5 Ways To Become The World’s Happiest Commuter

Yes, you can actually be good at schlepping to work.

5 Ways To Become The World’s Happiest Commuter
[Image: Flickr user Adam McVicker]

You don’t have to be a National Geographic fellow like Dan Buettner to know that one of the things that we Americans hate most on a daily basis is our commutes.


“If you can cut an hourlong commute each way out of your life,” he told NPR, “it’s the [happiness] equivalent of making an extra $40,000 a year if you’re at the $50,000 to $60,000 level. It’s an easy way for us to get happier. Move closer to your place of work.”

Yet it’s not just the length of the commute that makes you enraged–or maybe even happy–but what happens on the way to work as well. While the average commute in the States lasts 25.4 minutes, what happens along those miles may vary. For evidence, take in what a year on the New York subway looks like.

But there are ways to master a commute, beyond making out while straphangers alternately ignore or ogle you.

The four factors of commutely mastery

The Wall Street Journal has tracked down a breadth of contented commuters. Let’s distill the fruits of their thought-harvest below.

It’s not the length; it’s what you do with it: People can be happy with a commute as long as 45 minutes, studies show.

It’s reliable: Gigantic fluctuations in traffic–like those that befall drivers around Mexico City and Moscow–can leave people stranded in traffic for hours at any given hour.


You fill it with awesome stuff: Suburb-to-Manhattan commuter Holland Sullivan loads his phone with articles and magazines each evening so he can read while navigating the train-to-subway journey. “Even when I’m standing in the subway jammed shoulder to shoulder, I’m getting something done,” he says.

You’re getting paid: If you’re commuting an hour each way, you gotta make 40% more money than someone who lives near the office to have the same satisfaction with life.

You can shift it: The Wall Street Journal talks to Mike Venerable, a managing director living near Cincinatti, Ohio. Instead of wading into rush-hour traffic, Venerable spends the first few hours of the workday over a frothy drink at Starbucks. Then he heads in.

How do you master your commute? Tell us in the comments.

Hat tip: the Wall Street Journal

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.