Maybe you’re also commuting on a daily basis to work and back. I certainly have to commute: work, BJJ, MMA, qi gong, yoga, gym, friends, and back home. The list is probably longer but you get the idea. I simply have to drive around a lot in order to get to places. I wish I could use public transport for a few of those tasks. Unfortunately, this won’t work, as the commuting times would simply not allow it and neither the mediocre access I have to public transportation in and around Luxembourg. In the past I wasn’t using my commuting hours much (if at all). I listened to music or radio until I realized that I could use this time way more efficiently. I love reading, but due to work and all my other hobbies this often proves to be difficult. So a few months ago I rekindled a former hobby and I started to listen to audiobooks. Fun fact: in the 1930s they were called “talking books”.
Audiobooks killed the radio star
The amount of books I “read” since I switched from music to audiobooks has increased tremendously. Just to give you an idea, in the last twelve months I listened to the Bartimaeus Sequence, the Inheritance Cycle (Eragon), the Hunger Games trilogy, A Blight of Mages, Innocent Mage, the Awakened Mage and started the Millennium series.
This “pile” of books is worth lots and lots of hours of reading. As I’m reading the paper versions of a few ongoing graphic novels and mangas I think it’s fair to assume that I wouldn’t have managed to actually read those books for a long time. It feels great to get through those stories and once you get the hang of it, carefully listening and still being a responsible driver is no problem at all. You might miss a few story details here and there, but I can live with that (and you can always rewind an audiobook). Otherwise, I couldn’t have enjoyed all those stories at all.
Audiobooks and podcasts
It goes without saying that if you have books you love, you want to hold them in your hands. Thus savouring every detail and second of them. For those books an audiobook isn’t the right choice. I have those kinds of books, too. I end up having two stacks of books: one with actual books and one full of audiobooks.
Audiobooks can be expensive. It’s the same as it is with books: At first you can only access the hardcover (expensive) and later the paperback (cheaper) is published. If you have a tight budget you’ll wait for the paperback. The same goes for audiobooks, after a while they become cheaper or are on sale. You might even sign up somewhere and get an audiobook flat rate. Either way, you end up using your time more efficiently and can enjoy more stories!
If you’re commuting via public transport, the same idea applies. You take out your mobile phone or your mp3-player and listen to an audiobook or maybe a podcast. Especially if you don’t have enough space (in the bus, train) this is a great way to read without needing a book, or to get up to date with your podcasts (check out mine). Books can also be very heavy and add extra baggage. Your phone will be with you anyway and an extra mp3-player weighs next to nothing.
Audiobooks saved me reading time and reduced my stress level
Another positive side effect of my audiobook addiction is that I am much more relaxed. At first I didn’t even realized that I was more relaxed. Retrospectively, I’d say it took me about three months to notice that I was more relaxed and then a few more weeks to figure out why.
It’s not the audiobooks themselves which cause my reduced stress level, but rather the fact that I felt like not losing or wasting my time commuting anymore (or much less at least). Even when I was stuck in traffic for longer than I would have liked to. The fact that I was stuck in my car but able to continue listening to a story I cared about and was looking forward to simply took away any potential stressors!
With this decrease of potential stress, my average stress level decreased over time. I felt more relaxed while driving. Traffic jams, unavoidable as usual, became actually enjoyable. This started a virtuous cycle of stress reduction. The less stressed I felt, the less likely I became to succumb to stress. And this cycle helped me to be calmer in other situations, thus being less exposed to stress outside my car as well.
It’s important to note that in most cases distress (i.e. negative stress) is unnecessary, self-inflicted and –imposed. Let’s go back to the traffic jam problem. While commuting there is little I can do to get around any traffic issues. It’s rush hour and accidents happen. Furthermore, I’m limited in my choice of routes to get from A to B and if an accident occurs, all the roads are jammed anyway because everyone tries to avoid the blocked road or highway. As I have to be in the office at a certain time I cannot freely choose my travel times (which means rush hour is inevitable). Ultimately I have to accept traffic and potential traffic jams as a given parameter. Once I did this, my stress level dropped further. There was no reason to complain, to scream or to get angry. I relaxed and focused on my audiobooks.