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  • Writer's pictureHadley Tarantino, M.A.

5 In-Flight Mindfulness and Breathing Exercises

Flying can be the most anxiety-provoking and worrisome part of travel for some. Even the idea of flying in an airplane can force thoughts of postponing or cancelling a trip. But before you cancel that trip, there are ways to help ease the discomfort of flying. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying attention to the present moment and observing your thoughts without judgment. Keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. If you feel stress or panic arise in the air, try some of these mindfulness and breathing exercises below.

1. Mindful Breathing     

This simple step is all about breathing. Sit upright in your chair as comfortable as possible. You can open or close your eyes. As you breathe in and out, be conscious of your breathing and the present moment. As your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Be compassionate and non-judgmental with yourself if you feel your mind wandering.

2. Mindful Eating

To eat mindfully is to eat slowly in the present moment. This means no watching a movie, reading a book, or surfing the Web while eating. As you eat, take in each bite consciously, mindfully, and slowly. Be present in the moment, and feel the appreciation for the nourishment of food (even if it’s just a bag of peanuts!). Use your five senses while you eat. Acknowledge your likes and dislikes without judgment or critique.

3. Mantras

You might not want to say your mantra aloud on a crowded flight, but a silent mantra can still hold the same benefits. Mantras are short affirmative phrases that inspire empowerment, shift your mindset, and interrupt negative experiences. Repeat your mantra for 10-20 minutes and focus on the weight of the words. When finished, soak in the calm state of being that the mantra inspired.

You can choose from an example of an in-flight mantra below, or create your own:

“I am safe. I am calm. I am centered.”

“I love myself. I believe in myself. I support myself.”

“I am grateful for my life and for all the blessings that flow to and through me.”

4. Body Scan

The body scan allows breath to flow into and out of different parts of the body. Begin by sitting upright in your chair; you may open or close your eyes, whatever feels good for you. Breathe mindfully and direct your attention to your feet. Feel the sensations of each foot, each toe, and allow your breath to breathe into and out of each toe. Continue scanning up the body from your feet to your head, and breathe into each body part. Go slowly and remain mindful of how each body part feels. When you reach the top of the head, return your awareness to the environment and indulge in the feelings of being connected and calm.  The purpose of the body scan is not to relax; it is to be mindful of the breath and body.

5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

If you’re feeling nervous and anxious about flying, chances are your muscles are quite tense. Try relaxing your muscles by trying a Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique. Similar to the body scan, you will focus on different body parts throughout the exercise. Focus on your first muscle group. Take a deep breath in, squeeze the muscle for about 5-10 seconds, and release. Feel the difference between the tense muscle and the relaxed muscle. After you finish all muscle groups, count backward from 10 and feel the release of tension.

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