7 simple self-care tips to practice on your commute

Long commutes suck. Whether you’re taking a car, subway, or bus almost everyone agrees that the commute is one of their least favorite parts of the work week. A recent  National Geographic study even argued that employees who swap their 1 hour+ commutes for working closer to home are as happy as those who received a 40,000 salary raise! If you feel like your commute is sucking the life out of you its essential to include self-care and relaxation techniques during your travel time, so that you can arrive at work recharged and ready to succeed!

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When your commute has you leaving at the crack of dawn and getting back late at night, it can easily lead to bad behaviors that take a toll on your physical or mental health. If you feel like you’re spending hours trapped in transit every single weekday you may not feel like you have the energy left to exercise, prepare healthy meals, or go out with friends. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to re-locate to a job within walking distance. So if you’re stuck sacrificing a chunk of your day to the long-grind its essential to find a way to escape the stress and boredom. Luckily, there’s strategies all commuters can incorporate into their daily lives to make their journey way more enjoyable.

Here’s our tips for how you can practice self-care during your travel time and transform your commute from a necessary evil to something you’ll look forward to at the end of a long work day.

1. Stretch it out

One of the absolute worst things you can do after sitting at a desk for 8 hours is to immediately transition into sitting in a car for another hour or so. Even if you’re dying to get home as soon as possible, take 15min to get your blood pumping by walking to a nearby café, practicing a couple simple yoga poses, or even just doing laps around the parking lot!

2. Break free from work worries

It’s essential to separate those gaps of time going to and from the office as “you” time. Don’t treat your travel time like you’re already on the clock by answering emails or trying to take calls with clients. Similarly, your first thoughts on the way home shouldn’t be centered on everything you have to get done tomorrow morning. A healthy work-life balance begins with a healthy mindset, so you don’t feel like work is consuming your whole identity.

3. People watch

You may think paying attention to all the random people riding the subway will only make you feel worse about your own trip (and humanity in general…) But actually, being engaged and aware of your surroundings is a great escape from the “me, me, me” trap we all fall into when doing tasks we dislike. When you’re already cranky its easy to label slow drivers or seat hogs as horrible people purposely trying to ruin your day. But instead of adding onto a bad mood with negative thoughts take a keep breathe and keep in mind that everyone else is living their own story and trying to get to their ultimate destination.

4. Pump up your playlist

There’s nothing like hearing your favorite song to instantly lift your mood. Music is psychologically proven to help boost your mood and impact our emotional levels during times of stress like intense exercise or pre-surgery. One great strategy for a better commute is to have a set playlist specifically chosen for your way in and out of your workplace. Try more upbeat, loud tunes for the morning to wake our brain up and a mellow mix of classical or acoustic songs to unwind to on the way home.  Unlike the annoying drone of an alarm clock, having a personalized ready-for-work anthem in your morning routine will train your brain associate heading into the office as a positive, happy experience rather than a painful chore.

5. Expand your mind

Rather than try and kill time mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds on your phone, why not  pull out a book instead? Keeping a book in your work bag that you can read while traveling. Reading doubles as the perfect entertaining distraction to make the time go faster while still keeping your mind awake and active. Many of the richest CEOS on the planet swear that reading every day has made them better business leaders. We all claim we’d read more “if we had more time” but  It’s also a great way to break up the strain of staring at computer screens all day in the office. If you drive or bike to work, you can also try listening to an audiobook or a new podcast episode and get lost in a story.

6. Call a loved one

One of the worst parts of commuting is how lonely it can make you feel. Despite being packed in with dozens of people every day, no one on public transport i tends to enjoy speaking to strangers or even making eye-contact. Next time you’re feeling lost in the crowd, use the time to catch up with someone you care about whether it’s calling your parents to check-in or sending a funny picture to your best friend. Now with wireless headsets and Bluetooth features, even car commuters can safely make calls while keeping their eyes on the road. Just a short chat can boost your mood and act as a much needed reminder when you’re trapped in a tiny train car that you’re connected to a much bigger world. And as bonus: letting the person on the other end of the line know you’re  thinking of them will likely brighten their day too!

7. Keep a thought journal

Using a thought journal is one of the simplest and most effective forms of therapy. If you take the train home, try pulling out a small notebook and scribbling down all the different parts of your day from pet peeves, to-do lists, accomplishments, or even just random daydreams or future goals. Seeing everything physically laid out on paper is a great emotional release from obsessive thoughts or anxieties. Writing down all the parts of a big project that’s been giving you trouble is also a great way to gain new perspectives on situations and come up with creative problem-solving solutions!

This article originally appeared on Kununu.

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