Making Commuting a Positive Experience

28 Feb

If you get a seat on the bus, train or tube to work, commuting doesn’t have to be dull because you can read your book, Kindle or magazine and lose yourself in it, blocking out the fact that someone’s backside is in your face. You can also listen to podcasts or music on some earphoned device or other, which can be diverting or mildly relaxing.  Lucky are those that manage to nab a seat in the morning, usually reserved as they are for those boarding at the very end of the line or the canny few who prey mercilessly on freshly vacated seats. Most of us have to settle for standing and balancing in some very compromising positions, being barged one way then the other and shoved into ever more confined spaces which don’t theoretically exist. All the while our anxiety rises and rises and rises.

A while ago, I was pondering all this and how much longer I could put up with it all. Why did I stand at my front door every morning dreading the journey into work, hating it before I’d even done it? And why did the only solution appear to be trying to block out what was going on around me through music or literature? Do I really want to shut myself off for such long periods? Well, sometimes the answer is yes, being engrossed in a fantastic book is marvellous. However, I decided I didn’t want to just be reading as a means of creating a barrier between myself and the evils of commuting, which, for better or worse, is part of my life. In any case, as I mentioned before, it’s not always possible to do.

About 6 days into 2012, a time when these kind of things are a bit further towards the top of your mind, it occurred to me that I could try to ‘enjoy’ my commute to work. I left my house on a cold, crisp morning and immediately noticed how nice the cold air felt on my exposed cheeks. Aloud, I said to myself  something like “Ooh! That feels nice.” I hadn’t planned to say this at all. It was a spontaneous response to something nice. I then did something I remembered doing when I was in the school playground on such days, I started blowing pretend smoke in the air. I noticed how much I enjoyed such a small pleasure.  Walking to the station I continued to notice things I liked and by the time I reached the station, I had racked up quite a few of these ‘pleasures’. I decided to recount them from the most recent to the first and I noticed that it took me back through my walk to the station quite clearly and enjoyably. A journey that I would have otherwise completely forgotten about. Not many of us, remember such things.

I decided to continue to do this for the next day or so. Anything that I liked in any way, I made a mental note of and recounted them backwards at various points along my commute. Initially, I set myself a target of 10 things to ‘like’ on my journey. These things could be very trivial indeed but were always new things to ‘like’, or the same things in a different way. They included things such as I like the reflection of the sky in that window, he has a cool trouser/shoe combination, that man gave up his seat to the old lady, someone smiled nicely at me when I let them on the train before me, they’re having a fun chat, that’s a cute puppy, wow! she’s pretty, I like the smoke coming out of the chimney pot. Some days I noticed way more than 10 and sometimes I only reached 7. I always got more than 6.

After a week or perhaps a little longer, I found that, in the morning, I was no longer thinking ‘God! I’ve got to get the train to work.’ Instead, I was in the shower wondering what I was going to ‘like’ on the way to work.  Quite a change in outlook. The part that left me feeling the most positive was the recounting of my journey in my head just before arriving at work and feeling pretty good about it all, ready to start work.

I’m no positive thinking guru by a long stretch and I’m sure there are hundreds of better techniques along these lines out there. I just never really thought about it that way before. Nevertheless, I can’t stress the difference it’s made to my morning commute. A couple of months down the line and I confess that I don’t do this everyday (I’m engrossed in a good book at the moment!) but I certainly do do it 2-3 mornings a week and most definitely plan to continue doing it.

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