Before the COVID-19 pandemic, plenty of studies were published exploring the impact of commuting on our mental health. Many research articles found that long commutes had a detrimental impact. Now that we’re starting to move into the post-pandemic world, however, there is a new understanding of commuting, with some realising there is something about the daily commute they actually miss. And what of the millions of us still commuting, is it really all doom and gloom?
Whether commuting is good or bad for your mental wellbeing can depend upon a few factors: the length of your commute, what you do during your commute, and the mode of transportation. Let’s explore the bad, the good, and ways to improve your commute.
The Negative Mental Impacts of a Long Car Commute
Commuting times have been getting longer, slowly but surely. A study on how driving affects health found that people who spent a long time driving per day were more likely to have insufficient physical activity, less sleep, and be overweight as well as worse mental health. Commuting can cause stress, boredom, and frustration with the things outside of our control, such as traffic. Many people are also feeling the pinch with rising petrol prices also taking a toll on mental health.
While there are a lot of studies showing the negative impacts of commuting by car, there is plenty of evidence that there are positive consequences from commuting to work, too.
The Mental Wellbeing Benefits of Commuting
A 2001 study argues that the ideal commute is 16 minutes, not zero minutes, with some research participants even wanting a longer commute. A more recent study on employee wellbeing during that pandemic found that a third of remote workers lack a separation between work and home & feel disconnected from their coworkers, which can both be detrimental to mental health.
Commuting can give people a time to meditate before the work day begins, it can also help with the transfer from the switch from ‘home brain’ to ‘work brain’, preventing burnout and allowing employees to slow down. Being in the office also allows for opportunities for social interaction which can improve mood and reduce loneliness.
Switching to Active Commuting
Active commuting, that is commuting by walking or cycling solely or combined with public transport/car travel, has many positive mental health benefits. In research into whether active commuting improves physiological wellbeing, it was found that while car driving promotes boredom, social isolation and stress, there is intrinsic enjoyment gained from the exercise and relaxation from active commuting. Of all the modes of transport, driving in your car was found to be the worst experience, even below public transport.
Participants of the study reported the feeling of constantly being under strain or unable to concentrate was at least 13% higher when they used a car to travel than when they actively travelled to work.
It’s clear then that making the switch to active commuting instead of only working from home or driving to work can make a considerable difference to your daily mood and feelings about work.
Commuting can be good for your mental health if done right. If you have to drive, where possible you should aim to shorten your commute, or combine driving with an active commuting mode of transportation. Compared to all modes of transport, walking and cycling trips are found to be both the most relaxing and exciting.
Active commuting doesn’t have to be a hassle, even those who need to wear a business suit at the office can enjoy the benefits of exercise before and after work. Henty commuter bags allow you to safely transport your suit and all of your gear to and from the office. No matter how you travel, to make the most of your commute it can be beneficial to immerse yourself in a podcast or audiobook to kill boredom, or put on some music to lift your mood and relieve stress.