Dealing with heavy traffic on a daily basis challenges one's inner zen. A two-hour trip to the workplace can already drain you when your day has not yet even started. Add another two hours for your travel back home and that makes a fourth of your waking hours spent on a standstill.
Unless you can afford to switch jobs or addresses, or negotiate for a flexible working schedule, you may have to think of ways to keep your health in check, and your energy sources rich. Here are some highly recommended tips to bring back the zen in your daily commute:
1. Sleep (to rise) early
Waking up early allows you to skip the rush hour and have a few moments to your self before getting on the grind. But without enough sleep, rising early can be quite a chore and hitting the snooze button can make you feel defeated at daybreak. If you want to build a habit of rising early, then the first step is to hit the sack by 10 PM or earlier.
2. Listen to inspirational talks, audiobooks, and daily reflections
Diffuse the noise outside and tune out of your Uber driver's loud music by listening to talks or audiobooks that add to your knowledge and enrich your spirituality. I suggest loading podcasts such as the Zen Commuter by Thom Walters and audiobooks to your player over the weekend so you can set your good mood for the week.
Still with your earphones on (and if you're not driving), you can take tuning out to a whole new level in a cramped train by listening to guided meditation exercises such as those of Bob Proctor's or with the help of mobile apps like Calm and One Touch (available on iTunes and Google Play).
4. Listen to feel-good music
As some of you might not be the meditative types, listening to the kind of music that calms you and helps you find your rhythm may be the best option.
Reading a good book has become a luxury to most working folks like you and me. Those who take trains are in a better position to take this luxury as moving trains are more stable than moving cars. Remember, a good book can take your mind to places.
6. Practice mindful breathing
Heavy traffic can cause your anxiety to build up. When we are constantly stressed, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow, which may cause our heart rate to increase and eventually, lead to higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Taking in deep breaths through your nose and diaphragm can help decrease your heart rate and stress level, as well as resume your body's processes. (Here's an interesting link: The Science of Stress, Heart Rate and Breathing.)
They say that calm and peace are not caused by the external environment but by one's internal reality. Praying helps us find stillness in urban chaos and hence, more attuned to the voice of the Supreme Being.
8. Practice mindfulness and compassion
In Thrive, Arianna Huffington quoted Tessa Watt in her forthcoming book entitled, Mindful London:
"Use the famous British queue---at the bus stop, post office, or shop---as a chance to slow down and practice mindfulness. Instead of letting the frequent wailing of sirens irritate us, we could use the sound to remind us to take a pause and notice the moment. At the traffic crossing, instead of being impatient for the green man, appreciate how the red man gives us a chance to stop, breathe and look around."
By being present in the moment, you can take a look at your fellow commuter not as that annoying smelly person who pokes your side with his bag but as another human being who has his own story to tell. You can choose to appreciate and bless them quietly or show some form of kindness to make them smile and think that the world is a better place.