Commuting is bad for you. Really bad for you. If you commute you are more likely to be overweight, suffer from anxiety, stress, depression and social isolation. You are more likely to sleep badly and be exhausted, have high blood sugar (which could lead to diabetes), high blood pressure and cholesterol (which could lead to heart attacks) and experience neck and back pain. Oh, and you are 40% more likely to get divorced.
I read these statistics in various newspapers and research papers and thought: this is not good enough. There are millions of commuters the world over and all those people being miserable for two hours or more every day is crazy. What could we do about it? Short of finally inventing teleportation units, I wrote a book that tried to offer a better way of commuting. The Happy Commuter covers getting comfortable, stretching your mind, looking after your body, nurturing your soul, indulging your passions, advancing your career, freeing up your free time and how to change your commute altogether. Big claims? Not really. All of these things can be done during your commute, by making small changes. What actually needs changing in most people is their attitude to commuting. We tend to blame others or inanimate infrastructures for our misery. But we need to take back control of our commutes. It is our time, it does not actually belong to work, even if it is work that has shaped our commutes. So if I offered you two hours or more a day to do something good for you, what would you do?
Here are my top tips to get you started:
• Ditch the weight. Stand on the tube and see how much stuff people are carrying, and how unsuitable their bags are. Women seem worse at this than men, frequently carrying a cute handbag, which then has overflown into a gym bag and a plastic or cloth tote bag of miscellaneous objects. Minimise what you carry and get a back-friendly bag that leaves your hands free – for holding on if you can’t get a seat or allowing you to do something more interesting if you can.
• Look after yourself physically. Take water to drink, pop your vitamins, take a piece of fruit as a snack to help you hit your five a day. Walk a little further or a little faster. It all helps and commutes can be hard on our bodies.
• Bring one of your passions along for the ride. I studied for my Masters on the tube. I wrote stories when I wanted to be a writer. I read books voraciously because reading is one of my great joys in life. Listening to podcasts, music and audiobooks can be a fantastic way to spend your time.
• Find ways to make the world a little bit better: carpool, smile at people, let others go first, open doors, offer to help people who need it. If we were all doing this, commuting would be a lot better.
• See if you can change your commute: have a chat with your boss to see what’s possible (a day a week at home? Coming in and leaving earlier or later? Moving to another office in the same company?). There are many ways to work smarter these days and companies who embrace the possibilities can get a lot more out of their staff. See if you could cycle to work or even just change to a route that is prettier to look at! You could also think about moving job, house or career…
If you’d like to see some examples of what other commuters have done to make their commutes better, visit my Pinterest board for some funnies and wows: never seen a tube carriage full of balloons? Want to see how a woman crocheted her beautiful wedding dress while commuting? Fancy seeing BigFoot taking the tube? https://uk.pinterest.com/melissaaddey/the-happy-commuter
Being a happy commuter means taking control of your journey, whatever and wherever it is. I wish you a happy commute.
The Happy Commuter offers over 100 ideas for ways to make your commute much happier. It’s available in paperback and as an eBook on Amazon. This link will take you to your nearest Amazon, wherever you are:
Melissa Addey spent 15 years in business, developing new products and packaging and then mentoring entrepreneurs. During that time she was commuting on the London Underground, where she also studied for her Masters. Now a full-time writer and the 2016 Writer in Residence for the British Library, she mainly commutes to her desk 15 paces from the bedroom. Bliss.