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Can Music Be The Cure To Anxiety When Flying?


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Nomi Sasser



For many people, flying can be a source of anxiety and stress. The anticipation of taking to the skies, the unfamiliarity of the environment, and the lack of control over the situation can trigger feelings of unease. Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help manage and alleviate this anxiety, one of which is music.


Music has the power to evoke emotions, transport us to different worlds, and provide a comforting escape. In recent years, researchers and psychologists have started to explore the therapeutic benefits of music in managing anxiety and stress. When it comes to flying, music can serve as a powerful tool to calm nerves and create a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.


But how does music accomplish this? What makes it so effective in reducing anxiety? In this article, we will delve into the role of music in managing anxiety when flying. We will explore how music affects our emotions, its ability to distract our minds from anxious thoughts, and how to create a personalized anxiety-reducing playlist. Additionally, we will provide recommendations for genres and songs that are particularly soothing for anxious flyers.


So, if you have ever felt a wave of anxiety or stress when boarding a plane, read on to discover the potential of music as a powerful tool to alleviate those feelings and make your flying experience more enjoyable.


Understanding Anxiety When Flying

Flying anxiety, also known as aviophobia, is a common fear that affects many individuals. It is a type of situational anxiety that specifically arises when boarding or being on an airplane. People with flying anxiety may experience a range of symptoms, including sweating, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and panic attacks.


There are several reasons why flying can trigger anxiety. One of the main factors is the lack of control. When we are on a plane, we are essentially surrendering control of our safety to the pilot and the aircraft. This loss of control can be uncomfortable for individuals who prefer to have a sense of agency over their own well-being.


Another common source of anxiety when flying is the fear of heights, also known as acrophobia. Being at high altitudes, looking out of the window, or being in situations where turbulence is encountered can heighten feelings of fear and anxiety.


Furthermore, the unfamiliarity of the environment and the sensations experienced during takeoff, landing, and turbulence can also contribute to flying anxiety. The loud noises, pressure changes, and confined space can make individuals feel trapped and vulnerable.


Understanding the underlying causes of flying anxiety is the first step towards managing and addressing it. By recognizing that your fears are valid and acknowledging the specific triggers that affect you, you can begin to develop strategies to cope with and overcome your anxiety.


The Role of Music in Managing Anxiety

Music has a remarkable ability to influence our emotions and impact our overall well-being. When it comes to managing anxiety, music can be a powerful tool. It has been found to have a calming and soothing effect on the mind and body, helping to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.


One of the ways in which music helps manage anxiety is through its impact on our brain chemistry. Listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This release of dopamine can generate feelings of happiness, relaxation, and contentment, helping to counteract the negative emotions associated with anxiety.


Moreover, music has the power to distract our minds from anxious thoughts. When we are actively engaged in listening to music, our focus shifts away from the source of our anxiety and towards the rhythm, melody, and lyrics of the music. This distraction can help break the cycle of anxious thinking and promote a sense of calm and tranquility.


In addition, music can serve as a form of self-expression and emotional release. Listening to music that resonates with our emotions and experiences can provide a cathartic outlet for our anxiety. It can validate our feelings and create a sense of connection and understanding, which can be particularly beneficial for those who feel isolated in their anxiety.


Furthermore, music has the ability to evoke nostalgic memories and associations. By listening to music that reminds us of positive experiences or peaceful settings, we can create a sense of comfort and familiarity, helping to alleviate anxiety when flying.


Overall, the role of music in managing anxiety is multi-faceted. It has the power to influence our brain chemistry, distract our minds, provide emotional release, and create a calming atmosphere. By incorporating music into our pre-flight routine or listening to it during the flight, we can effectively reduce anxiety and make the flying experience more enjoyable and relaxing.


How Does Music Affect Our Emotions?

Music has a profound impact on our emotions. It has the ability to evoke a wide range of feelings, from excitement and joy to sadness and relaxation. But what is it about music that has such a powerful effect on our emotional state?


One of the ways in which music influences our emotions is through its ability to stimulate the release of neurotransmitters in our brain. Different types of music can trigger the production and release of specific neurotransmitters, which in turn can elicit specific emotional responses. For example, upbeat and fast-paced music can lead to the release of dopamine, creating feelings of happiness and excitement. On the other hand, slow and melodic music can trigger the release of serotonin, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.


