Increase cardiovascular function?
Improve your overall wellness?
Think before you start your car.
Most of us received that advice when we first learned to drive: Take a moment to focus your thoughts, eliminate distractions, concentrate on driving.
Good advice then, especially good advice now with all of the various electronic distractions that make driving riskier than ever. But, it’s also great wellness and mental health advice.
Driving is inherently stressful. Psychologist Dr. David Lewis has suggested that driving in rush hour traffic may actually be more stressful than piloting a combat fighter jet! Not driving can generate an immediate benefit in lowering stress and anxiety levels overall.
“Driving in traffic is harrowing for both the brain and the body. The blood of people who drive in cities is a high-test stew of stress hormones.”
Charles Montgomery, Happy City
In short, driving less and instead walking, biking, ridesharing and/or taking mass-transit more often can produce solid and ongoing health and wellness benefits.
How Do You Cut Back on Driving?
How much you drive and how often? Do you commute by car? How often do you drive to run errands, go to the gym or go shopping? Do you chauffeur kids and family members to school or work?
Small choices daily can make a big difference in the long-run.
Think, as well, about how many of your destinations are within walking distance. A fair number of them may not be—but you might be surprised at how many of them are (supporting local businesses is often an added bonus too).
Think also about how many of the drives could be consolidated, reduced in frequency or eliminated altogether. Now you’ve got a good start on changing your driving habits—and improving your health as you do so.
Four Ways to Eliminate Drive-Time
Say you make four trips a week to the store. Cutting that to two well-planned trips cuts your drive-to-shop time in half and does so relatively effortlessly. Often, better planning ahead of time is the key to driving less on the whole.
What about that daily commute? Instead of driving, you could:
Walk or bike there. Perhaps even once or twice a week?
Take the bus or light rail. Cities are making an effort to provide more transit options and more routes.
Ask for a ride. Are co-workers within walking distance of your home or a central meeting place? Share rides and enjoy the lower stress and improved health that comes from driving less (plus the socializing that is also shown to reduce stress).
Discuss the possibility of working from home with your employer. This may not be an option for everyone, but it’s becoming more commonplace for many businesses in a variety of sectors to allow their workers to work from home, even if it’s only certain days of the week.
And that’s just a start.
The less you drive, the less stress you’ll feel.
And the benefits all start when you don’t start your car.