#LIFE

COM­MUT­ING: DOES IT HAVE TO BE A BUR­DEN?

Guru Magazine - - Contents - BEN VEAL ME­DIA GURU

It’s easy to hate overly cheer­ful people. Me­dia Guru Ben Veal in­sists his new­found joy of the daily com­mute is for ev­ery­one – he hon­estly be­lieves you’ll be cheer­ing at the tail­back! Check out his four top tips for find­ing de­light dur­ing the daily grind. You won’t hate him for it.

Be­ing a reg­u­lar rail user, my in­ter­est was re­cently piqued by find­ings from the UK’s Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics (ONS) on the topic of com­mut­ing. The study of both em­ploy­ees and self-em­ployed people, en­ti­tled ‘ Com­mut­ing and Per­sonal Well-be­ing’, an­a­lysed how time spent com­mut­ing and the method of travel af­fect life sat­is­fac­tion. The re­sults were not pretty. They found that, “hold­ing all else equal, com­muters have lower life sat­is­fac­tion, a lower sense that their daily ac­tiv­i­ties are worth­while, lower lev­els of hap­pi­ness and higher anx­i­ety on aver­age than non-com­muters.” Ouch. And ap­par­ently the sit­u­a­tion’s even worse for those who spend a large pro­por­tion of each work­ing day on the road, with the re­port stat­ing that people with jour­ney times last­ing be­tween 61 and 90 min­utes came off worst. For any­one who has ever had to com­mute to their place of work – and let’s face it, at some point or an­other, that will have been pretty much all of us – the re­port makes for com­pelling read­ing. The study delves deeper into the is­sue by mak­ing de­tailed com­par­isons be­tween com­mut­ing and non-com­mut­ing, the amount of time spent com­mut­ing each day, and the method of travel used based on a sam­ple of over 60,000 re­spon­dents – 91.5% of which were clas­si­fied as com­muters. How­ever, it wasn’t just the study’s find­ings that in­trigued me so much as how the me­dia re­ported it with such neg­a­tiv­ity. For ex­am­ple, Philippa Roxby, health re­porter for BBC News, re­marked that, “the daily com­mute to work is some­thing to be put up with rather than en­joyed ... [and] the aver­age worker in Bri­tain spends 54 min­utes com­mut­ing each day.” This isn’t re­ally al­to­gether shock­ing. If any­thing, I was sur­prised that the num­ber wasn’t higher, given that the UK is slowly drag­ging it­self out of re­ces­sion and into a very com­pet­i­tive job mar­ket. No, what in­ter­ested me was the idea, sup­ported by this re­port, that com­mut­ing to and from work is a wholly neg­a­tive ac­tiv­ity that sim­ply has to be en­dured. That’s cer­tainly not the way I see it.

Mas­ter­ing the art of happy com­mut­ing

Com­mut­ing has been a key part of my work­ing life for many years now. Over the years I’ve tried vir­tu­ally ev­ery avail­able method of travel avail­able – in­clud­ing walk­ing, driv­ing and cy­cling – and have found that all have their own dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tages. These days, I’ve set­tled on catch­ing the train and in re­cent months have found my­self ask­ing whether the daily com­mute has to be such a bad thing. With so many of us des­tined to spend count­less hours star­ing at the same stretch of road or faces day-in-day-out, isn’t it ul­ti­mately up to us to make a change – to mas­ter the art of the com­mute? For me, this re­port could not have been pub­lished at a bet­ter time; it’s given me the ex­tra in­cen­tive that I needed to over­come the drudgery of the daily com­mute and seek out the pos­i­tives in­stead. As such, I’m cur­rently ex­plor­ing four sim­ple ways to en­joy my train jour­ney – and if you’re one of the many thou­sands of people that are in the same boat as me, I’d like to in­vite you to join me in tak­ing con­trol of your jour­ney through the fol­low­ing:

Broaden your mind

Catch­ing the train ev­ery day, I find that it’s all too easy to get ag­i­tated by de­lays, train faults and over­crowd­ing (as fol­low­ers of my Twit­ter ac­count will no doubt be aware). More re­cently, though, I have in­stead seen these mi­nor griev-

an­ces as ex­actly that – mi­nor – and have fo­cused my en­ergy on us­ing this bonus time to work my way through some of the lit­er­ary clas­sics that I’ve al­ways been mean­ing to get round to read­ing. I’ve reached my des­ti­na­tion at ex­actly the same time, but with slightly less worry lines on my face at the end of the jour­ney. Read­ing is a tremen­dous stress re­liever, as con­firmed by re­search car­ried out at the Univer­sity of Sus­sex. Cog­ni­tive neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Dr David Lewis ex­plained the calm­ing ef­fects of lit­er­a­ture, stat­ing, “By los­ing yourself in a thor­oughly en­gross­ing book you can es­cape from the wor­ries and stresses of the ev­ery­day world and spend a while ex­plor­ing the do­main of the au­thor’s imag­i­na­tion.” Oh, and of course, if you can’t think of a suit­able novel right now, there are now al­most three years’ worth of Guru Mag­a­zine also avail­able for free at your dig­i­tal fin­ger­tips(!) Al­ter­na­tively, if you pre­fer to lis­ten, or you drive to work each day, au­dio­books and pod­casts are also great ways to ex­plore topics in de­tail while still fo­cus­ing on the world around you.

Don’t be a stranger

Train jour­neys serve as a great op­por­tu­nity to meet other people. If any­one should know, it’s me. Al­most a decade ago now, I shared po­lite con­ver­sa­tion with a young lady stand­ing next to me in a crowded car­riage. We had a great deal in com­mon and six hours later, we were still talk­ing an­i­mat­edly. Two years af­ter that, we were mar­ried. (Moral of this story: be care­ful who you speak to! – Ed) When you’re do­ing the same jour­ney ev­ery day, it can be easy to stick to your in­di­vid­ual rou­tine and not reach out to those around. Face to face com­mu­ni­ca­tion makes us hap­pier and health­ier people so it’s worth­while peer­ing out­side of our lit­tle zones for op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­late to those around us. You never know what may hap­pen as a re­sult. Of course, this doesn’t just ap­ply to catch­ing the train. If driv­ing to work is your pre­ferred method of trans­port, then of­fer­ing to share your car with a col­league could be a great way to get to know them and to have the kind of deep con­ver­sa­tions that just aren’t pos­si­ble be­side the wa­ter-cooler.

Be a nice per­son

As well as con­nect­ing with those around us, there is a close as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween be­ing kind and our psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing. But be­ing a nice per­son in the midst of the rush hour when ev­ery sec­ond counts isn’t par­tic­u­larly nat­u­ral. I’ve given it a go, though, and would whole­heart­edly en­cour­age look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to per­form ran­dom acts of kind­ness. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can be a great boost to find an­other pas­sen­ger on the train – an el­derly per­son, for ex­am­ple – who may ben­e­fit from the seat in­stead of me. Af­ter all, it’s re­ally no skin off my nose; I’m about to spend the next nine hours sit­ting on my be­hind. Com­mut­ing can be a bur­den – but it doesn’t have to be. In or­der to make a liv­ing and do the job that we want to do, the vast ma­jor­ity of us will have to make that jour­ney each day, re­gard­less of whether we wish to or not. It’s part of our lives and, if you’re an ‘ aver­age’ Brit, then you’re likely to spend an aver­age of 13,550 min­utes – or 225 hours – do­ing it each year. In Amer­ica and Canada, it is 105 hours and in South Africa, 233 hours. So wher­ever or how­ever you do it, you might as well take steps to en­joy it.

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