Taking the train? Use this wellness guide to making the most of your journey
Thanks to onboard wifi, flexible fares and sheer comfort, a train journey is great for looking after yourself. We asked a wellness expert to tell us their tips for travelling well
Arrive ready to go: a train journey is a perfect place to catch a podcast, meditate or even catch up with friends
Use your daily commute or other journeys on the Iarnród Éireann network wisely and you could reach destinations that go way beyond any station. If it’s a personal journey of discovery you’re after, there’s no better option than the train. The key is to set an intention for each commute, says James Parnell, a wellness coach and founder of the Wellbeing Gym.
From his perspective your destination isn’t the station you get off at, it’s the mood you want to arrive in. “Decide how you want to feel at the end of your train journey,” says Parnell.
These are his top tips to help you arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go:
Arrive clear minded
“If you want a clear mind, set goals. Have a pen and paper with you for your morning commute and write down the top three things that are going to make a difference to you today, plus a fourth one just for fun. It could be sorting that thing at work that’s been bugging you, or catching up with that person you need to talk to, and something nice you want to plan for that night,” he says. It’s a simple exercise that sets you up for the day ahead and helps keep your priorities top of mind.
If you want to relax, “Don’t scroll while you roll,” says Parnell. Checking out new posts can be fun, but is more mindless than mindful. “Very many websites are cleverly designed to keep you endlessly scrolling or flicking, right down to psychologists choosing the colours most likely to keep you online. Remember, if it’s free, you’re the product.”
Make your phone work for you instead. Parnell uses noise cancelling ear phones and an app that plays only instrumental music which is designed to sync with his energy levels, whether they be low, medium or high. “Don’t play music with singing because you’ll be trying to make out the words. Instrumental music allows your brain to relax and the train is a great opportunity to give it that down time it needs.”
If there’s a project you want to work on or something complicated that requires progressing, give yourself time to day dream. It might sound counter intuitive but it’s a hugely important activity for our brain and something that, given the hectic pace of life, it rarely gets to do. “Your brain does amazing work when distractions are absent. Allow it to roam to solve a problem or to create ideas,” says James. “Just look out the window and give it the space to go where it wants. Let your mind wander. Day dreaming gives it time to process things that it has been too busy to register, and to make connections between things.”
Arrive switched on
A regular train journey is a perfect opportunity to meditate, a practice that can help improve your overall sense of wellbeing. “It’s as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing. Start off just for two minutes,” he says. “Your brain is designed to constantly be creating new thoughts that we then chase. Meditation is not about emptying your head, instead, simply observe your thoughts. If you find you are chasing them, as in ‘what’s for dinner . . . I must buy spinach’, don’t beat yourself up. Just stop and go back to focusing on your breathing and you’ll find, over time, that you get a period of peace.” For James, the calmness, clarity of thought and perspective that meditation brings helps him with strategic thinking ‑ everything from priorities for the day ahead to his priorities in life.
Go on, have a snooze. You know you want to. Few things are as soporific as a train ride, especially in a comfortable seat. Just don’t overdo it, he cautions. “A 30-minute cat nap will refresh you. Any longer may make you feel even more tired when you wake.”
A train journey is a perfect opportunity to catch a podcast. “There are loads of great ones out there, and most of them free, so why not listen to someone inspiring?” says Parnell, who likes listening to Inside Quest, which has an array of motivational and inspirational speakers. Alternatively, read a motivational book. With free wifi on board, you can download any number of titles with ease to your Kindle or phone.
Of course, you could always use the downtime to make a real connection. “Swap liking stuff on Facebook for actually calling someone, change from WhatsApp to a real What’s Up?” he says. Ask yourself who do you want to talk to, who do you want to get help from, or who do you want to help, he suggests. “Chat and walk on your way to and from the train station too if you like, but use the commute to make those calls.”
Arrive on top of your game
Get some work done, check your emails, prepare for that presentation. With on board wifi, you can get access to all your cloud-based files. But sometimes you might get more done without it. “I recently had to take the train to Belfast and it was the most productive time I’d spent in ages. If you have a piece of work to do that requires real concentration, it’s great not to be distracted. Turn off your emails. If you’ve something that needs doing, and nothing is going to stop you, the train can be a great place to get it done.”
“Choose something that switches on your curiosity,” he said. Take in a Ted Talk, or download an audio book – you’ll find loads of classics free on LibriVox. “Or use the journey as study time,” he suggests. Take a course on Coursera, or Teachable or see what’s available from a MOOC (massive open online courses). While all around you are scrolling mindlessly, you could be studying at Harvard, from the comfort of your train seat.
Wherever you want to go in life let the train change your perception of the daily commute. You’ll be all the better for it.
For more, visit iarnrodeireann.ie