Commuting. We all do it, unless you’re working from home, and most of us now do it on auto-pilot. We tend to look for the shortest journeys, without giving a second thought to its effect on our mental wellbeing. But what if changing your commute could change your mindset?
Here are my definitive ratings of ways to commute, based on effect on mental health and mindset.
Car: This is probably the worst!
Researchers have done extensive studies on people’s commutes to work and, pretty conclusively, established that driving is by far the most stressful way to commute, especially in big, urban cities such as London. The traffic is stressful, being late is stressful and other drivers are even more stressful. No one wants to turn up for a hectic day in the office already foaming at the mouth! This has a negative effect on your health both for your stress levels and people who drive to work are more likely to put on weight. Every hour you spend in a car makes you 6 percent more likely to be obese!
Driving is also the least environmentally friendly and depending on how far your drive would be, one of the most expensive. Fuel prices have only been increasing recently and after the implications of Brexit fully take hold, this is only likely to rise higher. So, picking an alternative to driving could not only save the planet (probably the most important thing!) but also help your pocket, your stress levels and your waistline!
Public Transport, i.e. Bus or train: Public transport isn’t great, but it’s better than the car.
Out of the three forms of transport that I have mentioned in this post, public transport can be stressful but not to the same level as driving. You can expect the odd frustration, and I have experienced the sinking feeling in my stomach when I’ve walked into Waterloo train station to see hordes of people and the announcement board listing delayed and cancelled trains as far as the eye can see. But generally, it is fairly simple and fairly reliable, if a little overcrowded. You also might have time to read a book, listen to a podcast or even meditate! In fact, it has been shown that people who use their commute for forward planning and working on their goals have a much better mindset than those who don’t.
The obvious perk to public transport is that it is more environmentally friendly, it is a more efficient use of energy as well as using electricity instead of petrol. However, only 25% of UK energy comes from renewable resources so this is by no means perfect. The other issue, especially with the train, is the cost. A season ticket costs a disproportionate amount and seems to rise more regularly and more quickly than footballer’s wages! Obviously, you can’t usually remove the train as part of your commute if you live a certain distance away but why not get off a couple of stops early, to incorporating a cycle, walk or run as part of your journey. This would help to keep you happier and healthier in the long run (no pun intended!).
Cycle/Run/Walk: By far the best for your health, your pocket, and the environment.
This is the best on all three counts, it is the least stressful, the most environmentally friendly and the cheapest. Exercise is not only a great reliever of stress, but it keeps you healthy and improves your general wellbeing. Time is already in short supply and finding the time to exercise is hard-work, if you can use your commute time to fit this exercise in and save money then this is ideal. It is easier and safer to cycle to work than people think, with many of London’s Cycle Superhighways giving you a clean run away from the traffic. Studies show that the benefits of cycling far outstrip the risk posed by car fumes. Overall, riding to work is nine times as beneficial than the risks posed by accidents or air pollution.
Personally, I find that when I do ride to work, I feel significantly more alert, relaxed and helps me to work through any work-related anxiety or stress that I may be having, as opposed to being pushed into the armpit of another person on the tube. Besides the cost of the bike, cycling is pretty much free and you can feel smug in the fact you’re not contributing to the record high levels of pollution in the capital (we have already surpassed Bejing!). It isn’t something that is possible for all and you don’t have to cycle, run or walk every day but any extra you can add will be beneficial for your health, the environment and your wallet.
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Toby Swann, Associate – IT and Software Engineering