If you’ve been looking for a new way to meditate, you’ll definitely want to consider flotation tank therapy. What is it? Picture this: you’re floating blissfully in a room filled with salt water, in total darkness devoid of sound. All you can hear is the sound of your own heartbeat and your breathing. The temperature of the water perfectly matches your skin temperature, which adds to the experience by tricking your mind into not knowing where your body ends and the water begins.
At first, this idea might seem scary, to totally shut yourself off from the outside world and experience complete relaxation. But, after a few minutes, your body and mind will get used to the new environment, and you will slip away into a deep meditative state that you might not have been able to reach during “normal” meditation due to outside stimuli.
Still skeptical? Consider this 1997 analysis of 1,000 descriptions of sensory deprivation. According to the participants, over 90% found the experience deeply relaxing. But, what exactly makes this relaxing, and how can it help you reduce stress and clear your mind? Read on to find out.
Here’s how flotation tanks can help you reduce stress and clear your mind:
Dr. John C. Lilly, a researcher and neurophysiologist working for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the 1950’s, was interested in studying the brain/mind and the origins of consciousness. He developed the floatation tank as a way to isolate external stimulation from the mind and measure the effects of this isolation.
While the idea of flotation therapy has been around for about a half century, it’s just now gaining traction with the general public due to the piqued interest in meditation and mindfulness. In addition to the relaxation that comes from being enclosed in a soundproof, pitch black room, the Epsom salt adds even more benefits to the experience. According to the Epsom Salt Council, applying the salt to the skin can help you to maintain adequate magnesium levels, since Epsom salt is high in magnesium, improve heart rate and blood circulation, lower blood pressure, relieve stress, improve nerve function, flush toxins from the body, and much more.
As far as the sensory deprivation aspect of the flotation therapy, many studies have proven the benefits of immersing yourself in total silence for a short period of time. Our world today is far too noisy and hectic, and our bodies and minds still haven’t learned to fully adjust to modern living from an evolutionary standpoint. So, with that in mind, you can imagine how closing yourself off from the world and simply floating in a quiet room can help with stress and mental clarity.
According to a popular flotation therapy spa, Still Point Wellness in Asheville, North Carolina:
“Supported and held by a half TON of epsom salts, you’ll effortlessly connect with your body’s natural deep relaxation response. Skin temperature water and fresh oxygen makes our state-of-the-art float chamber an ideal environment to safely explore the connection between your mind and body. People who float regularly report a deeper understanding and the ability to transform stressful patterns, habits and beliefs into new strategies for success and happiness.”
Part of why flotation therapy works is because the brain doesn’t have to worry about processing visual stimuli. In fact, the brain starts to create its own with an absence of external stimuli, which can spark creativity and enhance cognitive function. In 2000, one study found that volunteers’ visual cortexes were far more active after just an hour of sensory deprivation..
Another study involving 40 university students proved the theory of higher creativity after a flotation experience, as their standardized test scores increased with just an hour of sensory deprivation.
Also, flotation tank therapy could help you to acquire new skills in a shorter amount of time, and boost memory as well. Research shows that during resting states, the brain continuously goes over newly learned skills and compartmentalizes these ideas for long-term use.
Probably most importantly, flotation tank therapy can relieve stress and anxiety, which in turn, can positively affect blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol levels, and reduce the amount of ‘brain fog’ people commonly experience. In the early 1980s, several psychologists at the Medical College of Ohio performed a series of experiments that analyzed the physiological responses to Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy, or REST. Looking at many flotation sessions, the researchers found that blood pressure and levels of stress-related hormones dropped, and this lasted long after the participant’s flotation experience. In 2005, a meta-analysis further confirmed that flotation reduced stress more effectively than other popular methods such as relaxation exercises, biofeedback or relaxing on the couch.
After seeing positive results from these studies, researchers wanted to see whether flotation could help patients with stress-related disorders. Flotation tank therapy was used as the primary treatment for disorders such as hypertension, headaches,insomnia and rheumatoid arthritis; all of these studies showed positive effects in small sample sizes. Those suffering from severe chronic pain benefited from weekly REST sessions as well: their pain levels decreased, sleep improved dramatically, and they reported feeling more vibrant and less anxious.
So, if you haven’t tried flotation tank therapy yet, we hope you will give it a try so you can experience all the amazing benefits!