This is a look into how flying as a general aviation pilot can help someone maintain their motivation and overall mental health. A guest article by Andrea Poteet-Bell.

As a pilot, you love flying and know it makes you feel great. Studies are finding that flying provides real emotional health benefits for pilots. These benefits include helping with Seasonal Affective Disorder, improving trauma recovery, and managing mental health triggers, including potential addiction concerns.

5 Ways Flying Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Photo: Jose Mizrahi


The Dangers of Poor Mental Health

Poor mental health may cause a variety of serious concerns and poor behaviors, such as:

  • Destructive behaviors, like addiction cycles of behavior
  • High anxiety may make life more challenging to handle
  • Depression that may linger and cause serious emotional concerns

Luckily, every time you take off in an airplane, you’re doing something positive for your mental health. Here’s how:

5 Ways Flying Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Photo: William Topa


1. Travel May Help Calm Your Mind

Studies have found that travel may provide relaxation and calming benefits for anxiety. Pilots can take advantage of this fact by jumping in their private plane when they feel anxious or depressed and taking a breather from their day-to-day life.

Identify places you want to visit and fly there when you have free time. Find an airfield where you can store your plane, rent a car, and explore the area. Doing so calms your anxiety by taking you out of the difficulties of day-to-day life and placing you in a new environment.

Photo: Chris Leipelt


2. Help Trauma Recovery After Bad Flying Incidents

Pilots who experience traumatic flight situations, such as potential crashes, may struggle to get back into their plane again. But studies have shown that phobia treatment often relies on immersion therapy or forcing patients to face their fears and acclimate to them.

Therapists suggest starting slow, such as having pilots ride in a plane first and then taking control again as they feel comfortable. Slow and steady progress may help you overcome this fear and get back in the pilot’s seat again.

5 Ways Flying Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Photo: Josiah Farrow


3. Help With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD occurs when people don’t get enough sun exposure to produce vitamin D, a mineral that minimizes depression-related symptoms. It’s common in winter because people often spend too much time indoors and don’t get enough sun exposure.

Thankfully, you can fly your plane away from cold weather areas, visit sunnier climates during your vacation, and help manage your SAD. Spending time in warmer environments may also help you feel more relaxed and give you a stronger overall level of mental health.

5 Ways Flying Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Photo: Kristopher Allison


4. May Improve Relaxation

When you’re flying your plane, you have plenty of time to occupy your mind. For example, you may practice various relaxation techniques, such as meditation and breath control, while you’re on a plane. This step may help calm your nerves and make life a little easier.

Just as importantly, you may find flying in general relaxing, as you’re far above the world and have the chance to view it from a new perspective. The gentle, rocking motions not experiencing turbulence may make this situation even more relaxing and enjoyable.

Patrick Tomasso


5. Help With Mental Health Triggers

Mental health problems often have severe triggers that may cause you to fall back into destructive behaviors. For example, certain people or situations may trigger addictive behavior patterns, such as alcohol or drug abuse. Thankfully, you can remove yourself from this situation by flying.

For example, you can fly away whenever you feel triggers worsening and potentially causing mental health issues. If you don’t have a plane, you can fly away on vacation and spend time away from the people or situations that trigger your mental health issues.

Simon Fitall


Take Care Of Yourself

If you find that any of these benefits sound good to you, you may increase your flying regularity and take extra personal trips whenever you like. You may also receive these benefits while flying professionally, depending on where and how often you fly.