Friday, April 16, 2010

The pain of commuting

There are a lot of reasons we at WalkBoston love walking. We love the opportunity to interact with our neighbors when we're on foot. We love the human pace of it. We love the vibrancy of a neighborhood with a lot of pedestrians. We love that walking is environmentally friendly and good for everyone's health. Ultimately, we think -- and, increasingly, research supports us in thinking so -- that walking makes people happier than almost every other form of transportation, and it does so in a myriad of ways.

I'm fascinated with all of the happiness research that's happening these days, and it's always nice when I learn something that can help me inform current and future choices. Here's one of those: The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting.

No kidding. As any of you who have had a painful commute know, this is pretty soul-sucking. Oddly, if it weren't for the occasional day when it goes smoothly, it wouldn't be quite as painful, points out Jonah Lehrer. But, if you think about it, an hour commute each day works out to more than a full day of work of time each week when you don't get to choose what you're doing. And I certainly know that nothing drives me to frustration and depression the way stop-and-go traffic can.

My commute, these days, is about 15 minutes of walking and 15-20 minutes on the subway, and I really like it. I like getting to a different part of the city every day, and I like the balance between walking time and relaxing on the train time.

How long is your commute? Do you feel it impacting your day-to-day happiness? What's the longest commute you've had? The shortest?


Charlie said...

I love my commute! I get to choose between a 20 minute T ride with a 5 minute walk on either end or a 30 minute bike ride. Either way I almost always feel energized by the time I get to work, from the time being outside walking or biking, or the time on the subway reading and feeling the camaraderie of commuting into the city with the diversity of folks who live around Boston.

Sarah said...

My commute is about an hour each way, and I definitely don't love it! I find that whether I'm moving on the route contributes more to my annoyance than the time itself, so I've taken to driving back roads, where at least I get the illusion of progress :) I also listen to audiobooks in the car, which makes a huge difference.

I'm not sure if ultimately, this is the right commuting distance for me. I just moved this far away from my job, and I did it to have access to a bigger garden (one of my passions) and more green space. We'll see if it turns out to be worthwhile!

Lindymegan said...

Now that I live in Boston, I have the longest commute I've had in a while 30 minutes by bike or T from Forest Hills to Downtown.

My best commute was two blocks in Los Angeles. Everyone told me not to live in Koreatown, where our office was, but it was the best decision I made. I scoffed at other's hour drive and frustration at finding parking. The best was when I found a shortcut through the parking garage to an elevator to my floor cutting my commute to 1 block.