Is It Possible To Embrace The Commute?
"Sometimes life can be deceiving
I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together
… Mmm, it's always better when we're together
Yeah, we'll look at the stars when we're together
Well, it's always better when we're together”
Better Together by Jack Johnson (click here for the song)
“I really like the balance of flexible hybrid working. But the commute.. it really drives me crazy..”
Researchers have found that commuting to and from work, is typically associated with negative emotions like tiredness and stress and, as expected, the longer the commute the greater the displeasure. Unsurprisingly, due to factors like: over-crowding in the carriage; the need to transfer; long wait-times; and unreliable services the most disgruntled travellers tend to take public transport. Interestingly, researchers have found that commuters can experience psychological distress if there is a large discrepancy between their preferred and actual travel experience in terms of both modality and length of time.
Can we change our attitude toward the commute?
Researchers have found that with practice, we can alter our negative attitudes towards life experiences. An evidence based emotional regulation strategy, known as cognitive reappraisal, which involves reinterpreting the meaning of a situation, can help generate more adaptive emotional responses to bothersome situations. Researchers have found that our interpretation of life situations more flexible than we realise.
So how do we translate this theory to practice?
There are three parts to the commute: home; the journey; and work. All have associated obligations, locations, thoughts, and emotions. Home: As home is the personal domain, we connect it to personal commitments, and responsibilities. Once you have attended to the urgent tasks and made a note of the others, take a pause. Reflect on the positive aspects of your home, the smells, sights sounds, sensations and the relationships you have with the people (and pets) in your house hold. The Journey: To reframe your commute from negative to positive, it is beneficial to use the trip for personal relaxation and/or leisure. It is NOT a time for work (For my blog on leisure click here). Take some time to brainstorm and plan activities that you enjoy that can easily be done while travelling. (For my worksheet on leisure values and other worksheets click here ). Remember it's fun to shake things up, so ensure you have some variation in your activities.
“ Reading is a solitary, meditative endeavour requiring time and silence, all of which is under pressure from the hectic noise and restless urgency of online culture.”
Some of my clients enjoy, books, podcasts, admiring the view, knitting, or a music playlist. Perhaps you want to make up stories about those around you, like Tina Fey and Steve Carell in the movie Date Night.
Click here for the clip from the movie.
Work: Try to resist the urge as you approach work to begin checking emails, making phone calls, and writing to do lists. Instead take a moment to reflect on what you like about your job, and your personal work purpose. (Click here for my purpose worksheet and here for my blog on purpose). Once you arrive at the office, before you address the first item in your inbox, your voicemail or request from someone, take a few minutes to set your priorities for the day in terms of both your work and wellbeing that are aligned with your values. Remember to consider what you want to accomplish both for yourself and others. (Click here for My Weekly Prioritisation, Wellbeing and Values Worksheet.)
The Return Journey:
Whilst the process is the same but in reverse, many people find it challenging to stick to their boundaries and not allow work phone calls, emails, reading or thoughts to encroach on their trip home.
“I'm coming home Tell the world I'm coming home Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday I know my kingdom awaits and they've forgiven my mistakes I'm coming home, I'm coming home Tell the world that I'm coming … I'm back where I belong, yeah I never felt so strong (yeah)”
Coming Home by Dirty Money (click here for three remixes)
To keep work at work in your thoughts, deeds and feelings, it is beneficial to set aside the last 30 minutes of every workday to finish up urgent tasks and make a draft to do list for the next work day. If things have gone awry, find private location to pause and sit with any strong negative thoughts or emotions that may arise. Finally, take a moment to reflect on how your workday had a positive impact on others.
Having specific landmarks on your journey can remind you to shift between home, leisure and work. The principles of the third space, are very useful in managing the transitions during your commute, so ensure you make time for relaxation (click here for my blog on the Third Space). Please email me with your thoughts or if you want to keep accountable.
Ma, T.-Y., Van Acker, V., Lord, S. and Gerber, P. (2021). Dissonance and commute satisfaction: Which reference point to use? Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 100, p.103046. doi:10.1016/j.trd.2021.103046. PositivePsychology.com. (2018). CBT’s Cognitive Restructuring (CR) For Tackling Cognitive Distortions. [online] Available at: https://positivepsychology.com/cbt-cognitive-restructuring-cognitive-distortions/. Opentextbc.ca. (2014). Changing Attitudes by Changing Behavior – Principles of Social Psychology – 1st International Edition. [online] Available at: https://opentextbc.ca/socialpsychology/chapter/changing-attitudes-by-changing-behavior/. Rodriguez, M., Bellet, B.W. and McNally, R.J. (2020). Reframing Time Spent Alone: Reappraisal Buffers the Emotional Effects of Isolation. Cognitive Therapy and Research. doi:10.1007/s10608-020-10128-x. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/the-book-is-under-assault/news-story/b36d146e2605ecda6b6884f762cf6697