A fear of flying can be alleviated in a number of different of ways. Homeopathy, prescription drugs, education (e.g. how a plane flies / for what reason flying is the safest form of travel), meditation / relaxation, and simply being more organized (and so more stress free on the day of travel) are all popular approaches.
Many feel that both meditation (guided visualizations / hypnosis) and relaxation exercises are perhaps the most effective ways of calming nervous passengers. Since hypnosis and positive imagery works at the subconscious level - where fear originates - then it is little wonder that these approaches have a proven track record when it comes to reducing flight anxiety. However, many hypnotic or meditative CDs or MP3 downloads 'only' use simple breathing exercises and scenic imagery - e.g. "Imagine you're sitting in a beautiful garden…" While these approaches can indeed reduce stress levels, the problem many passengers have is that they are very much aware that they're not in a garden, but 39,000 feet in the air! My Sunny Mind's Relaxed Flying Series takes these approaches a step further with the use of indirect suggestion, utilization and realistic visualizations. The downloads makes use of what is happening on the plane to leave the listener feeling relaxed and calm. Furthermore, such is the power of the words used, that the Relaxed Flying Series can actually be listened to with great effect in the weeks leading up to flying. Here's how it works…
Unlike direct suggestions (e.g. "You will be very relaxed when you fly"), indirect suggestions are more subtle and address the problem in a less obvious way. They work much more on an unconscious level and the listener has to interpret them in a particular way to make conscious meaning of them. The generic structure of an indirect suggestion could be, “I knew someone who experienced flying in a beautifully relaxed way”. The key here is that I am not telling the listener directly what to do; yet I'm inviting him or her in the creation of the solution. Other examples could be: "Some people put the tip of their tongue behind their upper teeth when they fly because this has a wonderful calming effect… and my Aunt Wendy always used to find airplanes very sleepy places… and some people have to force themselves to yawn if they want their ears to pop and others do not even have to try at all…and so I wonder if you will sleep for 2 or 3 hours on this flight today…" The idea is to re-gain the confidence of the listener in a subtle rather then authoritative way. This is done via the subconscious mind.
The Power Of Distraction
This process is then taken even further by utilizing any elements within the environment to deepen the relaxation. We want to 'normalize' the listener's experience of flying to dissolve away any fears. This is done with both the use of distraction and conversational re-framing. For example, on my Inflight Relaxation download I ask the passenger to notice the air-hostesses: "it's just another boring day at work for them." And I suggest the passenger "relax into the soothing hum of the engines… their vibrating tone is in fact particularly calming you know…" At one point I suggest the listener pays attention to how relaxing the touch of their socks are on the airplane floor (which on a personal note I feel is one of the nicest feelings in the world - like bare feet on warm wet sand!). Whilst obviously the fearful flyer would rather be on the ground, the idea is to re-create the flying experience as an altered reality rather then a particularly scary one. "While some people hate turbulence, many others relax into it as nothing more then a gentle fairground ride. Have you ever thought about doing this?". And so on and on.
Finally, guided visualizations are also a great way of distracting the mind. Rather though then tell a passenger something they now they are not doing - "You are sitting in a lovely garden" - instead, with a little indirect suggestion and future-pacing they can be directed to imagine the beautiful destination they may be traveling to (or wish they were traveling to!) and how next week "...this journey will have been nothing more then a blinking of the eye as the dreamy white clouds drift on by…"
All these techniques can be very powerful in helping a passenger to have a more enjoyable and relaxing flight. I hope you've found these little insights useful. Until the next time… happy flying!
Yesterday Captain Tom Bunn left a comment on my ‘Easy Turbulence’ video on YouTube referring to My Sunny Mind’s methods as “junk psychology”. Quite naturally I’ve taken issue with this claim because not only have I had a great deal of success both personally and with the many clients I’ve seen over the last 10 years, but of course there’s the millions of people around the world who’ve been positively affected by modern alternative-therapies. And let’s not forget either the virtues of such classic practices as mindfulness meditation which were first introduced into the West during the 18th century yet date back to early Buddhist texts and traditions.
