By Jessie Shafer, RD
The average American spends 204 hours each year commuting to and from work. Not only can all this car time make you cranky and anxious, but it can seriously harm your well-being. Use these tips to arrive alive—and healthier!
Don’t eat and drive
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, eating while driving increases the likelihood of crashes by 80 percent. Additionally, distracted drivers who are eating or drinking cause 65 percent of near-miss crashes. That’s pretty scary, considering that 70 percent of drivers eat and 83 percent drink beverages while they’re behind the wheel, according to a survey of 1,000 drivers conducted by Exxon Mobil. Eating while driving involves all three of the most common distractions:
- visual—diverting your eyes from the road,
- manual—taking your hands off the wheel and
- cognitive—taking your focus away from driving.
If you commonly find yourself in a morning rush that requires breakfast to-go or picking up food on the way, consider getting up just 15 minutes earlier. This small amount of time will not only allow you to prepare and mindfully eat your breakfast at home (which is almost always healthier than what you’d take or buy), but it could also save your life and the lives of commuters around you.
Relieve traffic tension
Driving more than 10 miles each way for your daily commute is associated with higher blood sugar, higher cholesterol and higher risk of depression, according to research from Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine, The Cooper Institute in Dallas and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
But, with the right mindset and tools, you can relieve some of the stress by reframing the time spent in your vehicle.
Before starting the ignition, take a deep breath and accept that the next 25 minutes (or however long your commute takes) is an opportunity for “me-time,” especially if it’s the only chance you have to be alone all day. Too-slow or too-fast drivers, traffic jams and aggressive mergers will happen, but try your best not to give them too much of your energy. Instead, use this time to mentally transition from home to work or vice versa. Stash your cell phone and other dangerous distractions out of reach, and perhaps listen to a favorite podcast, audio book, meditation guide, playlist or radio channel.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.