How do you like that title? I think I’ve written about this before, way back when this blog was new, so it might be more accurate to say 1 Easy Way I (Re)learned how to be 10% Happier. The method?
Two of my good friends (who are remarkably frugal and healthy and cool but that’s a whole ‘nother post) bike or take public transit to work regularly. And they work much farther away than I do! We were having dinner one night when the subject came up, and I said something along the lines of, “oh yeah, I used to bike to work, but I haven’t lately. It’s too bad because I only live two miles away.”
Their shocked expressions and exclamations of “really?” shamed me back into riding, but the shame was quickly replaced with joy. When I ride my bike to work, I start my day with a cool voyage across (mostly) quiet streets. I get to feel the air on my face, and breathe it in. I have to think (just a little) about what I’m doing so I don’t start worrying about the day’s tasks until I’m actually at the office. A similar process happens when I bike home. I leave the day’s work and any annoyances behind me as I roll out of the parking lot. While the ride back is usually busier, I admit I get a little extra pleasure seeing so many people in their cars while I am cruising past on my bike. I’m having fun! I’m enjoying myself! Look at all these people who aren’t! It’s terrible. And great.
Now, biking is no cure-all. People can still be jerks. I can still be tired or grouchy or anxious. But biking consistently makes it better. And the fact that I need to buy gas less often? Just another bonus.
I had similar experiences biking to work when I worked much farther away. At my last job, I would sometimes take the shuttle to the university and then bike the rest of the way to my boss’s house and bike all the way home afterwards. It took about an hour each way, and the way home was sometimes fraught, but it helped me release my frustrations about work and come home happy.
It’s not that I think commuting via car is the worst thing in the world. I wasn’t miserable when I was driving to work; in fact, I barely noticed it. But I think that’s the point. When I ride my bike, I notice that I am riding my bike. I am present for the experience. When I drive my car, I’m somewhere else: either already at my desk thinking about problems or wishing that I was home in bed.
It is too rare that we are really present in the current moment of our lives. Biking places me firmly in the current moment. And I think that’s what makes me happier.
Before you say, “that’s great” (it is) “but I could never do that,” (maybe true, maybe not) I encourage you to try it! If not, what things make you 10% happier in your daily life?