What's silent, deadly and lowers your life expectancy? If you're as sick minded as me, farts probably came to mind. Though in this case, it's not the smell in your car from your flatulence. It's the act of driving to work every single day that is slowly killing you.
The average American will spend around an hour each day driving to and from work. Personally, I think that number is way to low as it takes about an hour for me to even get into Chicago. Let alone find parking, walk to work and get situated … but that's another rant for another time.
There are several reasons why commuting is bad for you. First and foremost are the physical health issues, then the mental problems is causes and the overall dangers.
Commuting Health Issues
There are numerous studies citing the issues of prolonged sitting, though that's just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, sitting for half an hour each way isn't going to be the end of the world for you, though it also isn't exactly healthy either.
Driving during rush hour, in jam packed traffic has several side effects. For many people, it's a stress filled drudge that they rather dislike, and that in-itself is part of the problem.
Hate, anger and distaste have a bad tendency to also cause physical changes in our bodies. Have you ever noticed how a generally happier person simply looks healthier and has more energy? Well, that's because they do. Your body only has X amount of energy, and if you spend it all on stressing and hating the commute you can very easily experience the usual symptoms of stress overload and low energy states:
- hair less
- weight gain
- muscle tension (and pain)
- higher blood pressure
- Lowered ability to properly digest food
- Decreased comprehension
Now imagine these effects being put on you day, after day, after day. Slowly but surely these effects will start to take affect.
I want to now talk about the last item ‘decreased comprehension'.
Commuting Mental Health Issues
To be rather frank: it's mentally exhausting. And most most people, when they aren't stressed out by the drive, they drive in zombie mode! And by ‘they' I mean most of us. I sure have been guilty of it, and it is a rather scary experience once you think about it.
The event that really shook me up wasn't a car crash, or anything bad, it was just the mental realization of how dangerous and stupid it was and all the bad things that could have possibly happened. Back in the hay-day, I made my usual early-afternoon commute to my college campus just past downtown Chicago. For me, this averaged to about 45 each way. So after three years of driving the same exact route it was able to drive it on automatic.
I was a bit tired that day and more or less just zonking out in the stop and go traffic. All I remember was getting on the highway, and then parking the car in the main parking lot. That's it. To this day, I still have absolutely zero recollection of that drive. Like I said, nothing happened on it … it's just that I do not remember it at all.
Now, you must be thinking something along the lines of: “Look Peter. Most of us don't remember our same morning drive. Nothing interesting happens so it's not worth remembering.” I agree, but that's not what I mean.
What I mean is: as soon as I parked is the only concious memory I have. As soon as I turned off the car, I finally became concious of my surroundings and that I was at school. I had no idea at all how I got there, how I turned on the red lights, avoided other cars and pedestrians and God only knows how I made it there alive … but there I was with no idea how.
Now imaging the same experience happening to people all the time. How easy it is to get into a car crash at that point, how easy it could be to hit a person and not realize it or even kill someone (or something) unexpectedly.
That's one problem with the morning drudge. The other is wasted time. Most people will listening to music and zonk out, while some will listen to audio books. Though that is also a distraction, not good.
All in all, driving zombie like will really degrade the brain and train it not to think consciously (a bad thing). For things like driving, we need to be fully alert. This type of repeat activity will also slowly, but surely, degrade out minds into mush.
Many larger corporation executives have drivers for a reason. Yes, it's a prestige symbol. But it's also a huge load off their shoulders so they can concentrate on more important things such as:
- self improvement
- Day planning
- Reading a book or morning newspaper
- Extra needed rest
- Mental preparation for XYZ big event that day.
And a lot of other things.
So with all the potential dangers, it surely is much better to not drive yourself to work each day.
- You can try getting a driver. If that's not financially practical for you:
- Carpool with fellow commuters. That way you don't have to do all the driving
- Try taking public transportation.
- Work from home for a change of pace.
What have you done to fix your morning commute or at least make it healthier and less stressful?