Overcome Your Flying Anxiety With This Game-Changing Meditation Technique

Flying anxiety is actually much more common than you might realize, especially when it seems like everyone else on the plane is blissfully snoozing through some shaky turbulence. But rest assured, it's a struggle for many. Pilot and aviation psychologist Dr. Lucas van Gerwen told The New York Times that nearly 40% of people have at least some level of anxiety about flying, according to several studies.

What sparks the anxiety can change from person to person. For some, it's the fear of a crash. For others, it's the lack of control. Flying anxiety can also be caused by claustrophobia and the sense that flying isn't natural. Or, for many, it's a combination of some or several of these sensations. To alleviate this anxiety, people have sought out all kinds of help. Some people find therapeutic benefits in anti-anxiety medication. Others use deep breathing or different activities to distract themselves. Turbulence is another woe for some, and doing scientific research on what turbulence is can help anxious flyers realize that they have little to worry about. But people are becoming very aware of the power of Transcendental Meditation to alleviate flying anxiety, and its benefits spread far beyond travel worries.

How Transcendental Meditation can help with flying anxiety

Transcendental Meditation (TM) was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s. The form of meditation caught on because of its simplicity, but also its effectiveness. In its most traditional form, TM is taught to new students by a trained teacher. The David Lynch Foundation, created by the famous film director, has made it much more widely accessible. Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, offered a comprehensive YouTube video on the practice of Transcendental Meditation and stressed that for those who are interested, they should seek out a teacher who will work with them one-on-one. Note that this technique does cost a one-time fee to learn so that teachers may be compensated, but there are often sliding-scale fees for those in need.

The basic practice of TM consists of a 20-minute meditation twice a day while sitting in a comfortable position. Typically, one's teacher gives a student a mantra, which is simply a word that has no real meaning, so that the intellect doesn't get bogged down by attaching meaning. It's typically a sound that has positive associations, although you use the mantra silently. Sometimes during a meditation, a person will reach transcendence, which means a state of restful alertness. So how does all of this help with flight anxiety? According to the National Library of Medicine, studies show that TM reduces stress and anxiety. Another study found that TM was over 50% more effective at reducing anxiety than other strategies.

Transcendental Meditation before and during flights

For many, the anxiety about flying comes as an anticipatory stress. In the days leading up to a flight, many feel agitated and worried. Since TM is meant to be practiced daily, the idea is that you become more and more immersed in the experience of reducing anxiety, which means that as you practice, your anticipatory anxiety reduces. You can meditate at the airport before your flight, too. Of course, the practice lends itself to the plane ride as well. When Bob Roth was expressing how easy it is to do TM anywhere, he even suggested doing it while flying. "It can be done on a train. It can be done on an airplane," he said.

In another vein of aviation, Swedish Air Force pilots were examined for their ability to tolerate stress after practicing Transcendental Meditation. According to the study, every pilot showed improvement in varying degrees. That's certainly a plus for Transcendental Meditation. So for those who struggle with flight anxiety and want to try something new, seek out a local teacher. The Transcendental Meditation website offers ways to find a teacher, or look one up in your area, and begin immersing yourself in the benefits of this popular practice.