Fantastic Voyage: 10 Easy Ways to Guarantee a Blissful CommuteBy Sarah Stevenson
Ah, the joys of commuting . . . For some reason, we live in a society in which we all need to be at work at the exact same time. Thanks to this, we also live in a society where we all need to deal with road rage, traffic, construction, and yo-yos who never should have received a license in the first place. While you don't have control over these stress-inducing obstacles outside of your vehicle, what happens inside your vehicle is entirely up to you. Here are a few simple tricks to turn stress into bliss during your commutes.
- Just breathe. Breathing is such a key component in releasing stress from the human body. With your mouth closed, take a deep inhale and allow your stomach to expand, making space for the lungs to fill completely. This not only gives your entire body all the oxygen it needs, it also opens up tiny pores that line the walls of your lungs that store toxins, old blood, and stale oxygen. When you breathe as deeply as possible, you open them up, flush them out, and fill them up with nice clean blood and oxygen. Now comes the exhale (my favorite part). Open your mouth to release a long deep exhale. Sometimes it even feels good to let out a sigh. Imagine you're releasing all your worries and stresses with the breath exiting the body. Calm bodies = Happy drivers.
- Exercise. WHAT? Yup . . . you can indeed exercise in your car without causing a pile up. Here's how to get a nice, firm butt on your way to work: flex your gluteus muscles, hold for 8 to 10 seconds, breathing normally, then slowly release and relax. Repeat 8 to 12 times or until your muscles are tired. You can also slip some Kegel exercises in there as well. This pelvic floor exercise named after Dr. Arnold Kegel consists of contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor—the muscles you contract when you have to pee but have to hold it. These exercises tone up your internal muscle structure and can even increase sexual satisfaction for both men and women.
- Stretching. A great way to relieve stress held in your body is to stretch. Circle your shoulders around clockwise 8 to 10 times, then rotate the circles in the other direction. This will help release tension in the shoulders and upper back. You can even loosen up a sore neck quite simply by tilting your right ear toward your right shoulder. Drop the left shoulder down as far as you can to intensify the stretch. Take several deep breaths (the longer you stay in this stretch the more it releases). When one side is done, do the next side.
Also, your hands can get kind of cramped when you white knuckle the steering wheel for long periods of time, so take one hand off the steering wheel (when it's safe of course), spread your fingers out as wide as possible, and inhale. On the exhale, make a tight fist, imagining that you are squeezing the air out of your lungs with your hands.
- Aromatherapy. The Department of Health Science at Japan's Osaka Kyoiku University conducted a study in December 2001 testing the effectiveness of aromatherapy on stress. Lavender odorants were associated with significant levels of reduced stress. Scents like eucalyptus, chamomile, and vanilla are also related with calm, peaceful feelings. Many beauty supply companies make aromatherapy diffusers that you can plug into your lighter or clip on to the air vents in your car. You can also purchase a little jar of aromatherapy oil or a sachet at most health food stores. It's easy to keep in your purse, car, office, or home. Bring it close to your nose and take a deep breath in, then breathe out, releasing the tension and stress from your body.
- Let out a nice scream. Hint: Nobody will hear you. YELL your loudest. Imagine a teapot. The water gets warmer and warmer until eventually it starts to boil. That poor little kettle can't hold it in any longer; it has to SCREAM!!!! (Once it screams, you turn off the heat and, voilá, you get to enjoy a nice hot cup of chamomile.) See yourself as that teapot. When you feel like you just can't take it any longer, let out a loud SCREAM!
- Music. I can't tell you how many times I've missed my exit because I'm lost in the experience of a great song. Music can lift your spirits and flood you with memories in such a blissful way. When I know I'm going on a long drive, I often make a playlist on my iPhone® specifically for that trip. You can also use Pandora® or a similar personalized internet radio service; just log on, plug your device into the auxiliary port, and you're on an amazing music adventure. And if you don't happen to have any of these gadgets, there's this thing called "radio" that I hear can offer some interesting musical choices . . .
- Take in a good book. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting you read while driving. There is this amazing invention called the "audio book." Check it out. So far, I've learned skills like how to meet people like me in 90 seconds or less, as well as how to think and grow rich—all while braving the northbound 405 on a congested Monday morning. Although I tend towards nonfiction, there's no rule that says you can't have a fictional adventure during your morning commute. It'll turn something that seems dreadful into something adventurous and educational.
- Smile at fellow commuters. The simple act of smiling releases chemicals in the body that not only reduce stress but also promote a healthy immune system. When you smile at someone they typically smile back, which is also a great stress reliever and positive reinforcement for you to smile more. In fact, several years ago, I smiled at a handsome driver next to me in traffic and, eventually, he became my boyfriend.
- Enjoy the scenery. Investigate the sights around you. Nature, the sky, clouds, the sun, the moon, trees, birds, bridges, buildings, cars, and people. Sometimes people can be the most entertaining scenery of all. You can even liven up another person's commute by livening up the scenery yourself. I love it when I am singing my heart out in my car and the driver next to me looks over (sure he has humiliated me by catching me singing). I turn to him and finish singing the song with all the passion I can muster up. I typically get a roaring laugh as a response.
- Positive affirmations. I like to place positive affirmations or quotes around my car where I can see them. I try to put them into my memory. Once I've memorized the quote I switch it out for a new one. The same trick works for scientific facts, historical dates, foreign phrases, and all other things Cliff Claven. Why not grow dendrites while driving? Big brains are sexy.
It took me years to learn all these tactics, having had several jobs and relationships over the years that required me to spend hours on California's highways and byways. I am, and have always been, a very sensitive person, so those drives meant that I wasn't exactly a lovely goddess to be around after an hour and a half on the road. Now, a couple of boyfriends and jobs later, I'm all about vehicular Zen, so it's my pleasure to save you the heartache and unemployment checks. Now get on out there commuters and make this world a better place, one blissful car at a time!
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