How often have you sat on public transport on your way to university, surrounded by tens of people, only to stick your earphones in and block out the rest of the world? How often have you jumped on your bike in a total rush to make that lecture on time, only to completely miss out on the joy of the wind streaming through your hair? We are all guilty of unconscious blockage, where we tune in to our particular little station and forget that there is so much around us, and that’s okay, but sometimes we ought to take the opportunity to tune in to the world that eagerly awaits our senses.
Stranger? No Danger!
Looking out the window whilst listening to music is one of my favourite pastimes as I catch the bus to and from Monash each day. The music can rile me up for the day ahead, or calm me down if I’m feeling stressed. Inevitably though, this little bubble I form is popped as a steady flow of newcomers seat themselves on the bus, and someone ends up next to me. Most of us recoil at the social awkwardness these close-quarter situations throw us in to, but perhaps we should take the opportunity to turn ourselves both literally and figuratively toward the person beside us and strike up a conversation. Some of the most intriguing conversations I’ve had are with people I’ve sat next to on the bus; a girl travelling to the John Monash Science School who was also on the national cricket team; a person who was studying the same major as myself; the encounters are endless! Many of these people have been on their way to or from Monash, so why wouldn’t they be interesting? You can learn so much about the world and its endless pockets of wonder by simply chatting to a complete stranger, and by the end of the conversation, you feel happier and more enriched for the mutual contact.
Mini Tip #1: If you’re the person to sit down next to someone else, it’s even easier to strike up conversation – buses mean an invasion of personal space, and hence, if you’re the ‘invader’ of space, saying hello and introducing yourself is a great way to make both of you feel more at ease!
You’ve been invaded? Not to worry! Give the newcomer a smile to let them know you’re okay with their presence and say hi if you feel comfortable!
We all have so much on every day that our mental buzz can become our entire focus. We run through our endless to-do lists and cascade into turmoil as we think about how far behind we are on lecture content or work or even social commitments. A decent bus, train or bike ride allows us to spend too much time ruminating upon these issues within our lives. Instead, try allowing yourself to utilise this time in a different manner, like noticing the details of the environment around you.
Many of us hear the word ‘mindfulness’ and shrink away because we do not fully understand the meaning behind this ever more fashionable word, but mindfulness doesn’t have to mean strict forms of meditation, or lying on the ground with your eyes closed and counting your breath. Mindfulness is individual for every person, and while some of us may prefer these more traditional methods, it is not something you must conform to in order to yield positive results. Next time you’re travelling to Monash, observe the houses you pass. Attempt to pick out one beautiful thing about each one. This could be as small as the colour of a window frame, or a tree with strong boughs that resides in a garden. By the time you reach Monash, you’ll have a mental collection of pieces of beauty that reside along the path you wander, and this can be a small but grounding feature to start your day with.
Get Your Fix
While we all aim for the idyllic bike ride or productive bus trip, sometimes this goal just isn’t practical. Maybe you slept badly (or didn’t sleep at all), or maybe you just really want to give that new music playlist a workout, but for whatever reason, you really just aren’t up for mindfulness or chit-chat. So be productive in the way that millennials know best; get your social media fix! Many of us suffer from the delusion that we don’t spend that much time on our phones or on social media, but the truth is that if we were to add up all the hours in a week we spend on our little screens, the tally would be sizeable. Let’s not lie to ourselves; we have the desire, and sometimes the need, to spend a fair amount of time on our screens. So instead of letting this take chunks out of each hour of our day, let’s use our travel time in a “productive” manner and get our social media fix out of the way for the day! (Yes, we all know you’ll return to the phone at some points during the day, but having at least some planned screen time should assist in resisting the urge to check it every 10 seconds.)
Mini Tip #2: If you’re someone who really struggles to keep their hands and mind off the phone, use one or more of the apps listed below in order to make scheduled phone time highly effective. Some of these apps actually lock your phone, whilst others lock specific social media apps of your choosing, or simply provide study timers that encourage you to remain on task.
- Forest – Stay Focused (iOS, Android)
- Flipd (iOS, Android)
- In Moment – Limit Phone Usage (iOS)
- Offtime (Android)
- AppDetox (Android)
And Yet Another *Helpful* Email…
Since joining Monash a total of 30 days ago, I have found that my Monash email account blows up with around 10-20 emails every single day. Admittedly, I haven’t unsubscribed from the forums that most of these pesky emails come from, but you just never know when one of them might be important! If you’re like me and can’t stand the sight of email notifications to sift through, or you simply want to remain informed, use your commute time to do exactly that. Check your emails on your way to Monash, and again on the way back, and you’re likely to have fulfilled your necessary daily email quota. This is a great way of fulfilling a small goal to help get you rolling for the rest of the day, and makes the long commute productive! This method is far less time-consuming than going back to that inbox every time a single email notification pops up. Plus, the scheduled checking times will help to alleviate stress about missing something important, because your personalised plan will cover it.
Mini Tip #3: If you feel brave enough, turn off your email notifications altogether. This may seem terrifying at first; you might miss something critical! But the truth is, if you make and stick to a daily plan of checking your emails, you’re unlikely to miss much. If you’re someone who struggles to remember to check emails without the nudge from notifications, then go through your inbox and mark the people who send vital emails as VIPs.
So tune in to your Joyride; from getting to know a new person and observing your environment, to gratifying that social media urge or attacking the email barrage, you’re doing something productive. By all means, have trips consisting of just ‘you’ time, but give some of these ideas a go – you never know what could come of them.
© 2018 Anna Rabinov