Music also activates the brain’s reward center, which is responsible for processing pleasurable experiences. When we listen to music, our brain releases dopamine, reinforcing the pleasurable experience and creating a positive association with the music itself. This is why certain songs or melodies can instantly uplift our mood and evoke positive emotions.


Furthermore, music has the ability to tap into our memories and emotions. Certain songs or melodies may be linked to specific events or periods in our lives, and when we hear them, it can trigger a flood of associated memories and emotions. This connection between music and memory can intensify the emotional response we have to certain songs, whether it’s a feeling of nostalgia, happiness, or even sadness.


Moreover, the structure and composition of music play a significant role in its ability to affect our emotions. Elements such as rhythm, melody, harmony, and tempo can create a particular emotional atmosphere. For example, slow and soothing melodies with soft instrumentation are often associated with relaxation and tranquility, while fast-paced beats and energetic rhythms can induce feelings of excitement and motivation.


Overall, music has a profound impact on our emotional state. It can heighten our moods, elicit specific emotional responses, tap into our memories, and create a unique emotional experience. Understanding how music affects our emotions is key in utilizing it as a powerful tool for managing anxiety and promoting overall well-being.


Music as a Distraction Technique

One of the ways in which music can help manage anxiety when flying is by acting as a distraction technique. By engaging our auditory senses and shifting our focus to the music, we can redirect our attention away from anxious thoughts and feelings.


When we are feeling anxious, our minds can become consumed with worry, negative thoughts, and what-if scenarios. This constant rumination can further feed our anxiety and escalate our feelings of fear and unease. However, listening to music provides an alternative point of focus, allowing our minds to break free from this cycle of anxious thinking.


Music creates a sensory experience that captures our attention and holds it in the present moment. As we listen to the melodies, harmonies, and lyrics, our minds become immersed in the musical journey, diverting our attention away from the anxiety-inducing aspects of flying.


Moreover, music can create a sense of rhythm and structure that helps regulate our breathing and heart rate. The soothing melodies, steady beats, and repetitive patterns can synchronize with our body’s natural rhythms, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.


Additionally, when we listen to music, we often find ourselves mentally engaging with the lyrics or mentally exploring the emotions and stories behind the music. This cognitive engagement serves as a distraction from our anxious thoughts and allows us to immerse ourselves in the world of the music.


Furthermore, the act of selecting and curating a playlist of favorite songs or calming music prior to flying can serve as a coping strategy in itself. The anticipation and preparation involved in creating the playlist can help shift the focus from anxiety to a more proactive and self-empowering mindset.


By using music as a distraction technique, we can redirect our attention and break the cycle of anxious thinking. It provides a positive and enjoyable anchor in the midst of anxiety-provoking situations, fostering a sense of comfort and relaxation during the flight.


Creating a Personalized Anxiety-Reducing Playlist

One of the most effective ways to harness the power of music in managing anxiety when flying is by creating a personalized anxiety-reducing playlist. By curating a collection of songs that resonate with you and evoke feelings of calm and relaxation, you can have a tailored set of musical tools to help alleviate anxiety during your flight.


When creating your anxiety-reducing playlist, consider the following tips:

  1. Choose familiar and comforting songs: Select songs that are familiar to you and have positive associations. Listening to music that you already enjoy and feel connected to can provide a sense of comfort and security.
  2. Focus on slower tempos and gentle melodies: Opt for songs that have slower tempos and soothing melodies. These types of songs can help promote relaxation and a sense of tranquility.
  3. Consider instrumental or ambient music: Instrumental, ambient, or nature-inspired tracks can be particularly effective in creating a calm and serene atmosphere. These types of music allow you to focus on the soothing sounds without the distraction of lyrics.
  4. Include songs with positive and uplifting lyrics: If you prefer songs with lyrics, choose ones that have positive and uplifting messages. The lyrics can serve as affirmations and reminders of strength and resilience, helping to counteract anxious thoughts.
  5. Experiment with different genres: Don’t limit yourself to just one genre of music. Explore a variety of genres and styles to find what resonates with you. Some people find classical music or instrumental pieces to be the most calming, while others might prefer ambient electronic or gentle acoustic tracks.
  6. Consider guided meditation or relaxation tracks: In addition to music, you might also consider adding guided meditation or relaxation tracks to your playlist. These audio resources can provide additional support in managing anxiety and promoting a sense of calmness.

