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How to make the most of a train delay

Image subject to copyright, Evening Standard

How often is your trainor tube delayed? How frequently does your bus drive straight past your stopbecause it’s already full? If your answer is “too often”, you’re not alone.

On the London Underground, there was an average of 5 signal failures per day between January 2016 and February 2018. In 2018, 43% of train passengers experienced a delay lasting between 15 and 30 minutes. Not only that, train delays across the UK and Northern Ireland totalled 283,904 hours, which equates to 32 years of delays!

How delays can affect our wellbeing

Not only are these delays frustrating, they can also have a negative effect on our health and wellbeing. Poorer mental wellbeing, increased blood pressure, poorer diet and less sleep are all associated with delays and lengthy commutes.

People who commute by bus report lower life satisfaction and those who take the train are more likely to experience stress and anxiety. In a survey of over 1,000 commuters, journey delays were the aspect of commuting reported to be most detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

Until public transportsystems improve, there is little we can do to control train, tube and busdelays. However, we can use this extra time to our advantage.

Using delays to improve our wellbeing

We often feel like we don’t have enough time – which we covered in a previous post – so let’s make more use of the time we would otherwise spend waiting around, getting more and more frustrated. We can do this by connecting with others – one of the simplest and most effective ways of improving our wellbeing.

Do not worry – this doesn’tinvolve striking up a conversation with your fellow commuters! (Though if wespoke to each other more on public transport, we may enjoy our journeys more…)It’s about using this time to invest in our relationships with family andfriends and build stronger connections with them.

We can’t plan for train delays, so we will have to use what we have on us – our phones. Not to scroll through Instagram or Facebook, but to actually connect with others over a phone call. Even though the majority of us own a mobile phone, the number of phone calls we make on them is decreasing. In 2017, the amount of phone calls made decreased by 1.7% and it’s possible this has decreased since. Why is this? The immediacy of text and WhatsApp (and other messaging systems) is convenient and can give us instant gratification. However, it’s difficult to invest time in our relationships and get closer to our loved ones over messaging.

Why speaking on the phone is good for our wellbeing

Talking to someone over the phone can be beneficial for our relationships and our wellbeing. Communicating over the phone can help us build intimate relationships, feel closer to others and reduce feelings of loneliness, which is one of the biggest contributors to poor wellbeing. Compared to texting, phone calls are better for expressing emotion through tone of voice, which helps us understand each other better and can reduce conflict.

Many of us have a desire to connect with others more, due to UK-wide surveys indicating that men and women would rather spend more time with friends and family as opposed to spending their time at work. Even though transport delays may be affecting that, this can be alleviated somewhat by picking up the phone and having a conversation.

Today’s activity is thereforeto pick up your phone and have a conversation. Even if you don’t experience atransport delay (and hopefully you won’t) you can still call someone. As thisis 15 minute wellbeing – and many transport delays last for 15 minutes – tryand speak on the phone for this length of time, or longer if you wish. After yourphone call, why not take the time to reflect on your conversation and how itmade you feel? There are some questions on the worksheet to help you do this.

Click the link below todownload the worksheet. You can fill it in using the ‘fill and sign’ tool oralternatively print it off and fill it in by hand.

If you enjoyed speakingover the phone for a change, or feel that having a conversation with a friendor family member helped improve your wellbeing, please do get in contact andshare your story.

I sharewellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram inbetween weekly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms tokeep up to date.