They say the best part of life is the journey not the destination. You’ve heard that, right? But how come almost nobody seems to feel that way about their morning and afternoon commute? Well, our mission is to change that, one person at a time, starting with you. After all, the average American spends just over 50 minutes commuting back and forth to work each day. That equates to about 217 hours—or nine days—per year. While we can’t give you that time back, we do know of a few ways to use it to your advantage.
Tap your inner J.K. Rowling. If you’ve ever wondered whether you have the next best-seller swirling inside your head, secure a digital voice recorder to your dash and hash out plotlines and character developments as you drive. If you’re not into fiction, why not take a crack at your own memoir? For new parents could be a great way to vent out your thoughts, worries and joys. Sure, it may not turn into anything, but you may come to treasure that time in your confessional box.
Recharge. And we don’t mean your smartphone or tablet—we’re talking about powering up your brain. If you’re like us, you probably spend most of your train ride tackling emails or browsing the web. Try ditching your devices for just 10 to 20 minutes and close your eyes instead. Research shows that a short powernap can increase your alertness and productivity, improve your mood and boost your memory—so you’ll be at 100% by the time you walk into the office.
Sneak in exercise. Chances are you need to drive or take mass transit to get to the office, but that doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in a quick burst of activity along the way. Try getting off the bus a stop or two earlier and walking the rest of the way, or park in a garage a few blocks from the office. It may not seem like a lot, but just 10 minutes of exercise a day can improve your health.
Get smart. If you’re driving, pop in an audio foreign language CD and brush up on your French or learn Chinese. Or plug in a multimedia player and listen to downloaded podcasts or lectures on subjects of interest. If you take public transportation, tune into TEDTalks on your tablet or give your brain a workout with a memory-enhancing app. Check out the offerings at your local library or visit the website OpenCulture.com, which provides links to 750 free online courses, 575 free online movies, 550 free audio books, and more.
Stretch. Stop-and-go driving and packed buses can lead to tight shoulders and stiff backs. The next time you’re stopped in traffic (never while you’re in motion!), try this simple stretch to release upper-body tension: Take your hands off the wheel and, with palms facing forward and elbows tucked to your sides, press the backs of your upper arms into the seat.
Make new friends. Sharing your commute with others does more than save on gas money—it helps you build a strong social circle. Studies have found that people who have close friends they see often are generally healthier and happier than those who are more isolated. Ask your company’s human resources manager for help finding carpool buddies, or use the company intranet to find others who share your route and work hours. Take a bus or train? Reap similar benefits by simply striking up a conversation with another passenger you see every day.
Trade four wheels for two. Bicycle commuting is a great way to save money, stay active, help the environment, and potentially be more productive, as exercise has been shown to boost brainpower. If exercise is your main goal but a full bike commute isn’t realistic, you could drive part of the way, park, and pedal the rest.