How much time do you spend sitting in traffic? Do you feel like all that time is wasted? An average resident of an urban area spends up to 70 hours in traffic every year. Living in NYC, I am occasionally forced to watch precious minutes evaporate while sitting in traffic in the back of the cab. I used to consider traffic a useless and upsetting waste of a precious resource, but not anymore.
If you are like the majority of other drivers and passengers, you spend most of the time sitting in traffic watching cars in front of you, complaining about traffic, cursing at other drivers or at the Universe and the politicians for making everything so inefficient. In the best case scenario you might be browsing facebook and twitter feeds or listening to music. In either case, time spent in traffic can rarely be considered productive or inspirational.
Time is one of the most precious resources we have, and it is a shame to waste it! Recently I developed a new habit that makes me almost look forward to traffic or even delayed flights. Well, at the very least, I am definitely not dreading traffic anymore!
How to turn “Stuck in Traffic” time into “Enlightening Me-time”
1. Positive Affirmations.
Whatever we focus on grows! If we focus on the positive, there will be more of it appearing in our life. The field of Positive Psychology and modern neuroscientists have been able to prove that our attitude and perception have a strong impact on reality. Most of the time we talk about and focus on the things that we don’t like about our bodies: flabby stomach, wrinkles, not the right size on jeans, thin hair… We are programming ourselves with "I can't" and "I don't" messages, resulting in a negative body image and low self-esteem. Listing positive things and things that you love about your body helps to transform negative self-esteem into positive. Every time you are stuck in traffic, list at least 5 positive affirmations about yourself. Start by thinking about specific moments when you've done something good for yourself and felt good about your body. Big or small – everything counts! For example, "I love that my body provides me with feedback about food and exercise. I can use that feedback to learn and to help myself function at the top level of energy and clarity." And "I love my brain that always keeps thinking, comes up with recipes, and articles. It keeps me entertained and never lets me get bored."
2. Gratitude Lists.
Listing things that I am grateful for brings in a rush of enthusiasm and unbound energy. It is amazing how much positive energy can be created simply by bringing attention to things that are going well, to things that we love and appreciate. Only humans have the power to find positive even in the challenging situations. Only we can control how we feel and what we focus our thoughts on. It is 100% your choice. The thoughts you have now are creating your tomorrow, and knowing that means you hold the tools to make all kinds of marvelous things happen. Once you pay more attention, more miracles will become visible. Appreciation for our bodily functions that we take for granted like seeing, hearing, walking grows once you realize how amazing our body is, and the joy of using those functions will increase. Many famous people believed in the power of gratitude so why not give it a try?
3. Breathing Exercises.
Breath is life! The rhythm and the depth of your breath directly affects the state of your mind and the health of your body. According to yoga and Ayurveda, breath is a carrier of Prana, the Energy, that gives life to the body. No breath, no life and no energy! Even if you don’t believe in energy and Prana, you still can’t live without breathing. If I come up to you and close your nose, you will fight for breath. Our energy level depends in a big part on our breath. The better (fuller) you breathe, the more energy you will have. Taking deeper breaths will bring in more oxygen into the body and improve your energy levels. To learn more about benefits of deep breathing, check this out. Start with this simple breath technique. Keep your eyes open and on the road, though!
What do you want your life, your body, your career to be like? What is your ideal future? Create a picture, feel the way you would if your dream came true. Our brain will rewire the entire body to make it correspond to the current beliefs and internal images. So if you believe that you are overweight, it will be so; if you are certain that you are getting old quickly, you might. On the other hand, if you think that your body is strong and beautiful, your body will respond to that belief as well. Wherever you put the mind, the body will follow. It is not our physical state that limits us, it is our mindset about our own limits, our perceptions, that draws the line. Athletes do visualization to improve their performance so why not try to visualize how you want your next meeting to go?! Remember: we create our own reality! Our thoughts have the power to bring themselves to life. Positive affirmations work for me but the only way to find out if they work or you is to try and see what happens!
5. Listen to Inspiring Books, Podcasts, or Lectures!
If you are not in the mood for any active thinking or breathing but still want some inspiration while sitting in traffic, modern technology can provide some! There are lots of free lectures, podcasts, and inspirational books out there. Take time to compile a list of your favorites, put them on your iPod and don’t waste any more precious time!