Remember, the goal is to create a playlist that brings you comfort and relaxation. Take the time to explore different songs, experiment with different combinations, and refine your anxiety-reducing playlist until you find the perfect collection of music that suits your needs.


By creating a personalized anxiety-reducing playlist, you can enhance your flying experience and equip yourself with a powerful tool to manage anxiety. Accessible at any time through your headphones or earbuds, your playlist will provide a comforting and familiar escape during the flight.


Recommended Genres and Songs for Anxiety Relief

Choosing the right genres and songs can make a significant difference in managing anxiety when flying. While individual preferences may vary, the following genres and songs are often recommended for their calming and soothing qualities:

  1. Classical Music: Known for its relaxing and serene compositions, classical music has long been celebrated for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Pieces by composers such as Johann Pachelbel, Frederic Chopin, and Claude Debussy can help create a peaceful atmosphere during your flight.
  2. Ambient and Electronic: Ambient and electronic music genres offer a wide range of calming and atmospheric tracks. Artists like Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, and Hammock provide immersive soundscapes that can help you unwind and create a sense of tranquility.
  3. Instrumental Guitar and Piano: Instrumental guitar and piano tracks can be incredibly soothing and melodic. Artists like Andy McKee, Ludovico Einaudi, and Yiruma have composed beautiful instrumental pieces that are perfect for relaxation and anxiety relief.
  4. Nature Sounds: The sounds of nature, such as rain, ocean waves, or forest ambiance, can have a therapeutic effect on our minds and help induce a state of calmness. There are numerous recordings available that capture these natural sounds, allowing you to immerse yourself in a peaceful environment even while flying.
  5. Chillout and Downtempo: Chillout and downtempo genres offer a blend of electronic and acoustic elements with laid-back beats and gentle melodies. Artists like Zero 7, Röyksopp, and Bonobo create mellow and atmospheric tracks that can help create a relaxed atmosphere during your flight.

Remember, the key is to choose songs and genres that resonate with you personally. Explore these genres and artists to find songs that provide a sense of calm and relaxation. It may also be helpful to create a diverse playlist with a mix of different genres to keep the experience varied and interesting.


Experiment with different songs and artists to discover what works best for you. What matters most is finding music that helps create a soothing and stress-free environment, allowing you to experience a more relaxed and enjoyable flight.


Using Headphones or Earbuds for a More Immersive Experience

When it comes to enjoying your anxiety-reducing playlist and maximizing its calming effects, using headphones or earbuds can greatly enhance the experience. These simple audio devices provide a more immersive and focused listening experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the music and drown out any distracting noises around you.


Here are a few reasons why using headphones or earbuds can facilitate a more immersive and anxiety-relieving experience:

  1. Noise Isolation: Headphones or earbuds block out external noises, such as the hum of the airplane engine, chatter from fellow passengers, or other ambient sounds. This noise isolation provides a cocoon of tranquility, allowing you to fully engage with the music and create an immersive atmosphere.
  2. Enhanced Audio Quality: Headphones and earbuds are designed to deliver high-quality audio, ensuring that you can fully appreciate the nuances of the music. The precise reproduction of instruments, vocals, and sounds in your anxiety-reducing playlist can contribute to a more immersive and satisfying listening experience.
  3. Personal Space and Privacy: Wearing headphones or earbuds gives you a sense of personal space and privacy. It creates a barrier that signals to others that you are engrossed in your own world, allowing you to disconnect from the external environment and focus on your inner calmness.
  4. Focused Attention: Using headphones or earbuds directs your attention solely to the music. By eliminating external distractions, you can fully engage with the soothing melodies and lyrics, deepening the emotional connection and enhancing the anxiety-relieving effects of the music.
  5. Portable and Convenient: Headphones or earbuds are compact and portable, making them ideal for traveling. You can easily slip them into your carry-on bag or pocket, allowing you to have your anxiety-reducing playlist at your fingertips whenever you need it, whether during takeoff, in-flight, or during landing.

