do things in order to keep themselves occupied. While in this state of mind, many people look at their commutes as monotonous, boring, and often times frustrating given the inevitable delays, traffic, and other people who seemingly don’t understand social etiquette.

While these minutes spent commuting can be perceived as a waste of time, the nothingness between points A and B, they can also be viewed more positively. As creatures of habit, many of us make the false assumption that things are the same. We drive the same routes, take the same trains, and see the same buildings each and every workday. In fact, the days, weeks, and months start blurring together and losing their uniqueness too. Taking this mental perspective fills your day with pessimism and clutters your head with junk from all forms of media, little of which will enable you to live a happier and fuller life. In order to escape that pessimistic cage, one simple mental game can help you change your perspective and approach each day with happiness, gratitude, and a renewed sense of wonder.

In order to play this game, you need to take a step back and realize that nothing is ever the same. At the bare minimum, even if everything else in your environment is the same, which truly is not the case, you are different. Your state of mind influences how you interpret what you see, how you move in the world, and the things you pay attention to. So as you change, so does your environment. Each day you awake with the potential to be something and someone new. You are not bound to the choices or feelings you had yesterday, today you are free to react differently and make different choices. You, as the observer, are different than the day before. As you walk or drive or ride in an overly crowed smelly CTA train, take a look around you and break free of the illusion of monotony.

Actively search for things that you have never seen before. The game is to find at least one new thing each day while on your commute. They can small things like markings on buildings or new flowers blooming, or can be more obvious changes like new construction and different weather conditions. The goal of this game is to approach each commute as a unique opportunity to view the world with a fresh perspective, almost as if living through the eyes of a curious child. If you buy into the game, this goal of finding new things will bring you gratitude and joy in recognizing how each day and each moment is different. You will learn to acknowledge that even these small differences lead to big possibilities—each day is what you make it. So don’t get caught in the trap of viewing life as tedious or that commuting is boring, experience the freedom of knowing that each moment is full of wonder. 

MindfulnessMatthew Jones