The ten-minute fix for a calmer commute


If anyone – like me – commutes daily by public transport, you’ll totally understand how cancellations and delays play havoc with our stress levels. Sometimes I just need a quick fix to help me bring my central nervous system into a calmer place – and what could be more calming than escaping – even as we’re having to stand all the way home from East Croydon?



1. Download the third (slow) movement of Beethoven’s Symphony no.9 on to your digital device.

2. Plug in your earphones and press play.

3. Close your eyes.

4. Take five deep, diaphragmatic breaths.

5. At the end, listen again if you need a further fix of calm.


An Oxford University study of 2015 found that listening to slow music with a ten-second repetitive cycle noticeably lowered recipients’ blood pressure. My interpretation is that the calming nature of the third movement of Beethoven’s Symphony no.9 activates our parasympathetic nervous system. Feeling calm and at ease lowers our blood pressure, rather than the music itself. But whatever helps, right?

As well as that lovely thirteen-minute Beethoven segment, many arias by Verdi – including Va, Pensiero – also contain that ten-second repetitve cycle, as does the beautiful Nessun Dorma by Puccini.

Perhaps we might even begin to look forwards to yet another train delay, just for the opportunity to kick back with some gorgeous escape time. And if that’s going too far (it is for me), it’s good to know that safety net is there: a tiny escape in the midst of the daily grind.

Want to know more about how diaphragmatic breathing also activates the parasympathetic nervous system? Brilliant! You can read my earlier post here.


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