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Businessman during daily commute

Squeezing yourself into a crowded subway car, having your nose a bit too close to someone’s underarm, nearly escaping the jaws of death otherwise known as the subway doors…it’s all in a day’s commute in many cities. Until working from home and flexible schedules become part of the mainstream work culture, commuting is here to stay. In the meantime, we can strive to improve the experience and (hopefully) eliminate the natural stress the daily commute can cause.

Below are 5 tips to help you combat your daily commute and come out winning!

1. Get back to the classics: Many people listen to music to make the commuting experience more tolerable, however their playlists may read more like that of a battle cry rather than anything stress-reducing. The type of music you listen to can take a tool on your mind and body, so my suggestion is to dial it down. Research shows that listening to instrumental music will not only decrease the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, often produced during commuting hours, but also can lower your blood pressure, pulse and heart rate. Try clearing your mind to Chopin or Bach for a change!

2. It’s all in the timing: Often, the most stressful part of commuting is the thought of being late to work. To eliminate that stress, get up a solid 15 minutes earlier and see how you feel. You may start to appreciate the extra time in the morning and the ability to start your day off peacefully, maybe you will even start getting out of bed 30 minutes early. There’s nothing worse than having a peaceful morning that ends in a rush to the subway and the stressful aftermath of juuuust missing your train. Take control of your morning, rather than letting it control you, and you’ll see the results throughout the entire day!

3. 86 the transfer: Studies have found that those who made a transfer during their daily commute were more stressed, as it added an element of unpredictability to their travels. Ditching the transfer may take some creativity, an extra few minutes and a good bus or subway map, but it’s not impossible. Now that the weather is getting nicer (sort of), the thought of walking to a subway stop further away isn’t so bad! And if your commute and your health are improved, it’s certainly worth the effort.

4. Get lost in thought: In this day an age, it’s rare to have a few moments that are just yours alone. Try using this time to practice your own type of meditation or just practice being present. Ungluing yourself from your mobile device may feel odd in the beginning but after a few days you may actually look forward to your commute as an opportunity to shut off for just a few moments. And with 50-90% of regular computer and screen users suffering from some type of computer vision syndrome, your eyes will thank you too.

5. Exercise empathy: I’m always amazed when heads roll as a mom with a stroller come on board. Believe me, your crowded subway car is the last place mom wants to be with her precious cargo, so show some compassion. When we start being horrified by babies doing what they’re supposed to do… cry… we’ve got a real problem. And that problem is our perception. If you think it’s a miserable experience, it will be. But if you smile through it and exercise empathy for mom, baby and your fellow passengers with the attitude that we’re all in this experience together, things don’t feel quite as insufferable. In the words of the MTA, “Courtesy counts. Make it a better ride for everyone.”

Check out this contagiously happy commuting video just in time for your Tuesday travels: