The Mindful Life™ Blog

Commutes – Big or Small, How To Make Them Work For Your Brain

Two true stories to frame the potential agony of commuting. The first happened about 18 years ago. Kenny and I had just moved to New York City – I was the Colorado girl trying to survive in the Big Apple. I took a job that had a 5-minute walk to a 35-minute subway ride to a 5 minute walk. In the very first month, I (1) came out of the subway stairs to see a man defecating on the Brooklyn sidewalk (2) got screamed at by a woman for apparently taking her subway seat and (3) had a pigeon (I now hate NYC pigeons) poop on my head on the walk home to my apartment.  Needless to say, most days, I was in an awful mood walking into my office, and an even more sour one walking in to our apartment.

The second story is about my friend Matt. He told me, just this past weekend, how his commute is really problematic. And…..he works from his home office!!  What he explained to me was, when he wraps up work he then heads directly to the kitchen where his kids are typically hanging around. He comes into the kitchen with such mental baggage from his work day that he feels like he is an absolute jerk to his kids, and then he feels like he is being a terrible dad.

The two stories demonstrate the dangers, from a mental standpoint, of a commute – regardless of the time it takes. Commutes so often leave us in a state of fight or flight that we cannot walk through the next threshold ready to be our best selves.

3 tips to help you reframe your commute into a transition that works for you

1) Be Intentional About Who You Call.

So many of us use our commutes to make that extra work call or that call to a friend or sibling. This is great – just be aware of who you are calling and what that does to your brain state. If you are going to call that one client who always raises your blood pressure, don’t! Call that client during your work day while you are at the office and call a client who you enjoy interacting with on your commute. The same goes for making that one extra call to our friends or relatives.

2) Listen to something that picks you up, not brings you down.

I talk to a lot of my corporate clients about their commutes. I’m amazed at how many people listen to political talk radio shows/podcasts, and then walk into work or home all grumpy. Let’s change this up. If you are going to listen to something, find a comedy channel on your radio, or a great uplifting podcast. Dan Harris’ 10% Happier Podcast is one of my go-tos, as is The Moth.

3) Create a single transition ritual.

I was once working with a group of first responders, and a police officer told me that the act of changing his clothes at the end of the day, from his uniform to his civilian clothes, triggered his brain to start becoming a parent and partner, vs. a cop. I love this! For me, I have a similar set up to my friend Matt, and before I leave my home office each day, I drink 1 cup of tea. And on days I work till the final moment before grabbing my kids from school, I bring the cup of tea with me to pick them up after school.  This act allows me to engage the pre-frontal cortex of my brain, and sets me up for becoming a better parent so I can greet my kids ready to engage with them, rather than still navigating my work issues from the day.

I firmly believe that there are a myriad of opportunities within our commutes to make them positive experiences, and help us become more successful in our jobs, as parents, and in our quest for happiness.

How about you? What's your tip to a successful commute? Let us know on social media - LinkedIn, Facebook or YouTube.

One more thought…

I have created an amazing online community, A Moxie Tribe, dedicated to bringing kick ass moms with big ass jobs together, electronically and in person. My goal, while connecting us all, is to support your careers, your parenting, and your happiness. It’s not quite ready for primetime yet, but it will be when we launch on September 3rd. In the meantime, go here to join our waitlist to receive priority enrollment and pricing.

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What did you think of this episode of Better Than Wine? Share this post with others so they can get the inside scoop on how they can make commuting work for their brain. Simply click the social media sharing buttons below to share this blog!

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