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The Happy Commuter

Highway Traffic at Sunset. Tilt Shift Concept Photo. Traffic in Las Vegas Nevada, USA.

Highway Traffic at Sunset. Tilt Shift Concept Photo. Traffic in Las Vegas Nevada, USA.

The daily commute to and from work can be a challenge. For those of us living in cities, it’s hard to escape the slow crawl twice a day, but our tolerance for travel does depend on where we live. The average commute to work takes 25-30 minutes, where some of us only cover a small distance in dense traffic – others in more sparsely populated areas travel longer distances in the same time.

Interestingly, for those who work from home, where commuting is not an issue, the phenomenon of telecommuting actually adds time to your work day (almost an hour a day), as you can keep working, rather than driving.

Research has been undertaken to find the effects of commuting on physical and mental health, and not surprisingly, those who bike or walk to work report the highest levels of happiness. Even moderate levels of exercise have been shown to improve overall mood and immunity, and also offer the chance to get your head in and out of the day in a constructive manner. Imagine, after a somewhat frustrating day, to be able to walk for half an hour with your own thoughts, possibly pause to appreciate the surroundings and feel good about ticking some exercise off your to do list? Compare this with crawling along in traffic, with horns blaring and other drivers’ questionable manoeuvres – it’s easy to see why a self-commute is preferable.

Now, walking or cycling is not always an option, but there are ways to incorporate it into your day – you could use public transport, and get off a few stops early to add some extra steps to your day. You could park further away from your workplace. You could ride-share – so one day your take your car and give a colleague a ride home who walked to work and take turns to be the walker.

Making your commute more social is also good for your health – on the bus or the train, it’s quite easy to strike up a conversations with someone new – even a few minutes of general chat and the odd laugh is a good way to start or finish the day. If you share a ride with a friend or colleague, you could assign time to talk through any issues, but keep a designated ‘fun chat’ time too, so you arrive at work or home in a positive frame of mind.

A group commute also gives you time to listen to a pod cast, write in a journal, or enjoy music.

The impacts of a long commute can take their toll on more than just you. research results show those who spend a long time travelling to and from work have a 40% higher rate of relationship dissatisfaction or divorce, and their children often suffer from more emotional problems, due to a lack of regular contact. Drivers tend to be the most stressed-out commuters, as they are subject to unexpected delays most often.

How do you feel about how you get to work? If it isn’t a highlight of your day, investigate options for public transport, extra exercise or ride sharing – even if your thought they weren’t once possible, things could have changed. There may be a new public transport service, a colleague or friend may live closer, or you may not have timed how long it would take to walk or cycle – you may be surprised. Even if a walk adds half an hour to your total commute, think of the benefits!