My mom bought me The Little Book of Lykke for Christmas, which is all about uncovering secrets of happiness from other cultures. ‘Lykke’ means happiness in Norwegian (the author also wrote The Little Book of Hygge). Anyway, as I was unwrapping it, she said, “It’s all about how people stay happy day to day, like, how they make their commutes better and stuff!” Really what she meant by that was: “Read this and quit texting me complaining during your commute because I’m sick of it!”

I DO NOT blame her. I am a brutal and relentless complainer on my commute. I hate it so much and I need to complain like I need oxygen in those moments. But I’m not alone – a study found that happiness levels decrease with every mile a commuter travels. Commuting is the worst. So this year I’m resolving to have a more Lykke-inspired attitude about my commute.

Here are some key takeaways that I’m definitely incorporating:

Lykke tip #1 – Use the slack time. Making use of the time we spend waiting through the day (like, a commute) to do something we’ve been meaning to do has been associated with greater happiness. The author Meik Wiking uses the example of using Duolingo during a commute, which I think is a great example. Also, podcasts are great for this. In general, having a podcast downloaded is like, a treat for the commute.I have trouble focusing on the TTC, so I don’t generally read books on my commute. Podcasts are the answer. I’m currently really into Almost 30, Katie Dalebout’s Let It Out, Being Boss and Tara Brach. 

Lykke tip #2 – Practice brain brushing. In Bhutan, South Asia, students and teachers start and end their day with a silent moment of “brain brushing” (or, standing quietly doing nothing) Think: teeth brushing is practicing dental hygiene; brain brushing is practicing mental hygiene. Bhutan is the happiest country in all of Asia.

I like the idea of making my commute the place I do a mindfulness practice because, personally, jamming a million things into my morning before I leave makes me feel like I should start getting paid before I even get to work. If I meditate on the streetcar, I get out the door faster AND make the commute more bearable in the moment. Chris from Headspace explains more about meditating on public transit.

Lykke tip #3 – Get a bike, or walk. A group of scientists from McGill University studied the levels of happiness of different types of commuters – walkers, cyclists, drivers, bus-takers – and found that the greatest satisfaction was experienced by those who walked. Those who took the bus were last. Obviously!!! Switch up your method of transportation, if you can. Another reason: Moving more day to day is associated with higher happiness, so switching the gym for a daily bike ride to work could be the shift you need to feel happier.

Lykke tip #4 – Find opportunities to add kindness. Acts of kindness and helping other people gives us a sense of purpose. TBH, my commute has so many opportunities to just be kind to people. Giving people a seat, saying thank you like I actually mean it, holding a closing door, letting someone go first. Looking for opportunities to be kind could make a difference (and not just in my day).

Lykke tip #5 – Check your resting bitch face. Some countries apparently believe that smiling on the street / in public for no reason means that a person is dumb (lol). Canada is actually not one of those countries. Personally, when I see a stranger looking generally happy, it makes me feel optimistic. My commute is a good reminder to check my scowl. They say smiling makes you feel happier, and we’re said to look more attractive when we do it. Win-win.