I think work is (mostly) bad for me. A sedentary life style, compounded by being hunched over a laptop all day, working on my carpal tunnel syndrome while basking in the artificial glow of a halogen lamp… but potentially my commute is doing just as much damage to me, if not more.
Driving in traffic is harrowing for both brain and body. The blood of people who drive in cities is a high-test stew of stress hormones. The worse the traffic, the more your system is flooded with with adrenaline and cortisol, the fight-or-flight juices that, in the short term, get your heart pumping faster, dilate your air passages and help sharpen your alertness, but in the long term can make you ill. It can take as much as an hour to recover the ability to concentrate after a long urban commute. Researchers for Hewlett-Packard convinced volunteers in England to wear electrode caps during their commute and found that whether they were driving or taking the train, peak-hour travelers suffered worse stress than fighter pilots or riot police facing mobs of angry protesters*
*Commuters’ hearts raced at 145 beats per minute, well over double the normal rate. They experienced a surge in cortisol. And, in what was apparently a coping strategy, their brains underwent a bizarre temporary transformation that psychologist David Lewis dubbed ‘commuter amnesia’. Their brains simply shut out stimulus from the outer world, and they forgot about most of the trip as soon as it was over.
Montgomery, Charles. Happy City. Random Penguin House, 2013
MJ. My biggest concern with my commute was always the ‘Dead-time’. Once I’d remedied that with audio-books and podcasts I thought I could justify this itinerant lifestyle. At least I’m exposing myself to knew ideas I thought… while I’m frying my brain on the way in to work every morning, then caffeinating myself to the point of bare minimum functionality and then frying my brain on the way home again. Five days a week. Totally worth it right?
‘I’m the man who grabs the sun, riding to Valhalla!’ ‘I live, I die, I live again!’ – Nux. Fury Road.
I am less confident about my life choices these days.