So You’re Stuck In Traffic, What Do You Do?

Find peace in your commute.

Nicholas Aikawa
Feb 27, 2018 · 4 min read

Today was like most days, except traffic was a bit worse than usual, meaning my day was not off to a great start. I was frustrated knowing I would be late to work, which means I would have to stay later than I would like to. As I reluctantly spent my precious time driving under 10 mph I thought of all the things I’d rather be doing.

A Tesla merges in front of me and I wonder if the person is driving or if the car is driving itself. How nice it would be to take a nap in your car and wake up at work. But then I remember hearing that we are still years away from cars doing the driving for us, so here I am just inching my way closer to work.

This is a daily struggle many of us face far too often.

The worst part about traffic is knowing there isn’t much you can do once you are in it. You can honk your horn or cuss at other drivers. Common actions by many that do absolutely nothing to make it go faster. You can try using Google Maps to find an alternate route, but for most of us that just isn’t an option. Instead of complaining about traffic, why not find a way to do something about it?

I usually listen to music or podcasts while driving because they serve as a good distraction, but today I did something different.

I turned down the music as I realized it was a beautiful day. I’m not sure what it is about sunrises, but they always seem to fill me with hope. Maybe it’s because the sun rising symbolizes a new day, or maybe it’s just the natural light? I know it’s a bit cliche, but it helped me so I won’t argue.

I turned my attention back to the line of brake lights ahead of me and instead of feeling anger, I felt at peace. If we can’t make traffic go away, and we can’t find a way around it, what do we do?

Nothing. We just accept it. That’s how we beat traffic.

The next time you are in a traffic jam view it as life giving you a break. We all have commitments and things to worry about, but never enough breaks. Never enough time for us to just relax and think.

There are some things in life that we cannot control and driving in traffic is one of them so don’t waste your thoughts on traffic.

Spend this time thinking about how fortunate you are to be here in this moment. Reflect on your life. If you’re running late for something, let whoever that it impacts know, but then after don’t worry about being late because you can’t do anything about it.

A man named Rob Herzog avoided dying in the World Trade Center on 9–11 because he was running ‘just a little late’ that day.

An extreme example, but it helps keep things in perspective. Being late one time isn’t the worst thing that can happen. So instead of focusing on what is going wrong for you today, focus on what is going right for you.

Be thankful that you have a car to take you to work. There’s never a good time to get in a car crash so be grateful that time is not now for you. Be thankful for the job you have. If you’re with other people, embrace the company of others.

Don’t let your mind be “stuck” in traffic just because your body is. If you can learn to separate your mind and body then traffic will not bring you down.

Of course remain aware of the cars around you to avoid an accident, but do not be content with “zoning out” and mindlessly driving your car. Your brain is more than capable of driving your car safely while also thinking about other things.

Start simple by thinking about what you have to look forward to that day, or even in the upcoming weekend. Then maybe think about the people who you haven’t heard from in awhile and ask yourself why you haven’t spoken to them.

Let your mind dwell on those deeper thoughts that you always seem to bury beneath all of your day to day problems.

Traffic can be your safe space. Nobody can hear your thoughts, nobody can judge you. Each person is in their own world inside their respective cars, but you only need to focus on your own world.

I’m not trying to tell you traffic jams are a good thing as they can literally be a pain in the butt. Obviously take precautions to avoid them if possible. However, if you live near a city you will inevitably find yourself in traffic likely sooner than later, so it’s best to be prepared.

The next time you find yourself in traffic see it as an opportunity. It’s a chance to explore your own mind. Learn to use this time to free your mind and you’ll never be stuck in traffic again.

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