Now unfortunately, Tom’s YouTube/Google+ account is set up so that no one is able to respond to his comments, so sadly I’ve had to remove his comment from that particular YouTube thread. I love different points of view, open debate and healthy argument - but of course this means people have to be able to respond to each other. And so for those who missed it, here’s Tom’s comment in full. And my reply.
“Tom Bunn wrote on 06/25/15: The breathing and relaxation exercises promoted in this video are - according to all the current research - completely useless. Some research finds they are counterproductive. In any case they do not control anxiety, panic, or claustrophobia either on the ground or when flying. Links to the research are at bit.ly/1q2ocSq on Psychology Today. To avoid being set up for failure by junk psychology read this blog bit.ly/1BgMuJG on Psychology Today.”
In response I would firstly like to say that current research has actually shown us that both breathing and relaxation exercises can in fact be most useful for a great number of people in lowering stress levels. The UK Government, Harvard Health Publications and the US Dept. of Health & Human Services all promote the benefits of breathing & relaxation exercises in lowering anxiety.
In both his excellent articles for Psychology Today, Tom Bunn provides well founded scientific research to prove his point - which in turn supports the point made by eminent academic and NY Times best-selling author Daniel H Pink in his book: “To Sell Is Human”… Pink tells us how it’s now possible for someone to find evidence to prove conclusively whatever they want. In Tom’s case this is evidence to support his SOAR program which has successfully helped over 5,000 nervous flyers since 1982.
My Sunny Mind’s ‘Easy Turbulence’ (and indeed our whole ‘Relaxed Flying Series’) uses an array of breathing & relaxation exercises AND other powerful tools such as SFBT, Mindfulness, NLP & simple rational thinking. Unlike traditional hypnosis (which for example has one imagine a beach or a lake scene) the ‘Relaxed Flying Series’ visualizations are context-related and actually use what is happening on the aircraft at any given moment to leave the listener in a more confident state of mind. (We’re great fans here at My Sunny Mind of the peaceful moments that mindfulness brings, AND the legendary Milton Erickson’s utilization techniques). What we do know is that everybody’s flying experience is NOT the same - if it were then EVERY passenger would go into fits of panic every time an aircraft travels through turbulence. However, this is quite clearly not the case. It is not turbulence that causes us fear, but our personal thought patterns around turbulence which are converted into anxiety.
My Sunny Mind’s goal is to put nervous passengers into the same resourceful space as more confident flyers. Breathing & relaxation exercises help in achieving this, and as mentioned above such techniques are only part of a bigger process we use in helping passengers deal with negative thoughts and emotions. We also acknowledge that perhaps our MP3 downloads won’t work for everyone, but 2 years of inflight testing and 10 years of clinical testing has shown us the profound effects that our work has had upon both passengers in the sky and many regular people on the ground. We at My Sunny Mind are very excited by the positive results and feedback we have gained so far and we whole-heartedly stand by the efficacy of all our products.
The next stage in the creation of an effective meditation or guided visualization is to record the music that sits behind the voice. This for me is a very separate process. I'm continually producing and recording pieces of music completely independent of a script or subject (before putting them away for later use). When I then need some music I will look through my library and select what I feel is most apt. Some tunes will work better with certain scripts and my final choice here is very much an intuitive one. For example, the refreshing uplifting feel of the music for the "Mind Clean" title meant that it suited that theme perfectly.
When I initially write the music for my MP3 downloads I do so on a guitar or keyboard. I find that slow tempos and lingering progressions are the most conducive to relaxation. When written, I will record the progression (i.e. chord sequence) before overdubbing it with a number of different melodies (on various instruments). I record on a Mac with Logic Pro software which I find very user friendly. Musically, I like to use lots of reverb to create a soothing ambience. I most enjoy this stage since I experience a real sense of artistic freedom as varying notes, melodies and tones assimilate and resonate. The eventual end result will be a 6-8 minute piece of recorded music that I will then file away until needed. With some of the Relaxed Flying Series titles I didn't even use any music at all - but instead real life airport and airplane sounds. And of course some very effective visualizations have simply been a lone voice. Some producers use 'binaural beats' which many believe have a greater impact on our mood or mental state. The key word here (as it is with most creative things) is 'believe'.
