'Mind the gap.’
I hear the announcement on yet another station on the London Underground.
Do you mind the gap?
I certainly don’t always. Not just the physical gap between the train and the platform. But the mental gap between my many thoughts.
This thought inspired me to spend my journey to Hyde Park station on a beautiful, sunny morning, to share some ideas for commuting in a mindful way.
Why? Mindful commuting is a good idea according to some scientific evidence. Commuting is one of the most unpleasant things people do in their day. And mindfulness makes the experience more pleasant...and perhaps all experiences more pleasant.
Let's see if we can brighten up that misery a bit!
Here are nine strategies you could try:
‘Being present during my smelly, tiring commute’ I hear you say?!
You wouldn't think being present to your surroundings is a good idea while commuting. But according to THIS study, it certainly is.
People that were more present had a happier time. So notice how packed your train is. Feel your aching legs as you stand. And also smile as your train speeds through the countryside. Who knows, maybe you too will find travelling to work a strangely more enjoyable experience.
Travel time can be turned into gratitude time. See how many things you can think of, to be grateful for in your life. Enough money to be able to afford to commute. Enough clothes to wear. Enough for a roof over your head. Keep going! Share some in the comments so we can all feed the positive off each other.
Spot Something Unusual
Look at what I spotted today!
By looking around and being more present, you notice different things going on. A cute dog, a cool outfit, a lovely smile. Certainly, without looking out for these little moments, you won’t have any chance to glimpse something unique and interesting.
And experiencing something different helps you step out of automatic pilot and live in the moment.
I'm writing this as I travel. It's part blogging and partly a relaxing process of journaling.
Journalling has SO many benefits. If you manage to get a seat on your travel, try reflecting on you day or week, or just write a stream of consciousness.
You can write in an actual paper journal, a journal app on your phone, or just the notepad on your phone as I often don’t have a paper journal on me...I’m not as organised as you lot!
One of my friends always mediates when travelling. It's just what he does. So he doesn't need to think about what to do or read or play. He sits down, and meditates. It's a lovely idea and I've spotted quite a few people doing it over the years. I enjoy meditating whilst travelling too.
Tip - you can even put your headphones on and close your eyes. Everyone will probably think you're listening to some cool music incase you're embarrassed to be meditating while travelling. And remember to practice not just mindfulness, but kindfulness.
It's good to talk to strangers! In some cities it's a bit frowned upon, but I think with time it will change. So do strike up a conversation and that'll help you get out of the usual (often boring) thoughts going around your head and into the world. Who knows - you may meet another fellow mindful fan, as I've done on several occasions.
You can give yourself a little mindful challenge. Be present with your breathing from one stop to the next. Or count how many breaths you take. Spot how many things you can see that are yellow. Or purple. Or how many people look like they are in dreamland and how many are awake to the moment.
Giving yourself a challenge to be mindful is a fun way to develop mindful awareness. And if you’re travelling with children, they’ll prefer this to some of the more traditional mindfulness exercises.
This is a tip from a friend of mine. She makes it a game to smile at anyone who makes eye contact with her. She has a wonderful time travelling on the underground, and she does it daily, during rush hour. She tells me she find most people pleasant and chatty. I bet it’s because she plays this smile game!
Make Generosity a Game
My friend’s other game is to try and give up her seat rather than take a seat. She doesn’t expect to get a seat on the train. And if she does, she makes it a game to try and generously give the seat to someone who may need it more. As you can guess, this spreads smiles all round!
Here's a funny example of how not to be generous, from my favourite comedy, Seinfeld.
Whether you're travelling by bus, train, underground, taxi, plane or good old bicycle, you can make the experience a beautiful, mindful experience though one of the 9 practices: presence, gratitude, spotting something unique, journaling, meditating, talking, mindful challenge, smiling and playing the generosity game.
Do you know any other ways to make commuting more pleasant? Please do share if you do!