5 Ways to Be a Happier Commuter

Commuting is a hassle. Whether you travel to work by car, train, bus, or bike, you're likely to wish you spent less time doing it, had more control over the journey, and had to deal with fewer of your fellow commuters during the process.

be happy 

(Photo Credit: Alex Pepperhill/Flickr)

A recent Wall Street Journal article examined the rare phenomenon of the happy commuter. Here are a few ways you can join their ranks.

1. Keep it short.

Short commutes = happy commuters, at least according to a recent study.

"When you look at Americans' day-to-day activity ... the top two things we hate the most on a day-to-day basis is, No. 1: housework and No. 2: the daily commute in our cars," writes Dan Buettner in his book Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way. "In fact, if you can cut an hourlong commute each way out of your life, it's the [happiness] equivalent of making up an extra $40,000 a year if you're at the $50- to $60,000 level. Huge ... [So] it's an easy way for us to get happier. Move closer to your place of work."

2. Make it entertaining.

Can't shorten your commute? Give yourself plenty to do.

"Track down a few happy travelers, and they'll tell you it's not just about length," Sue Shellenbarger writes at The Wall Street Journal. "People can enjoy commutes as long as 45 minutes, studies show -- and men are less frustrated by long commutes than women. But a happy commute is predictable. It is productive -- often enlivened by mobile devices and satellite radio."

3. Make more money.

How much does it cost to make up for a hellish commute? A 40 percent higher salary, according to research by Alois Stutzer, an economics professor at the University of Basel, quoted in WSJ.

4. Make a plan.

Shellenbarger's happy commuters seemed to have one thing in common: they felt like they were the master of their commutes, and not the other way around. Whether it's swapping a solo car commute for public transit or a bike ride, or multitasking phone calls on a hands-free headset during the drive, the happiest commuters felt like they were maximizing their travel time.

5. Make it productive.

Maybe you're not going to get that 40 percent bump in pay for putting up with your commute, but if you can get a few work-related things out of the way during it, you're likely to be less stressed and more productive once you finally get to the office.

Just make sure your colleagues don't start to think of your commute time as an extension to your work day. The last thing you need in terms of productivity or personal happiness is to open office hours ... from the train.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you do to make your commute more bearable? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Ezi Boteach 13 Oct

    I have been spending the better part of a decade as a commuter in the Bay Area. I found a way to be entertained and productive during my commute time by listening to content I really like, my content! Two apps I use regularly:

    - StreamShell - reads email, weather, stocks and RSS feeds (Android)

    - Web2go - you can get any website read out loud to you (Android)

    Yes, I'm an Android guy ;-)

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