Recording A Hypnotic Voice
The next stage is to record myself reading the script. Ideally I'd like to record the script in one sitting, but invariably there will be odd lines that I need to do again. (I'm a little bit of a perfectionist here and probably re-do more lines then I need to!) I use a Shure SM7B microphone. SM7B's are great for voice-over work and are very popular in the talk-radio industry. Bizarrely enough Michael Jackson also used one of these microphones when he recorded 'Thriller'! I'm very interested in the tone of my voice and I like to get a very up, close and personal feel. Very rarely do I put any reverb on my voice. I like a clean, deep voice tone that tends to resonate more with the listener. There's a whole movement happening at the moment called 'ASMR' (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). In layman's terms, ASMR is essentially a whispered way of talking which leads to a pleasant tingling in the brain. The effects of ASMR have not been scientifically tested and so it is only a 'claimed biological phenomenon'. But have you ever noticed how good it feels when someone whispers in your ear? For me this is simply the way I prefer to record my voice and is not necessarily the only way for effective results.
Arranging The Guided Visualization
Before I begin recording my voice I will loop my 6-8 minute piece of music three or four times so that it runs at about 30 minutes in length. This gives me plenty of time then to do the voice-over. After I have recorded the vocal I will then arrange the music that sits beneath my voice. I will take different layers of sound out, or add more as the script progresses. For example, if there is a relaxing countdown from 10 to 1, I might slowly take different instruments out or even decrease the volume so essentially one might hear only my voice by the time I say the number "1". This gives the effect of feeling deeply relaxed and connected with the subconscious part of the mind. Conversely, as an induction reaches its sometimes glorious conclusion the music may build to a crescendo. This of course also has the added affect of bringing the listener back to a normal waking state. I have no set rules for the shape and form of the music, it's more of an intuitive process that years of experience in musical production has given me.
Once the voice has been recorded and the music has been arranged, I may then 'cut and paste' odd poignant parts of the vocal and put them in other parts of the induction behind the main vocal. I'll use reverb on these parts and sometimes have a certain word or sentence coming out of just the left or right speaker / headphone. The idea here is to have suggestions sink even more deeply into the subconscious. You can hear this done to great effect on my "Rejuvenate" MP3. Some people have a fear of hypnosis because they feel they are going to be made to do something they don't want to do. That hypnotherapy can affect us this way is a myth. Listeners are conscious throughout the whole process and they will immediately 'wake-up' if they hear something untoward. i.e. "You will now rob a bank"! Trance-work can only assist you in doing what you already want to do. Now if you really did want to rob a bank…!
Relax, Listen, Change
Finally the MP3 will then be 'mastered'. This is a post-recording process where the levels and EQs of the MP3 are standardized so making the recording 'ok' to listen to on a number of different devices. e.g. iPod, radio, smart phone, home stereo. Ideally my downloads are best listened to through headphones so the listener can get the full stereo effect. But this is not imperative. Sometimes there will have to be a little bit of real life testing out in the field. This was certainly true with my 'Driving Range Coach' and 'Inflight-Relaxation' titles which are meant to be listened to whilst practicing golf or actually flying on an aircraft. A number of times after testing I've had to re-write sections and so re-record my voice before finally settling on the finished MP3s as they are today. As I have already mentioned earlier, with all my titles it's about getting a fine balance in bringing all these elements together. Experience (and my dad) has shown me that what seems to work well for me, generally works for other people too. And that is how I make my downloads.
I’ve always had this love/hate relationship with flying. I’ve never not boarded an aircraft or been outwardly stressed due to any fears, but like a lot of passengers (particularly in the post 9/11 era) odd negative thoughts HAD passed through my mind prior to flying or during the journey itself. On the other hand, flying also triggers this fantastical altered state in me – flying above the earth, 40,000 ft in the air – is a magnificent dreamlike experience. In my world, TWA always stood for Trance World Airlines! The original idea then to produce the Inflight Relaxation MP3 was an obvious and interesting choice for me. (My Sunny Mind’s Relaxed Flying Series came later!)
