For many people, the commute can be one of the more miserable parts of the day. A packed out, uncomfortable train, a stop-start drive, or a cold and rainy walk are just a few examples that many of us face five days of the week, every week.
Between us in the UK, we travelled over 800 billion kilometres in 2017, a staggering figure when you really think about it. Of that 800 billion kilometres, roughly 27% were made on our daily commute to work, meaning we devote nearly a quarter of a billion kilometres to work based travel over the year.
That’s an awful lot of commuting, which means a lot of time, money and effort spent getting to and from our jobs. Considering we spend so much time doing it, it’s worth thinking how we can improve our daily jaunt.
The impact of a bad commute
It’s easy to imagine a busy, uncomfortable or long commute making us feel a bit down, but the consequences of our daily journey can be more significant. In 2016, the Royal Society for Public Health released a study called “Health in a Hurry”, which detailed the impact of rush hour commuting on our health and wellbeing.
Some of the key takeaways:
- Longer commute times are associated with negative mental health elements, such as lower life satisfaction and sense of worth, and an increased sense of anxiety and stress amongst passengers.
- Significant commutes also have notable physiological effects, and can cause higher blood pressure, a higher pulse rate and a higher BMI due to the inactivity of our journeys.
- Long commutes also increase “time scarcity” in our lives, giving us less chance to achieve a positive work-life balance. As commute time rises, so do stress levels, as well as a higher intake of fast food and general snacking among passengers. It also reduces time spent doing physical activity, preparing healthy meals, sleeping and spending time with friends and family.
With the above in mind, it’s clear a bad commute can do more damage than we might think – so what can we do about it?
Upgrade your ride
If there is an element of your commute you really don’t like, would changing your method of transport help? If you can afford to, you can upgrade your walk to a bike ride, or from a train or bus journey to a car journey. Likewise, you could also downgrade to upgrade – swapping a busy car or train journey to a more peaceful and active walk or cycle.
Identify what you don’t like about your journey, whether it’s the length of it, the busyness or the cost, and see if there’s a practical solution you can make through a different method of travel.
Keep things fresh
If you worked at a fixed location like most of us do, your commute will be the same every day. You can, however, take measures to keep things entertaining, whether that’s creating new playlists for your journey, discovering new music and podcasts, or getting into a new book.
Likewise, you can also use what would otherwise be dead time to sort out practical elements in your life, perhaps checking and replying to important e-mails, sorting out your finances or planning out the next few days or weeks in your calendar.
Reduce your stress levels
On the flipside, you can use your time commuting to do, well, nothing. If you feel like there’s too much going on in your life and don’t want to load up your mind with more on the way to work, you can make this period of inactivity a positive one. Meditation, relaxation or just doing absolutely nothing are all options you can take advantage of whilst sitting on the train or bus.
Make your commute what you want it to be, and you could see boosts to both your mental and physical health – making your working day that bit better each and every day.
This is a guest post.