A Bottle of Water...

As the psychologist on the Virgin Flying Without Fear course I am always looking for quick and effective ways to help people overcome their fears.

I had an “Aha” moment last year when watching a bottle of water on a train to Edinburgh shaking all over the place. I thought, "It never shakes this much on an aircraft even in turbulence". Even people who have no fear of flying often worry about turbulence.

One of my very popular and successful tips for coping with turbulence involves a bottle or glass of water (or champagne if you’re lucky enough to travel in Business or First class!). If I gave you a glass of water (without a lid) to hold whilst sitting in a car chances are you wouldn’t be too happy and within minutes of driving it would have slopped out all over you. Have you 'bounced around' thousands of feet? No. Your brain knows this for a fact.

When  you’re on an aircraft what you “feel” is happening in turbulence, i.e. you’redropping hundreds of feet, isn’t actually happening. The problem is you have no reference point on the horizon, the level in the bottle of water becomes your reference point as to how much you are actually “bouncing” around. You know that in a car the water would be everywhere with a small amount of bouncing. Look at that same water level in turbulence and it will hardly be moving. The brain then automatically does a quick comparison of “What I’m feeling isn’t what is happening to my water so it can’t be as bad as I feel it is” and relaxes.

Next time you go flying and hate turbulence just check out what the level in your bottle of water or drink is doing. The same technique can be used to show the angle that an aircraft is taking off or banking to turn left or right – two other things lots of people dislike about flying. 

So if you heard it hear first - a bottle of water can help cure a fear of turbulence! Enjoy the flight.