THE BLOG
08/18/2016 05:19 pm ET Updated Aug 19, 2017

Maximize Your Commute in 9 Simple Steps

Without the right mindset, commuting to the office can be one of the most time consuming and stressful tasks we complete each day. The average American drives for 26 minutes each way between home and work, the US. Census Bureau reports. Factor in increasingly congested roadways, distracted drivers, accidents, and bad weather and it all adds up to several weeks worth of time every year.

Several studies show that commuting is associated with negative effects on our health, well-being and even our attitudes toward our jobs. But it doesn't have to be this way. Since commuting time is a reality for most of us, it's worth making some preparations to transform frustrating down-time into a period that is not just more peaceful, but actually restorative and worthwhile.

Here are 9 ways to make your commute less painful and more pleasurable.

1. Start fresh.
Keeping your car neat and organized can get overlooked in the rush of everyday life, especially when many of us seem to practically live in our vehicles. But the more time you spend there, the more you should treat yourself to a tidy environment. Throw away garbage and the miscellaneous items that tend to accumulate. Keep it stocked with tissues and hand sanitizer, hand cream and healthy snacks. Add an essential oil diffuser to the interior for some on-the-go aromatherapy. Treat yourself to a professional cleaning inside and out and make it as pleasant as possible.

2. Adjust your schedule.
Part of what makes the morning drive so miserable is the panic of running behind. Leave well before you think you really need to. You'll spend the drive in a more calm state of mind instead of glancing at the clock and praying to hit every green light so you won't be late.

3. Be a more compassionate driver.
Remember that everyone out there is just trying to get to work and then home again in one piece. Leave plenty of room between you and the driver in front of you. If someone else is driving like a maniac, move into the slow lane and let them go by. Avoid multiple lane changes and constant jockeying for position to get ahead - the danger and anxiety of doing so is not worth arriving at your destination 2 minutes sooner.

4. Fall in love again with podcasts.
If your podcast routine is in a rut, seek out recommendations from friends, mentors and family members. Change things up; whatever your interest, there is a podcast out there for you. Find a few that sound interesting, then subscribe on your device and enjoy!

5. Rev up your playlist.
Music is emotionally transformative. It can energize us, soothe us, raise our spirits and help us blow off steam. Put on music that moves you and sing along. Make a playlist of your favorite songs to enjoy on your drive. Get the cast album to the latest Broadway musical. Choose wisely for your commute - overly aggressive rap or heavy metal may increase the stress of your drive.

6. Convert your car into a virtual classroom.
There's a world of audiobooks, foreign language courses and classes on any subject imaginable available at your fingertips. Stream your favorite book into your speakers or speak French right along with the day's lesson.

7. Turn off the news.
Spending the entire commute listening to nothing but bad news will only add to the stress of driving in rush hour traffic. Listen to the headlines and weather if you must, then switch over to something that will enhance your mood.

8. Download some comedy albums.
Laughter is a great stress reliever, so get some good humor on your device and laugh the miles away. It' amazing how quickly the commute will go when you are enjoying the shuffle with a good belly laugh.

9. Practice deep breathing.
Pay attention to the road, but also notice your breathing. Work on taking deep breaths and slow exhales. There are techniques you can do anywhere, anytime that are proven to reduce stress. Your commute is the perfect place to begin.

You may also like 10 Daily Habits That Lead to a Happier Life. For more of Diane's etiquette tips, visit her blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, or follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.