Honk! Beep! Beep! Being Mindful During Your Daily Commute To and From Work
We live in a mobile society, and people are traveling all the time, whether it’s from home to work, work to home, or commuting between various work locations. In our CAHL service area, work commutes can range from 30 to 150 minutes depending on where one is traveling. Since COVID-19, many of you have a commute from your kitchen to your office – 10 steps within your home. Others have a hybrid model of working part-time in the office and the other time in the home office.
In most of the meetings I attend, there’s at least one person who participates in the meeting while in a car. I’m always amazed at the commute times our CAHL members undertake. The actual distance could be 15 miles, but the commute could be 2 hours depending on the time of day that the commute is done. Our CAHL family live in so many different places including Vacaville, Discovery Bay, Tracy, Folsom, Napa, Livermore, Santa Cruz, Lake Tahoe, San Jose, and San Francisco. The commutes are diverse, microclimates impact travel, and the commute times differ daily depending on delays. Modes of transport vary from riding the BART, Cal-Train, taking a bus or shuttle, riding a bike, or driving the car. Regardless of the commute, we all have time to think and can decide to be stressed, calm, frazzled, or relaxed. When we encounter traffic delays, we can make a conscious choice to be mindful or not. We can be emotionally reactive, angry, frustrated, and stressed during our commute, or we can make a choice and be mindful, relaxed, patient, and calm.
Tactics for a Mindful Commute
I encourage you to work on creating a mindful perspective with these ideas to consider during your commuting time:
- Listen to a TED Talk or Podcast: There are so many free offerings online that provide inspirational stories about how one can overcome adversity, discover a new idea, implement a breakthrough discovery, or find a connection that provides a new hope or confidence. These stories are refreshing, promote a sense of optimism, and are fun.
- Have a Hands-Free Telephone Conversation with a Friend: Never text and drive. What you can do is ask your phone to connect you to a friend and catch up on that person’s life. Call someone who you haven’t spoken to in a long time. It’s exciting to create new connections and reconnect with people whom you’ve lost contact with throughout the year.
- Play Music that is Soothing to You: Music is powerful and can create a mindfulness of purpose and relaxation depending on what you listen to. One’s relaxing music may be Mozart and Bach while someone else may find peace listening to Rock and Roll. Songs conjure up memories of past events, feelings, and emotions and can bring one into a better frame of mind. Music ignites your energy and ability to be at peace.
- Play a Game: If you ride the Cal-Train or BART, it’s a great time to unwind, relax, and play a game. It could be “Words with Friends” or Yahtzee, or I’ve seen people connect with others on the train and play Backgammon or Cards. Whatever it is, do something that brings you joy and reduces your stress.
- Read an Inspirational Book: There are so many books to read, and the perspectives shared are endless. In the last months, I’ve read business books, fiction, a mystery, nonfiction, a biography, and a how-to book. Variety is the spice of life and the ideas shared broaden your knowledge, perspective, insights, and current thinking. They make one richer in perspective, open oneself up to new ideas, and provide oneself with ideas not considered before.
- Listen to a Book on Tape: Books on tape have never been easier and many public libraries offer downloaded books for free. Now they can be downloaded on your Smartphone and connected to your car’s audio system. They can make the time fly by, and I’ve actually been disappointed to get home when I’m listening to a great chapter or story. You only have 24 hours in a day where one-third of the time you sleep, one-third of that time you work, and at least 10% of the time many of you commute to and from work.
And if you spend your time remotely and conduct all of your meetings via Zoom, don’t forget to build in some time that you may have previously used to commute to unwind and disengage. Schedule that time just as you would schedule your commute. It makes a difference for both your physical and mental health.
Make the most of your day by being mindful of the time spent commuting, creating a space where you can think, reflect, and relax, and be energized in whatever you do!
Michael O’Connell, MHA, FACMPE, FACHE I
President, California Association of Healthcare Leaders