How can commuting to work help your mental health?
For many of us, the commute to work is a necessary evil. But can we make it pleasant – or even beneficial? Find out how commuting can help your mental health.
Commuting to and from work every day takes up a lot of our working week. A survey by Statista found that the average commute in the UK takes between 15 to 29 minutes, but the second most common commute time is from 30 minutes to almost an hour.
When we’ve had long days at work, it makes sense to use this time to disconnect from the working day and not take the stress of the day home with us. This means it’s important to make sure your commute is taking care of your mental health and helping you to create that separation.
Ben Mercer of Leisure Lakes Bikes has identified a few ways to make sure your commute is doing everything you need to prepare for a workday or unwind after one.
Driving and its alternatives
Another Statista survey asserted that the most common form of transport for commuting is driving, with 64% of journeys happening in an owned or household car. While it’s an efficient way to get to work, traffic jams and spending a long time in a car on your own can have a huge impact on your mental health.
Ben Mercer suggests: “One option you could try is switching the method of travel you use to get to work. If you’re within a good distance from your workplace, you can try walking to work. Or even better, why not hop on an e bike and cycle in? Not only can it be refreshing to get out in the fresh air rather than being stuck in your car, but the exercise can help pump positive endorphins ahead of or after your working day.”
However, driving might be the only suitable option to get to work, especially if it’s a tricky location to get to through other methods. If that’s the case, why not organise a carpool with your colleagues? Sharing the experience and socialising could help to improve mentality and outlook.
Trying different routes
Not only could your commute improve by changing the method of travel you use, but it could benefit from trying out different routes. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking the fastest route to and from your workplace, as the longer travel time could help give you time to work through your thoughts before your working day starts and after it ends.
The morning commute being longer does mean if you were to experiment with different ways of getting into work that you may need to get up earlier, but there are plenty of benefits to waking up earlier than you normally do.
It can help to regulate your circadian rhythm, which helps both your sleeping pattern in the long-term as well as benefiting your mental health. You’ll also have more time to get a hearty breakfast and set yourself up for the day. And if you find yourself having to skip showers or brushing your teeth as you’re strapped for time, you’ll be able to look after yourself more.
Soundtracking your journey
When you’re travelling, unless you’re joined in a carpool or around others on public transport, you often spend a lot of your time in silence or surrounded by the sounds of the road or your environment. That’s why stimulating your audial senses can help to improve both directions of your journey, both to and from your workplace.
Ben Mercer is an advocate of music to soundtrack your journey; “Building a playlist for your drive, cycle, or walk means you can integrate your favourite artists and tracks that make you feel both comforted and energised. You could even create different playlists for your travel into your workplace and your journey home, with more energetic music for your morning to wake you up and slower tracks to help unwind and digest after your day.”
Alternatively, if you’re more into spoken word, learning, or storytelling, there are plenty of options from soundtracks to audiobooks for you to enjoy. It also helps to provide an escapist option to help unwind and detach from thinking about work.
Connect with others – don’t forget about your phone
How often do you find yourself thinking about the last time you spoke to friends, relatives, or loved ones? You might not have spoken to them in enough time that you may have missed updating them on significant moments in your life, or even just missed catching up with them.
Texting is all well and good, but nothing beats a good old-fashioned phone call. Using your commute to get in touch with the voices you want to hear the most can help to strengthen or re-establish those connections. Plus, there’s no better feeling than knowing someone is thinking of you and wants to talk and catch up.