Use your commute to improve your mental health

Commuters take a busy tube to work.

If you live in London, you’re probably painfully familiar with the daily struggle that is rush hour commuting. With cramped carriages, constant delays and a temperature nearing that of the Sahara Desert, it certainly isn’t the easiest feat to undertake before and after a long day at work. In fact, how you choose to commute to work can have a huge impact on your mental health.

How does my commute affect my mental health?

According to a 2016 study from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), an estimated 90% of UK workers commute to their workplace, with the vast majority using non-active modes of transport. If you drive to work, you could be subject to heightened stress due to the high levels of concentration that driving requires – not to mention pesky rush hour traffic! While public transport allows commuters to temporarily switch off before arriving to work, there are factors such as anti-social behaviour, overcrowding and delays that can all have a negative effect on your overall mood.

More importantly, Brits have the longest daily commute out of any other country in Europe, with Londoners taking the top spot at an average commute time of 79 minutes. The RSPH found that levels of happiness and satisfaction were lower for those who had long commutes and that these people were more likely to visit their GP. Moreover, a study conducted by Vitality Health found that those with longer commutes were 33% more likely to develop depression. Considering how much time us Londoners spend commuting every day, it is important that we all try to make some small changes to the way we travel to work.

What can I change about my commute?

Get active

Part of the reason why long commutes are so tedious is because they involve sitting or standing still for a prolonged period of time. A report from the British Household Survey found that those who changed their commute from driving to walking/cycling experienced an increased level of wellbeing. Therefore, if you can, try and incorporate some exercise into your daily commute. However, we do appreciate that not everybody has the luxury of being able to cycle from home to their job – a thirty mile bike ride isn’t most people’s idea of an appealing start to the day.

Despite this, there are still some little changes you can make to your commute that won’t leave you panting for air at your office doors. For example, you could get off the tube one or two stops earlier and walk the rest of your journey. Not only do you reduce the amount of time spent on a stuffy train carriage, but you also provide yourself with the opportunity to stretch your legs and get some fresh air before starting your day. You could also decide to walk up/down escalators rather than stand, or choose to take the stairs over the lift. Even if you drive to work, you could always park further away from your office and walk. No matter how you choose to commute, there is always room to include some physical exercise in your journey.

Change of scenery

Not only can commuting be an arduous task, it is also rarely scenic. Staring at the floor of a Central Line tube carriage for 50 minutes is hardly going to provide for a positive start to your work day! A study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health found that workers who passed through natural environments on their commute had higher mental health scores than those who stuck to urban environments. The study defines natural environments as those that contain elements of ‘green’ or ‘blue’, so anywhere that features trees or a nice river will do just fine.

While this may be influenced by the fact that it is mostly active commuters who pass through natural environments, there is research to suggest that nature alone can have a positive effect on your mental health. Nature has been found to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, which is why many modern offices feature an abundance of indoor plants. Therefore, it is definitely worth trying to factor in some time with nature into your commute. London has an abundance of lovely parks, so it shouldn’t be too tricky to incorporate some greenery into your daily commute. Although you may have to leave more time for your journey, it is a worthy change to make for an improved wellbeing and reduced levels of anxiety.

 

Commuting is never a fun task, and Londoners especially can vouch for this. Spending so much time underground, on a bus or in a car can leave commuters stressed and miserable. Therefore, it is important to try and incorporate active exercise and/or nature in our daily commutes wherever possible. These changes, no matter how small they are, can have a great impact on your mental health and will hopefully leave you arriving to work less stressed and more positive.

Here at Qured, we cater to your busy schedule by coming to your place of work in as little as two hours. If you are experiencing mental health issues as a result of your working lifestyle, download our app and book an appointment with one of our doctors today.

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