What did you listen to on your way into work this morning?

If you're like most, you weren't in conversation with someone else. We seem to universally despise the notion of chatting with strangers on the train, bus, or in the carpool. 

If you're not using public transportation, you're typically either in your car or walking to work. And what were you most likely doing? Listening to the radio or to something on your phone. Commute time seems ideal for catching up on the news, getting inspired by a podcast, or simply enjoying music. It's hard to imagine commuting without some entertainment in your ear.

But what if, instead, you used your commute time to center yourself and get mentally prepared for the day?

What if you reserved time in your commute for complete silence? How might that change your mood, your outlook, and your day?

Months ago, on a particularly harried day, I did just that. My mind was bouncing among dozens of thoughts, worries, reminders, and those random memories that pop in at the oddest moment. I had what felt like hundreds of things on my "to do" list. I was waiting to merge onto the bridge into Washington, DC, in a long line of cars, and I was frustrated. I'd already listened to my favorite podcasts, and the radio just felt intrusive and annoying. I clicked it off and sat for a moment in silence.

The funny thing was that I felt self-conscious at first. I wondered if everyone else on the road might notice that I was just sitting there, not doing anything but occasionally tapping the gas and brake in stop-and-go traffic.

After a few minutes, the bouncing thoughts in my head lessened and I started to calm down. I left the "noise" off for the remainder of the ride, and instead just drove my car and tuned into the muffled traffic and street noise around me. I made sure I wasn't so chilled out that I couldn't pay attention to the traffic around me, but simply tried to empty my head of extraneous thoughts. I arrived at the office alive. I'd survived more than 30 minutes of near silence.

That morning, I felt more focused and less reactive. Without realizing it, I'd stumbled into a little mini-meditation that helped bring some calm to my day. I was curious about why. I hadn't paid a meditation guide or tuned into my app or followed the sometimes rigid-feeling instructions we're given on precisely how to meditate correctly.

Was it possible to improvise a meditation in this little found time on my commute and still get the benefits? I can't say for sure. I couldn't find any studies out there on meditation while commuting. However, a couple things are clear:

Time spent in silence has several benefits, including increased attention span and the ability to say more with fewer words -- a key skill when it's tough to get a word in edgewise on a chatty team. I also wondered if 30 minutes of this make-shift meditation was enough. Thankfully, there's data on the amount of time needed to see the benefits of meditation, with some studies reporting a minimum 30-40 minutes per day to get optimal results.

My experience was enough to convince me that when I'm feeling particularly pressured and scattered, I can shut out the noise. These minutes of silence in my commute help bring the calm and focus I need to be more effective for the rest of the day. If you can spend some of your commute in silence this week, I recommend trying it out to see if it makes a difference for you, too. You might just find a new habit that makes your workday a little easier.

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