Commuting might actually be good for your mental health, expert says

BOSTON — Companies are continuing to call workers back to the office, even if it’s just for a couple of days a week.

Research shows there might be one benefit to making that change to a person’s daily routine.

When it comes to commuting, for most of us, the glass is half empty. Actually, it could be considered bone dry.

Boston 25 News asked drivers at the Route 128 rest area in Newton for their thoughts on commuting.

“Bumper to bumper, it’s a grind,” said one woman about rush hour traffic. “Like around 4 to 5 o’clock and it’s hard to get to different places.”

Another woman said, “The stress of having to watch your gas and make sure you have enough gas to get back and forth, and with prices now, it’s difficult sometimes.”

Others we spoke with had a glass half-full mentality.

“Just try to relax and having your coffee heading to work,” said one man.

“There is one positive thing,” said a third woman. “That’s having a little quiet time in the car, listening to the radio and just kind of relaxing a little bit before you get home.”

That time between work and home has a name. It’s called Liminal Space and it’s something for people working from home.

“Transitioning from one kind of mental set, to work, to home, takes some time and it makes sense commuting would be a time to do that, because in theory it’s a time when you’re not working and you can do your home activities yet,” said Dr. Timothy Scarella, a staff psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Scarella added, “Human beings are very routine-oriented and very stimulus-oriented and all the little things you’re used to help put you in a rhythm.”

He said changing habits or routines can impact someone’s mental health.

“I think people tend to feel more anxious, more overwhelmed, more frazzled or more of just a sense of being thrown off,” Scarella said.

If you’re working from home a lot, he said to pay attention to your schedule.

“If you’re working from home, don’t wake up at 8:30 a.m. to start work at 9 a.m. Wake up whatever time and figure out something you do in between when you wake up and when you start to work.”

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