The Origins Of Fear
A great deal of fear originates from childhood experience – learned responses from the people (normally family) around us. I remember my mum being a highly anxious person. Flying, traveling on planes, unfamiliar noises or situations would all cause her some kind of freeze, flight or fight response. As a child I didn’t know any better and would just absorb whatever was going on around me – such as my mum heatedly telling my dad to be careful with his driving as he sped down the road! Years later I too found myself to be a somewhat nervous car passenger. Coincidence? Probably not.
Similarly, my grandmother used to have this completely irrational fear of spiders… a little spider in the bathtub would send her into fits of panic before a desperate call to a neighbor to have them come and remove it. Imagine yourself as a little toddler sitting in your high-chair quite happily watching a spider walk across the tray in front of you. Suddenly your grand mother walks in and starts screaming upon seeing this little arachnophobe! At that point you start screaming to and from then on are wary of spiders! Learned responses. Interestingly my grandmother loved flying, but our little eight legged friends were a real cause for concern for her – such is the seemingly random nature of fear and how it affects us all differently.
The White Knuckle Passenger
People have a fear of flying for a myriad of reasons and the most common one is the lack of control they feel once aboard the aircraft - triggered by abnormally high anxiety levels held at the subconscious level. Whilst rationally we know that nothing will go wrong and flying is the safest form of transport, our subconscious mind has a different point of view and so kicks in with angst ridden ‘survival’ techniques. How many times have you been onboard a plane and seen the ‘white knuckle passenger’ sitting there in fear gripping the seat with both hands. Perhaps it’s even been you! Every little bit of turbulence or announcement from the captain is met with some kind of negative response – nihilistic thinking, a tightening of the body… When the plane lands you can sense the tangible relief.
What’s happening is that the nervous subconscious mind is doing what it think it needs to do for us to ‘survive’ the flight. It literally thinks: “well the last time I flew, I panicked over every bit of turbulence… I tensed my body over every unfamiliar sound I heard… and I worried about every announcement… and I SURVIVED!” The subconscious is very regressive in it’s thinking and always refers back to previous patterns of behaviour. It’s reasoning is: “if worrying worked last time, then worrying will work when I fly this time“. Hence we worry, and every time we fly the subconscious both re-enforces and is re-enforced by this negative behaviour. A vicious circle.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this. Our subconscious mind is like an unruly child that can be taught more positive behaviors. It can also be taught to relax. Just imagine if the next time you flew, when the plane entered into a little turbulence you simply decided to relax into it rather then tense up and worry. Interesting thoughts. I’ll go into the mechanics of this on the upcoming “Inflight Relaxation” blog…
Hello and welcome to the brand new, re-designed My Sunny Mind website! Over the next few weeks and months I'll be regularly posting all kinds of interesting blogs here that I'm sure will resonate with your sunny mind.
So besides our shiny new website, the big news here at My Sunny Mind is we've finally released our Relaxed Flying Series: 7 exquisitely produced visualizations now mixed and mastered and ready to help. So any nervous flyers out there need worry no more! These MP3 downloads really are on the cutting edge of audio self-help technology. You can read more about them here. We believe that there's nothing else quite like our Relaxed Flying Series on the market, but if you think there is, then please do direct us to it... We want to know about it! The more people and products there are helping people to fly confidently and easily can only be a good thing.
Still available to download of course is our complete range of relaxing meditations. Including our best sellers: 'Relax & Let Go' and 'Mind Clean' - which are now also available as part of our Balanced Life Series (which you can learn more about here). I can't express enough how beneficial it is to simply take some time out to properly relax (regardless of any negative behaviors or habits one might have).
Finally, if you have any specific areas you want My Sunny Mind to write about or address then please do email us or leave a comment. And indeed, if you want to add a blog on our site then do email it to us. We love that! So until the next time, thanks for visiting. We're looking forward to spending time with you.
Charles (director, My Sunny Mind).