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According to research by the Royal Society for Public Health a stressful daily commute may cause you to gain weight, ruin your mood and affect your health.

We can all agree the daily work commute can be one of the most frustrating and stress inducing times of the day. According to a data analysis by the TUC, the average daily commute to work in the UK is a staggering 52 minutes.

City commuters in Manchester spend over 48 hours a year stuck in traffic and London commuters spend up to 50 hours behind the wheel.

Research from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that a long commute may be contributing to unhealthy lifestyle habits which include increased snacking and the consumption of fast food. A difficult commute can also limit the amount of time spent with friends and family as well as increase stress levels according to over 50% of commuters.

“People have longer work commutes than ever before so it’s important that you do everything you can to reduce frustration on the road and make your commute as enjoyable as possible,” explains David Johnson, Director of Nationwide Vehicle Contracts, one of the UK’s leading car and van leasing providers.

“Quite often a work commute is unavoidable, so by putting simple measures in place, you can make your car a welcoming environment, which in turn, directly impacts your health and mood.”

Top tips to improve your daily commute:

Keep your car tidy

A messy car often correlates with a messy frame of mind. Your mental well-being will soon reap the benefits if you avoid clutter, remove unwanted items and keep your car tidy. Here are some of our favourite cleaning tips:

  • Keep items in a storage box, preferably in the boot of your car, to ensure they stay organised and it eliminates mess and disorder. 
  • Remove unwanted crumbs and dirt from those hard to reach areas by using children’s slime putty. Whilst providing you with childhood memories, its sticky surface will pick up any unwanted particles.
  • Use toothpaste to clean your car's headlights and use a toothbrush to clean those awkward crevices (such as cup holders) on the inside of your car.

A spotless car can not only create an uplifting environment and improve your mood, but may also help you avoid a hefty fine. If your car has a dirty or unreadable license plate you could potentially be landed with a £1000 penalty.

Be productive

Make your commute more productive by investing time into developing new skills. By listening to a podcast or audio book you can encourage inspirational thoughts, as well as learn new topics. Over the period of a year commuting times soon add up, so use these hours to learn new skills. For example, there are a range of apps and audio programs available to help you learn a new language whilst you drive.

Break up the commute

Consider taking up a new hobby to help you keep active, beat traffic and make your commute feel shorter than it actually is. For example, try joining a gym close to work or somewhere in the middle of your commute. A gym close to work will see you wake up early, beat the morning rush and leave you energised for the rest of the day. Alternatively, a gym halfway home can break up your commute and make the journey feel shorter.  By the time you leave the gym, traffic will have calmed down and you’ll get home in no time.

If your job is city-based, driving right into the heart of the city can prove difficult. Try to park away from the city centre and walk the rest of your journey. Parking outside of the city centre can often be cheaper, the amount of time you spend in your car will be shorter and you can squeeze in some endorphin-releasing exercise early in the day.

Take some time for yourself

Treat your commute as an opportunity to self-reflect. Enjoy taking a break from social media, your phone and technology. Instead, gather your thoughts, embrace the peace and quiet and plan for the day ahead.

Give yourself enough time

Planning ahead, such as giving yourself plenty of time to get to work and knowing the correct route to take will avoid unnecessary stress. 10,000 motorists break down on UK roads every year so avoid being one of these statistics by being proactive, this includes ensuring your car is well maintained and making sure there’s always enough fuel to complete your journey. It’s also beneficial to get a good night’s sleep to reduce fatigue, ease waking up and make sure there’s enough time to complete important tasks such as eating a good breakfast. Downloading a variety of map apps is also helpful as they’ll provide alternative routes, which can prove very time efficient.  

Stay safe on the road

Driving carelessly, including eating and drinking at the wheel and adjusting your audio device or seating position whilst driving, could land you with a number of potential ‘driving without due consideration’ fines.

Fines may include:

  • A £100 penalty
  • 3 points on your driving licence
  • A compulsory driving education course.

Depending on the severity risk to other drivers, this could be increased to:

  • A £5000 fine
  • 9 points
  • A disqualification from driving.

Many of these laws aren’t necessarily clear cut, for example, there are no road laws that claim you can’t drive with snow on your car, but ensuring all the windows are clear from ice and snow is a legal requirement. If snow falls off your roof into the path of others, you could be handed a £60 fine for ‘driving without due consideration’.

Make your commute more enjoyable

If you can’t avoid a long commute, it’s worth trying to make it more enjoyable. A study by Nature Research suggested that listening to heroic music can leave you feeling positive, empowered and motivated. Try to avoid sad music as although this may relax some, it can leave others with negative thoughts. Despite the fact listening to your favourite music can improve your mood and have you arrive at work in a good temperament, beware that listening to music too loud could get you in trouble depending on where you live. In 2019, Bradford council tried to pass a law that would see loud music offenders fined £100.

Riding solo isn’t fun, so if possible, try carpooling or sharing your ride with a work colleague. Not only will this reduce costs but it’ll turn your morning commute into a sociable experience.

The morning commute can be increasingly difficult so it’s important to put measures in place to lower your frustration levels.

“One of the easiest ways to improve a taxing commute is to give yourself plenty of time,” explains Johnson.

“You’ll reduce your stress levels and lower the chances of developing bad driving habits.”

As well as implementing the top tips above, it can be a worthy investment to purchase some useful car accessories. Some of them really have the ability to make a huge impact on your life. Check out our best car accessories guide to see how you can improve your daily commute.