Whether you choose over-ear headphones or compact earbuds, ensure that you select comfortable and high-quality audio devices. Comfort is essential, especially during long flights, to prevent any discomfort or irritation.


Remember to prioritize your safety and be aware of your surroundings. If you are traveling alone, it’s a good idea to keep the volume at a moderate level so that you can stay aware of important announcements or instructions from the flight attendants.


By using headphones or earbuds, you can enhance the immersive and anxiety-relieving effects of your music, creating a more tranquil and enjoyable flying experience.


Additional Strategies for Combating Anxiety When Flying

In addition to utilizing music as a powerful tool for managing anxiety when flying, there are several other strategies that can help calm your nerves and promote a more relaxed state of mind. Consider incorporating the following techniques into your pre-flight routine:

  1. Breathing Exercises: Practice deep breathing exercises to help regulate your breathing and reduce anxiety. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Focusing on your breath can help center your mind and alleviate tension.
  2. Visualization: Use the power of your imagination to transport yourself to a serene and peaceful place. Close your eyes and visualize yourself in a tranquil setting, such as a serene beach or a peaceful garden. Engaging in positive visualizations can help shift your focus away from anxiety-inducing thoughts.
  3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Practice progressive muscle relaxation techniques to release tension and promote relaxation throughout your body. Start by tensing and then releasing each muscle group, from your toes to your head, to achieve a state of physical and mental calmness.
  4. Mindfulness and Meditation: Engage in mindfulness or meditation exercises to cultivate a sense of present-moment awareness and reduce anxiety. Focus your attention on the sensations of your breath or the sounds around you, allowing any anxious thoughts to pass without judgment.
  5. Distraction Activities: Engage in activities that divert your attention away from anxiety. Bring a book, listen to a podcast or audiobook, or solve puzzles to keep your mind occupied during the flight.
  6. Communicate with Flight Attendants: Inform the flight attendants about your anxiety, as they are trained to assist and offer support. Knowing that you have their understanding and assistance can provide a sense of comfort and reassurance.
  7. Choose the Right Seat: If possible, choose a seat that makes you feel more comfortable and secure. For some, sitting by the window can provide a greater sense of control and visibility, while others may prefer an aisle seat for more freedom of movement.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s anxiety triggers and coping mechanisms are unique. What works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with different strategies and find what helps you feel the most calm and at ease during your flight.


Lastly, consider seeking support from a mental health professional if your flying anxiety becomes overwhelming or significantly impacts your quality of life. They can provide you with additional techniques and strategies tailored to your specific needs.


By combining these strategies with music as a powerful tool, you can better manage and overcome anxiety when flying, allowing you to enjoy a more comfortable and relaxed journey.



Anxiety when flying is a common experience, but it doesn’t have to hinder your enjoyment of air travel. Incorporating music into your flying routine can be an effective and enjoyable strategy for managing anxiety and promoting relaxation.


Music has the remarkable ability to influence our emotions and create a soothing atmosphere. By leveraging its power, you can find solace and comfort in the melodies, rhythms, and lyrics that resonate with you personally. Whether it’s classical music, ambient tracks, or instrumental pieces, the right genre and songs can help create a calming environment and divert your attention from anxious thoughts.


Additionally, using headphones or earbuds can enhance the immersive experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the music and block out external distractions. This creates a personal sanctuary where you can find solace and tranquility, even in the bustling environment of an airplane.


Remember, music is just one tool in your arsenal for combating flying anxiety. Additional strategies like deep breathing exercises, visualization, and mindfulness can further support your efforts in managing anxiety and promoting relaxation. It’s important to explore and find what works best for you.


Flying can be a remarkable opportunity to explore new destinations, visit loved ones, or embark on exciting adventures. By managing your anxiety and incorporating music into your flying routine, you can turn the experience into a more enjoyable and calm journey.


So next time you find yourself getting anxious before a flight, put on your headphones, cue up your anxiety-reducing playlist, and let the power of music and other relaxation techniques guide you towards a more serene and enjoyable flying experience.