Commuting to Work: A Few Simple Changes for a Happier You

Is commuting to work bringing you down? Try this working mom's recipe for a happier daily commute, and see if it gives you a boost.

Every day while commuting to work, an endless loop of stress-laden thinking would run through my mind. How long will drop-off take? Will there be tears today? Will I make it to the highway before it gets really bad? Should I take side streets to get there faster? Has everyone forgotten how to drive!? All bets are off if it’s raining. People definitely forget how to drive when it’s raining.

The average commute is about 25 minutes, according to the Census Bureau. But more than 10 million of us travel an hour each way.

I spend nearly 10 hours a week commuting to work. Ten hours! That’s more than a full day of work. Ten hours that aren’t spent enjoying my family or getting work done. I used to let it be a constant source of anxiety.

It also kept me heavier than I wanted. Losing weight has always been challenging for me, especially post-baby. Breastfeeding was never the magic weight-loss solution I hoped for.

I focused on eating right and exercising when I could. But my doctor told me I could be doing all those things right and still not lose weight because of stress.

That was a wake-up call. All that hard work losing weight was being undone. Since I wasn’t willing to move closer to the office or quit my job, I had to find a way to make commuting to work work. Here’s what has helped me.

Let go of trying to control it

We have no control over how others drive. We cannot predict how jammed the highway is going to be.

When I finally accepted this, it was amazingly freeing.

I decided if I really need to be at work at a specific time, I need to leave an hour prior. That’s the deal. It’s black and white. If I don’t allow an hour, I’m going to be late.

Expect your commute to take the time it takes. Let go of it and flow your mental energy into something that makes you happy.

Turn your commute into happy time

Is commuting to work bringing you down? Try this working mom's recipe for a happier daily commute, and see if it gives you a boost.

One of the best ways to turn your commute into much-needed “me time” is listening to something that elevates your mood, teaches you, or entertains you.

Podcasts are my favorite way to do this. If you don’t know what a podcast is, it’s like a free radio talk show you listen to on-demand. There’s a podcast for virtually every topic you can think of: fitness, health, parenting, self-improvement, politics, media, storytelling and more.

How to find podcasts you like

To find and play podcasts, all you need is an app on your phone. If you have an iPhone, it’s super easy because the Apple Podcast app is already there. Open it and search by topic or name. Subscribe to podcasts you like, and new episodes will automatically come to you when available. If you’re an Android user, Google Play Music just added podcast capability to that app.

Here are a few of my favorite podcasts:

  • The Tim Ferriss Show
    Although I think his audience skews male, this podcast is amazing. Episodes are typically a long-form interview with a top-performer about what, at a tactical level, makes them successful. It has given me the most insight and ideas than anything I listen to.
  • Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso
    Fashion business guru and author Sophia Amoruso interviews other women who have made an impact with their businesses on how they got started and what keeps them going. Sophia was a guest on The Tim Ferriss Show.
  • The Lively Show
    Jess Lively is an entrepreneur who helps people live their lives with value-based intention. Her podcast is designed to “add a little extra intention to your every day.”

One of the best ways to find more podcasts you like is from listening to the podcasts you start with. Oftentimes, podcast guests and topics lead me to my next thing. If you remember to Google it or check out the show notes once you get to the office, you can find even more great stuff to listen to. 

For more ideas, see our list of top podcasts for working moms.

Experiment with commuting to work

Don’t expect your new routine to be perfect the first day. Experiment with it. Learn what you like and make adjustments until you can’t live without it. I sometimes rotate in an audiobook or two just to mix it up.

Another trick of the trade: Queue several podcast episodes into a playlist each week. You can do this in less than five minutes on a Sunday night. It will prevent you from fumbling with your phone while driving.

Awesome tips! Got to try these on my commute to work ...

Reducing drive-time stress made me happier and skinnier

Since I started consistently listening to podcasts late last year I’ve lost 15 pounds. During the seven months prior to that, I lost three pounds. My attention to diet and exercise has been relatively the same through that entire period.

Even better, my commute actually puts me in a good mood. I look forward to it. I arrive to the office in a calmer state, which helps me handle whatever comes my way. And I feel I’ve used that time productively, learning something I wouldn’t otherwise have time for.

What have you tried to make commuting to work more manageable? I’d love to hear in the comments other strategies busy moms are trying.

7 thoughts on “Commuting to Work: A Few Simple Changes for a Happier You

  1. These are valuable tips for the days you have to be at the office. Another experiment: Cut the commute by 40%. Request a telework arrangement for two days out of the work week. It’s another sanity-saver.

  2. I agree with all of these things. Audio books are my go to. Also, I had the luxury of changing my route a bit to be able to “take the scenic route” for a part of it. It takes me a little out of the way, but it doesn’t take me any longer, time-wise. I try to focus on the natural beauty around me during that part of the trip. I too have noticed that I no longer dread my commute.

    1. Clara Miller says:

      That is great to hear, Leslye! Focusing on what’s around you is another great way to manage stress during your commute. And it’s definitely a great option if you find your phone’s battery is drained and you are without a charger!

  3. I used to cycle to work around 3.4 miles. I loved it. It made me feel happy and full of energy. Didn’t need much coffee in the morning anymore. Then I got pregnant and I had to take bus/train instead :(. I will commute by bike when I go back to work.

  4. We recently gave in and increased our cellular data plan so that we can stream online podcasts and such during our commute. I completely agree that a good podcast can make it go easier.

    I also spend many hours in my car for my commute and it’s awful. Thanks for the tips on how to make the best of it!

    Sarah |

  5. Over the past few years, I’ve used my own commuting time to train for multi-day, self-supported bike tours including riding from San Francisco to LA, Seattle to Glacier National Park, and more recently Portland to Lake Tahoe. Setting goals and reaching them through daily commuting is highly rewarding and will likely inspire you to stay committed to biking to work year round.

  6. Melissa Bailey says:

    I’m cycling to work and this is great way to get to work within the city! Well, at least it was before I’ve changed a work. Now I have to cycle to the area with a lot of hills and that’s quite difficult. I’m thinking about getting an e-bike, but not quite sur ewhich one to get 36v or 48v ebike. Would love to hear something useful. Thanks in advance.

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