MOST OF US used to live two very distinct lives. There was Work You and Home You. We became whoever served us best upon arrival—even if we complained about the journey. But if you were one of the 70 percent of Americans who worked from home in April 2020, or even part of the 51 percent from earlier this year, you might actually be missing your commute—or at least missing the mental-health benefits of your commute that you may not have even recognized before.
A commute can be a calming ritual that reduces anxiety and helps you be more productive or relaxed, according to researchers from Harvard, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Zurich. Just thinking about the tasks ahead can lead to a more positive day, says Jon Jachimowicz, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. And there are plenty of ways to hack the trip itself for more enjoyment. “Focus on what it is you’re getting out of your commute,” says Susan Handy, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Sustainable Transportation at UC Davis. “If you’re listening to a podcast you love, it doesn’t feel like wasted time.” Here’s how four men recently switched gears in their commutes to feel more fulfilled.
Run to Recharge
Jeff Rasmussen, 41, biologist, Seattle, WA
MY WIFE, my two children, and I live three and a half miles from where I work. When my kids weren’t in school, my wife and I would trade off taking care of them. Often I didn’t have time to work out, so I started running to work four days a week. Almost immediately my mood began to improve. It takes about half an hour to wind my way through Capitol Hill to the densely forested Interlaken Park, full of birches, maples, redwoods, and elms. To have time when my mind and body are in a state of flow has been a source of replenishment. I arrive at work sweaty but with a clear mind. I return home energized. I eat better. I sleep better.
Enjoy the Alone Time
Dan Burnett, 36, manager at a financial-services firm, Atlanta, GA
I USED to dread my commute into Atlanta. The traffic is terrible. What might be 20 minutes normally is 45 minutes during rush hour. I saw sit- ting in traffic as a hindrance. Then the pandemic hit and I began working from home.
Now I’m going back to the office four times a week, and I look forward to those 45 minutes each way. It’s 100 percent me time. I’m remembering all the things I missed. If I want to blast Joey Bada$, I can. I’m reconnecting with friends, too. I’m a dude and I won’t just pick up the phone to chat. But when I’m sitting in traffic, it’s easier for me to call my mom or catch up with a buddy I haven’t seen in a long time.
Pedal to Play Around
Harry Hill, 51, federal employee, Falls Church, VA
BEFORE THE pandemic, I’d bike to the subway station—about a mile—and take it in. Now we’re back more regularly and I’m riding all the way there. It’s just five and a half miles.
I’m primarily a mountain biker, but for my commute I ride my cross-country bike. That way I get to play around a little bit—jump off curbs, ride on grass. I’m not thrilled about returning to the office, but I’m happy I get a chance to ride a bit more. I still get that look from some white riders, like “What are you doing out here?” [Hill is Black.] Especially riding in my work clothes. They don’t know I have four bikes at home and can ride circles around them. It’s just that this one is the most fun for the commute.
Relax, Read, and Reset
Tommy Lutz, 38, engineering manager, South Oyster Bay, NY
I USED to live in New Jersey and would ride my folding bike 12 miles to my job in Manhattan. Sometimes I’d even sail a folding dinghy I built and bike the rest of the way to work. The trip made the day stand out.
After Covid shut down the office, my wife and son and I decided to move to a small town on Long Island, on the shore. I’m going back to the office three days a week, and I ride the train. That’s okay. A train ride can be a kind of meditation or good for reading books. I try to find small moments to breathe, observe, and relax. I surround myself with nature in my “real” life, and that allows my commute to be just a commute.
—Interviews by Joshua David Stein
More Early-Morning Maintenance Masters
Odds are you found new ways to optimize your early hours during the pandemic. How some guys are planning to keep the momentum going:
“Instead of commuting, I started running each morning before work. I’ve dropped 30 pounds. Now that I’m back at the office, I am continuing my morning runs.” Tim Anderson, Norwalk, CT
“I started making my daughter pancakes for breakfast. It made me feel so good to make her happy. Now I make a batch Sunday night and heat some up each day [so they’re] fresh.” Christopher Beardsley, Blue Bell, PA
“Writing in my journal: I’ve found that I have better clarity to reflect on the previous day in the morning, to help me think through what accomplishments or challenges I got done.” Bill George, Raleigh, NC
How to Meditate Anywhere. Even in Traffic.
RETURNING TO in-person work may feel exciting, overwhelming, annoying, who knows. Personally, anytime I’m feeling sensory overload—and I live in New York City, so this happens often—I do this very simple meditation based on a single word: and. There’s no need to sit cross-legged, close your eyes, relax—none of that. Just be right where you are, eyes open, in the midst of the stress and overwhelm and noise and crazy, and feel your chest rise and fall with one single breath. Realize that both of these things are happening: both the craziness and the simple feeling of being in this body, breathing, in this moment. You’re here; it’s now. Stuff is buzzing around and the mind is awake and aware. There can be a moment of stillness even in the middle of a lot of movement. This jostling and this stillness. And you can do this 100 times a day if you want. Small moments, many times—that’s the way to sanity. —Jay Michaelson, Ph.D., mindfulness teacher on the app Ten Percent Happier
Source: Read Full Article