A sense of independence, getting closer to nature and opportunities to meet up with friends and family: driving provides more mental health benefits than you might think.
This International Day of Happiness —and beyond—we wanted to see what impact a driving licence has on your wellbeing. We checked out the science, and we also consulted you on the types of drives you find most enjoyable, the ways driving has or would improve your life—and your favourite journeys of all time. Here’s what we found out.
① The journey, not the destination
Sometimes it’s important to just get somewhere quickly. But overwhelmingly, those of you who answered our Instagram poll preferred scenic roads to the most direct route, and rural driving to the monotonous grey of motorways.
We all know that being in nature has a hugely positive impact on wellbeing. But even experiencing the great outdoors through your windscreen is good for you: looking at natural landscapes (even through, say, a nature documentary), and appreciating their beauty is shown to really benefit mental health. Even better if it’s warm enough for open windows: fresh air, and the sounds and smells of the countryside improve the quality of your connection with nature.
Not only are there stunning views to be had, but the act of driving on rural roads is often more enjoyable than sitting on the M-whatever for hours on end. You’ll find your brain more stimulated, as you adapt to the bends and speed variations that you’ll rarely find on motorways.
So whether there’s some green space, coastal roads or farmland you can trundle through, add a few extra minutes onto your journey time and opt for the scenic route.
② Tackling loneliness
Numerous scientific studies have linked loneliness with poor mental health. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that it’s widely thought that community—and a sense of togetherness—is a key factor in promoting happiness.
Expensive, and often unreliable, public transport is off-putting when thinking about making the journey to see loved ones. Jumping in a car, on the other hand, can be fun, spontaneous, and is a far easier way to transport your luggage if you struggle with packing light!
Driving can bring people together, quite literally. And our Instagram followers confirmed it: over 90% of you said that learning to drive would mean you would visit friends or family more often. Time to plan that next trip.
Independence means having the freedom to make your own choices and shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to maintaining wellbeing. On the other hand, when people experience some loss of independence due to physical or cognitive decline, for example, this is associated with an increased risk of poor mental health.
Driving is one of the key ways we can exercise independence. It’s amazing how the little things: choosing when to do a big shop, visiting a friend on a whim, attending appointments and running errands, are all so much easier when you have access to a vehicle. You’re not reliant on anyone else’s convenience or goodwill to take you where you want to go; the world, as they say, is your oyster.
Alongside the daily commute and the weekly trip to peruse Aldi’s middle aisle, there are even more exciting journeys to be had. Driving gives you the opportunity to access the less accessible, detour for a long lunch, and experience places at your own pace. Among our Instagram followers, some of you have told us about fond memories of road tripping around Scotland; others have headed further afield in the car to Europe.
Best things about driving
There’s a lot to love about driving and the things that made you happiest linked right back to what science has already taught us. You love night drives, listening to music in the car, and not having to rely on lifts from friends or family.
Perhaps the most relatable answer of all, though, was the person who said:
“Not having to worry about doing my test”!
If you, too, want to get to that stage, see what your learning to drive journey would look like with our semi-intensive driving courses.