Whether you’re crawling along in a traffic jam, packed onto a sweaty train carriage with no chance of a seat, or waiting around for a bus that you know is going to be late, your commute can be one of the most stressful parts of the day. Wellbeing expert and yoga practitioner Dani Binnington shares her advice on how to turn your commute into an opportunity for a calming, mindful moment
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful
We’ve all been there. Sunday night anxiety looming in the background as our weekend draws to a close. Perhaps you’re not looking forward to a week filled with meetings, or you’ve got a deadline on the horizon that has you lying awake at night.
The morning commute can be a time where these feelings of anxiety and discontent come to a head; stuck in traffic, packed in with dozens of other commuters on too-small train carriages, waiting for a connection that you just know is going to be late. It can be beyond frustrating.
We spoke with yoga practitioner, family wellbeing expert, and creator of Healthy Whole Me, Dani Binnington, on how you can beat that back to work anxiety and make your commute a bright spot in your daily routine with the help of simple, destressing mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness exercises to de-stress on your commute
Many people say that commuting is one of the single most stressful things that we do on a day-to-day basis; to get through it we try and busy ourselves and we run on auto-pilot. But what if we could utilise our commute time to become more focused, to create more awareness in work and at home, all whilst letting go of daily stresses?
Well, we can! Mindfulness can be practised on the tube, whilst you walk to work or as you make your cup of tea. What I love most about practising mindfulness is that you don’t have to change who you are or what you would normally do; we simply alter our experience of some daily tasks.
We’re talking about giving our minds a break. After all, we take our cars for MOTs, we service our boilers and some of us even descale our kettles – why not give our minds a break and reap the benefits?
Start your day with a mindful walk to work, even if this is just a short walk to the train or bus stop. Turn your ‘phone to silent, set off and walk on being fully aware of what’s going on around you. Tell yourself what you can see. Look at the people you pass. What can you smell? What can you hear?
Mindfulness suggests that the mind is fully attending to what is happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving thorough. You will feel so awake and alert after a few minutes’ mindful walk alone.
Try breathing exercises
Seated breathing exercises can make a journey on the tube a powerful experience. Sit up tall, close your eyes, shut off the racket and simply be. Inhale deeply counting to six, upon your exhale count to eight. Every time you inhale feel your spine lengthening and the crown of your head lifting up towards the ceiling. Every time you exhale, keep the length in your body and notice how you can let go of the day so far.
Being aware of our breath, and muting the endless noises from our surroundings, not only helps us manage the difficulties in everyday life, but also helps develop our wisdom and compassion. One thing I know for sure, you will get off that train or bus feeling rejuvenated, fresh and calm.
Find a daily spot of gratitude
Designate a daily short walk, or a ride in the escalator ,and make it your daily gratitude ritual. I find it works best if I do this at the same time or in the same place each day. Name three-to-five things that you are grateful for; these could range from simple to significant, and may vary greatly each day.
Have a mantra
Mantras help us ‘break state’; they help give the wandering mind a focal point. A mantra is a series of phrases or words that are sung or chanted during meditation, but they can also be repeated inwardly whilst you are on your way home from work. I often speak mantras when walking. My favourite mantra after a busy day is, ‘All is well’. Repeat this over and over again until you feel the soothing benefits.