Gold Medal Commuter Training Drill: Observation

Thanks to all those who opened up their bookshelves and sent in their reading recommendations! I’m looking forward to delving into some great reads soon. I’ll be posting more about what I’m reading as the summer progresses. After books to engage with on the daily commute, the next component of the gold medal commuter training program (distance) will be a series of training drills (all found here on terry truly) to help us stay happy and healthy regardless of what’s going on the road.

The first training drill is an exercise in observation.

What you’ll need: A semi filled bus/ferry/community shuttle/insert other option here, because this exercise doesn’t work if you can’t move or see and your nose is jammed into the torso of the person beside you.

Effects: Reduces tiredness and fatigue, increases open-mindedness, improves observation abilities and strengthens happiness and optimism muscles.

How to do it:

Step 1: Begin with a Proper Warm Up
In your seat, start by looking around at the other passengers in your vicinity. Unplug any electronic devices that may impede your ability to hear or notice what is going on around you. Breathe deeply a couple of times. Practice smiling. Try and find a seat near a window, but close to other people.

Step 2: Maintain Proper Form
For this exercise, proper form involves noticing what is going on around you, without staring at other passengers. You should be able to see/hear what is going on without making anyone else uncomfortable. When looking outside the window, try not to glare/stare at passengers in other cars/buses. The best form is obtained when you are alert, awake and receptive to your environment.

Step 3:The actual exercise.
For this drill, at any point (of your choosing) in your daily commute, put away your books, take off your sunglasses, put away your ipod and gradually tune into what is going on around you. What are people reading, saying, doing? How do people interact with the bus driver/board on and off the bus? What kinds of ads are on the buses? Where are you in terms of your daily route? It is it sunny? Are you in traffic? In the cars/vehicles nearby what is going on? Make eye contact with a few people nearby and smile. In an non-invasive way, really stretch your observation muscles and try to notice different things.

Last week I tried this exercise and there was a little five year old with his dad working through a giant puzzle book with markers and huge smiles. It was inspiring to hear all of his questions. (What’s that? Is that a beaver? Why is he going through the maze? Why are there dragons in the maze? What kind of picture do you think the dots on the next page will make? I want to do another puzzle!) It was great and totally improved my mood, but I didn’t notice them before while I had my headphones on.

For best results: Do this drill at least once every couple of days. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to as much time as you like!

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Shagufta is a UBC Political Science graduate with a passion for interdisciplinary thinking, writing, travel, reading, tea, and interesting conversations. She hopes to combine all of these things in her life work someday. For now though, she studies social policy and planning at the University of Toronto and shares her adventures in and out of the classroom at