There’s a reason we call it “therapy.” Float therapy, or floatation-REST (Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy), is an easy and effective way to invest in your health and happiness. Designed to eliminate all external stimuli, a floatation tank lets your mind and body take a break from the constant environmental stimulation (gravity, temperature, sound, light, etc.) it normally has to process. Studies have shown that this state of sensory relaxation can cause a variety of health benefits, and people who float regularly enjoy immense improvements to their physical and emotional wellbeing. Here is a breakdown of the many benefits of float therapy.
Physical Benefits of Float Therapy
Floating activates what’s called the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s natural mechanism for healing and revitalization that operates during periods of deep relaxation. Inducing this process can do wonders for your physical health. The physical benefits of float therapy include:
Decreased Blood Pressure
More than 100 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure, a condition that puts them at an increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. Luckily, research shows that a major benefit of floatation therapy is its ability to lower one’s blood pressure. Part of the reason for this is the parasympathetic response, during which your blood vessels dilate, increasing the supply of oxygen and vital nutrients throughout your body. But your body’s changing chemical balance also plays a role. Stress is a major cause of increased blood pressure, and in addition to decreasing your cortisol levels, floating encourages dopamine production. This improvement in your emotional state can contribute to lowered blood pressure as well.
Accelerated Muscle Recovery
One of many reasons floatation-REST is popular among athletes is its effectiveness at speeding up muscle recovery. There’s a breadth of research confirming floating’s ability to reduce lactic acid build-up, decrease pain levels, and even improve psychological recovery following intense physical training.
Relief from Chronic Pain
Everyone who floats tends to feel better afterward, but that improvement can be especially therapeutic for those who suffer from chronic pain. People with conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, inflammation, tendonitis, and tension headaches have found soothing relief through float therapy.
Improved Athletic Performance
Float therapy is an athlete’s dream. Not only does it decrease stress, accelerate muscle recovery, and improve focus, but the meditative state it induces also helps to facilitate visualization. An incredibly powerful tool for athletes, visualization allows them to mentally simulate competition, a process that has been proven to improve actual performance. This is in part due to the way the practice engages both sides of your brain. As Michael Hutchison writes in “The Book of Floating,” visualization “ensures that your suggestion is implanted firmly in the visually oriented right hemisphere as well as in the verbal left, so that the suggestion is imbued with emotional energy and engages your entire mind.”
Increased Magnesium Levels
In addition to the physical benefits of deep relaxation, the act of floating in our Epsom salt solution offers wondrous advantages. Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, provides floaters with magnesium, adequate levels of which can reduce muscle soreness, speed up recovery, reduce stress, exfoliate your skin, alleviate chronic pain, and add volume to one’s hair.
Mental Benefits of Float Therapy
Like our bodies, our minds need time to relax, recover, and reset. Floating induces what’s called a theta state, a period of reduced electrical activity in the brain that results in a rhythmic, meditative mode of consciousness. Here are some of the fantastic things that occur when your mind occupies this dream-like state:
As we discussed above, floatation-REST helps to decrease cortisol (i.e., the stress hormone) and increase dopamine (i.e., the happiness hormone). This combination helps to reduce stress and burnout. But we don’t need scientific studies to tell us that — we can see it on the relaxed and joyous faces of our floaters as they exit their float rooms.
Improved Mental Health
One in 6 U.S. adults actively live with a mental illness, while almost half will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. Fortunately, float therapy can help to alleviate the symptoms of many common mental illnesses. Research has shown that a single one-hour session in a float tank can cause a significant reduction in anxiety and an improvement in mood in individuals with stress- or anxiety-related illnesses. One study even found that people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience reduced symptoms of depression, fatigue, insomnia, and irritability. Additionally, many veterans find relief from their PTSD through floatation-REST.
Similar to the way that deep meditation or relaxing nature walks can open our minds up to new ideas, float therapy sessions often instigate creative inspiration. By unlocking new lines of communication along our neural pathways, float therapy helps to shake off established patterns, stimulate creative thinking, and engage our imaginations. Just ask Michael Hutchison, who literally wrote the book on float therapy and said he couldn’t have completed the project without regular float sessions: “This book… is not only about floating, but was conceived while floating and largely written in my mind while floating.”
Like meditation, float therapy trains your mind to not become attached to individual thoughts or emotions. This increased control over your mental faculties can help you develop better focus and more easily access the flow state needed for deep work. Especially in the age of smartphones and constant connectivity, this sort of attentive mental practice is essential.
Lifestyle Benefits of Float Therapy
Like yoga, acupuncture, or cryotherapy, floatation therapy is a wellness practice, and the more you practice, the more improvements you’ll see in your day-to-day life. These are just some of the ways that regular floating can enhance your overall wellbeing:
When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, good sleep is just as important as eating a varied diet and exercising regularly. Whether you’re looking to enhance your concentration, lower your risk for heart disease, or improve your mental health, developing a high-quality sleep schedule is an essential step. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the first things people tend to sacrifice when they’re stressed or overworked. The deep relaxation achieved during float therapy has been shown to help regulate one’s sleep schedule and improve the quality of their sleep.
Not many studies have been done on the link between floatation therapy and relationship quality. But when you look over the benefits covered in this article, it should come as no surprise that people who float tend to enjoy stronger relationships with their family, friends, and co-workers. If you’re less stressed, well-rested, more focused, and in an optimistic mental state, chances are you’ll start to find your interactions and connections with others more positive and meaningful.
Reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep, decreased blood pressure — when you read through a list of meditation benefits, you’ll notice a lot of crossover with this one. It makes sense, as the sensory relaxation experienced in a float tank basically acts as a fast track to the theta state achieved during deep meditation. So whether you’re struggling to maintain a daily meditation practice or you’re simply looking to improve the quality of your current practice, regular float sessions will help immensely.
Changed Bad Habits
Many of us have habits we’d like to break out of. Maybe you smoke a pack a day, or you need to cut back on your drinking, or you go through a pint of Ben and Jerry’s much too quickly. Fortunately, studies have consistently shown that floatation-REST can be used as an intervention tool to help curtail bad habits and addictions. The improved connection between one’s mind and body encourages them to bring more awareness to their decisions and how their choices make them feel.
Life can be hectic. We’ve all got calendars overflowing with work meetings and social engagements and endless errands and chores — sometimes amidst all of that we forget to carve out time for ourselves. Adding regular floatation to your wellness routine is a simple and effective way to take a step back, soothe your mind and soul, and emerge renewed and re-energized. Don’t forget to give yourself a little TLC.
Who Should Float?
These days, you’ll find a lot of celebrities who are outspoken about their floating habits. Tom Brady. Steph Curry. Susan Sarandon. Joe Rogan. Jeff Bridges. (The Dude, himself! No wonder the guy was so relaxed…) But this isn’t some new-agey mumbo-jumbo reserved for the rich and famous. Floating is something that anyone can — and should — try. It’s more accessible today than it’s ever been before, and it’s only growing in popularity.
Just scan over everything we’ve covered and you’ll see that no matter your situation, you can likely benefit from a session in a float tank. Maybe you’re a type-A entrepreneur feeling overly stressed at work. Maybe you’re a fireman or medical professional with an irregular sleep schedule. Maybe you’re struggling with depression or a substance abuse disorder. Maybe you’re an overworked parent — or even an expecting parent looking to enjoy the benefits of floating while pregnant. Maybe you’re on the autistic spectrum and could benefit from the calming, healing environment of a float tank.
Whatever your station in life, everyone can enjoy the reduced stress, enhanced wellbeing, and refreshed mind that accompany each float. We hope to float you soon!