3 Tips for a Mindful Commute

What if the commute was such a positive experience that you showed up to work (or wherever else you are going) excited and motivated to give your best?

By the end of this article, I want to show you how that is possible.

Commuting is something that drives a lot of people crazy. I don’t usually get too flustered by people’s driving, but I do experience a myriad of other feelings and thoughts that I think are detrimental to my health and performance.

Here are some of the thoughts that I tend to think while driving:

  • “Why are they on my tail? I’m not going that slow!”
  • “I need to drive faster or they will be mad”
  • “I don’t want to drive faster just because someone is antsy. If I speed up I’m only going to slow down when I get to the car just up ahead.”
  • “I need to drive faster so that I can get to work faster and get more done.”

This is a just a sample of the thoughts I tend to think both consciously and unconsciously. When I analyzed these thoughts using a model I learned from Brooke Castillo, I found some of the negative influences that commuting can have on me. Let me break it down.

Circumstance: Driving in the car. Another car is coming up behind me.
Thought: “I’m not going fast enough for the car behind me”
Feeling: Shame — not good enough, not fast enough, not driving well enough for you
Action: Go against my personal desire to drive slower and conform to their desire to drive faster
Result: I drive faster and they drive faster

The brain likes to confirm whatever it believes. It likes to reinforce the patterns it has already formed. I’ve always been a people pleaser so that can sometimes mean I will do things I don’t personally want to do for the sake of relationship. I’ll agree with someone even though I don’t have the same opinion. I’m not extreme, but I do like to make people happy and try to avoid making people mad at me.

When it comes to the commute, I find that my people pleasing creates a feeling of shame. I think that I’m not driving well enough for the person behind me, and when they pass me or speed up when I speed up, it only confirms my thought that they didn’t accept my driving and thus didn’t accept me.

I also conjure up stories that they must be mad at me or must be annoyed with me if I don’t get out of the left lane sooner than they would like. Or when someone passes me on the right I think “they must hate me right now.”

A main reason why I think these things is because when someone is driving slow in front of me I tend to be annoyed or bothered. I may have my dad to thank for that! (love you Dad)

Regardless, I know this happens to many other drivers, and when it does, it is negatively impacting how we show up each day.

Our morning can set us up on a good tone or a bad tone, it can be filled with negative feelings of stress, anxiety, shame, and frustration or it can be filled with positive feelings of peace, readiness, and excitement. The commute is more important than we think, which is why I’m spending time talking about it.

So what do we do to make sure our commute is prepping us for the day? Here are 3 simple steps:

1. Recognize the Truth

The truth is that you will not likely run into the same people on your commute, and if you do, it doesn’t matter! The shift in our minds that needs to happen is one where we allow people to think what they want to think and not let it affect us.

The truth is that they are in a car, and they are driving, we don’t have to assign any meaning to the fact that they are passing us on the freeway. We can choose our thoughts to become immune to their actions.

2. Practice Presence

We can choose to practice being present while commuting. We can choose to pay close attention and focus to the sounds of driving. We can turn off the music, the podcasts, and just focus on the road, the scenery, the city skyline. We can pay attention to our breathing.

We can become aware when we are feeling angry, frustrated, or shamed. We can observe how this feeling occurs in our body and analyze the thoughts that must be causing the feeling. As we practice we will become better at allowing negative emotions to arise within us and then dissipate as we disconnect from them without reacting, resisting, or avoiding.

3. Choose New Thoughts:

Because we are aware that commuting can put us on edge, we can plan ahead of time what it is that we will think in these moments. By doing this we are using the rationale part of our brain to prepare for the moments when the unconscious brain wants to react.

We can tell ourselves, “I’m going to pray for each person that passes me that they will have a great day.” “That person who is speeding up behind me has troubles in his/her life, we all have troubles. I wish them the best and hope their day goes well.”

My personal favorite is thinking “May you be blessed and have an awesome day” as cars drive by me. What’s amazing about this simple thought is that I actually feel love for the other human beings on the road when I think this.

Genuinely doing this can change our annoyance and hatred to love and compassion. It will also help us prep for a day at work which is likely to be filled with people that frustrate us.

Conclusion:

We can choose all sorts of thoughts to prepare ourselves for the workday. The real question is, “What feeling do I want to have when I show up to my end destination?” If it’s confidence (to prepare for that presentation you are giving) then choosing to think thoughts that generate confidence is what you need.

You can also create a daily practice where you are more deliberate with your thinking. That’s what I do. I deliberately choose what I’m going to think to start my day, because doing so ensures that I start my day off right. My daily practice is facilitated by a product called The Mindset Journal.

Most of us are letting our brains run on autopilot. The problem with autopilot is that it doesn’t actually help us achieve our goals. Working on the brain and on your mindset is one of the most important things you can do. Which is why The Mindset Journal is awesome. Check it out at TheMindsetJournal.com