7 ways commuting can change your life

Laura Dean-Osgood

Commuting to and from work every day? Here are seven ways to utilise the journey to improve your life. 

1. Improve your career prospects

If you dread your commute because of the job at the other end, then use the time spent journeying on putting that right.

With online courses, you can retrain into a new field or gain qualifications that could get you a promotion or improve your employability. The average Brit spends eight hours a week commuting—that's ample time to complete coursework, listen to lectures or catch up on reading.

Look at courses available on the Open University, or one of the many adult education centres across the country (check your local authority website). You can do anything from a short course in web design to a diploma in marketing to a degree in business management—all in your spare time.

 

2. Become an award-winning novelist

Next time you curse your busy life for not finishing (or starting) your long-time-coming first novel, look to the wisdom of 43-year-old Brigid Coady, who wrote her first (award-winning) book on her daily commute.

"I have always wanted to write a novel and the train seemed like the ideal place to sit down, collect my thoughts and write my first book,” says Brigid. “It's about finding those little pockets of time that can be used to really follow our dreams. There's no way I could have finished my book without using that time on my commute sitting at my table and writing.”

 

3. Expand your literary horizons

Just because you’re driving or walking to work doesn’t mean you can’t get literary. It is 2015 after all, and there are so many audio alternatives to books that are perfect for people on the go.

“I hadn’t read a book in years,” said Chris Wilkinson, who regularly drives around the country for work. “I used to complain about the long, boring drives, so my girlfriend downloaded an audiobook for me. I started with a short thriller but have since gone through loads of books that I’d never have had the time or inclination to read before”.

If you’re stuck for next-book inspiration, join the Commuter Book Club on Twitter.

 

4. Become a calmer person

It’s possible to finish your commute in a zen-like state even if you’ve had to stand all the way in a crammed carriage.

There are several meditation apps that can help you relax. There are many free meditation apps to try, such as Headspace and Mindfulness.

Listening to the apps as you go, you can learn the art of mindfulness and relaxation, which can help you to reduce levels of stress, and feel calmer at work and at home.

If you’d prefer to put your hands to use, take a plain notepad and pen and get doodling, which can help improve your memory and concentration as well as achieving a meditative state.

 

5. Sleep

According to the Sleep Foundation, a short nap of around 20-30 minutes can significantly improve alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy. So, if you’re sleep deprived, and can get a seat, just do it.

Patrick Scholey, who travels by train from the south coast to London every day relies on his morning nap to keep him going through the day. “I couldn’t do without it,” he says. “I have an earlier start with most, and that extra sleep in the morning is crucial. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on sleep, and the carriage is usually really quiet at that time as everyone else is doing the same.”

 

6. Find love

Those humans you see every day, and sometimes stick your elbow in, are actually pretty nice once you start chatting*. Saying ‘good morning’ to someone you’ve seen every day for the last two years could be the start of something sweet. And if you’ve had a crush on your fellow 7.58am commuter from Bristol Parkway to Paddington, then say ‘hello’…it really is possible to find true love, just like these lovely couples.

(*exceptions apply)

 

7. Be the favourite friend

In a world where a text or a Facebook ‘like’ is beginning to pass for staying in touch, why not buck the trend, pick up the phone and do some old fashioned talking?

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that texting instead of talking can slowly put the flames of friendship out. A long drive—using hands-free of course—a long walk from the station, or a wait in the departures lounge are all perfect chances to call and connect with your friends and relatives.

Make a few phone calls every week: call your mum, aunty, old friends, and the chances are you’ll start to feel a lot more fulfilled, any realise how many lived ones you have around.