There are many aspects of the working day that can impact on our personal sense of wellbeing and cause stress. But we often underestimate the impact that our daily commute can have on us, and feel powerless to break the cycle.
According to a recent study by the University of the West of England, 1 in 7 commuters are now spending 2 hours or more each day travelling to and from work. The same study also showed that just a 20 minute increase in commute time is as bad as a 19% pay cut for job satisfaction.
Commuting stress and wellbeing
Research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) discovered that the longer your commute, the lower your feelings of happiness, life satisfaction and the sense that your activities are worthwhile; and the higher your anxiety compared with non-commuters.
The way we travel can also have an impact on our wellbeing. Taking the bus or coach to work on a journey lasting more than 30 minutes was found to be the most negative commuting option. Even your sleep may be affected, with additional studies suggesting those who commute for more than 45 minutes each way report reduced sleep quality compared to those who commute shorter distances.
So, how can commuters make travelling to work more enjoyable? Laura Little, a wellbeing expert at CABA, has explored 8 activities that will boost your mood and might even make you thankful for the time spent travelling. Here’s what she has to say…
8 ways to make the most of your commute
1. Sketch or colour in
We’ve all seen adult colouring books grow in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Adult colouring books can help with a number of emotional and mental health issues. The process of making and creating artwork can be used to explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.
2. Appreciate your surroundings
It’s often easy to forget to look up and appreciate your surroundings. But relaxing and seeing the beauty of your environment is an important factor in achieving mindfulness and reducing anxiety. If you’re sitting on a train or bus, take the time to look at your view and appreciate the little things, from the birds in the trees to the colour of the sky, as research shows that developing gratitude is good for overall wellbeing. Why not share these with your loved ones by taking a photo.
3. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts
No matter what your interests are, if you want to stay up to date with news, tech, business and beyond, there is a podcast for every niche. If your brain is feeling frazzled, there’s comedy, arts and audiobooks that can lighten your mood, helping you to unwind and switch off.
4. Reconnect with family and friends
Whether you’re driving (using hands free of course) or catching the train, use this time to connect with friends and family. Our loved ones play an important role in supporting our mental health. Studies have even found that hearing your mother’s voice can quickly calm frayed nerves and a telephone call can have the same effect as a hug.
Researchers have discovered that 1 in 3 people felt worse and more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting Facebook. Try switching off completely, disconnecting from the stresses of daily life. Turn off your phone and take the time to think and reflect.
6. Learn a language
There are a whole host of benefits to learning a new language, from feeling accomplished to improving cognitive abilities. It has even been found that multitasking comes more naturally and attention improves for those who learn to speak a second language.
7. Play games and sharpen your mind
It’s been reported that the presence and overuse of our phones has a ‘brain drain’ effect and is reducing our intelligence and attention span. Ironically, our phones can help with this. Check out this list of the best brain-training apps and try one out on the commute into work. Using the apps first thing in the morning will help wake you up, feeling ready to hit the ground running as soon as you step into the office.
8. Write a to-do list
On your way to work, take the time to write a to-do list. This could involve both work and life admin. On the way home, reflect on what you’ve achieved. Writing a to-do list helps you to feel more productive, creates order and ticking off those tasks can be very therapeutic!
If the commute is really getting you down, consider asking your employer to work more flexibly. Alternatively, if there’s really nothing you can do about your commute, there may be other ways you can carve out some time in your day with these tips for productivity.
About Laura Little & CABA
Laura Little is the Learning & Development Manager and expert spokesperson for CABA – the charity supporting chartered accountants’ wellbeing within the ICAEW community. Laura oversees the training department and works on developing learning opportunities available to members. Laura has a Degree and Masters in Psychology and has over ten years’ experience of production and delivery of training courses to a range of different client groups. She has previously worked with young offenders, delivering both group work and one to one work, as well as training staff in the development of resilience and the complex nature of human behaviour.