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Float On: Tales from a Sensory Deprivation Tank

What can you expect from floating in complete isolation? Peace, tranquility and soggy, salty bliss.

March 22nd, 2013

Tags: Stress, Happiness
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Float On: Tales from a Sensory Deprivation Tank

As YouBeauty's Happiness Expert, I'm always on the lookout for new ways to manage stress. Sometimes I come across a method that's a little bit quirky. Case in point: the floatation tank (aka flotation tank, float tank, sensory deprivation tank).

If you're looking for an effective way to de-stress and you're not afraid to try something a little bit different, this is for you. Although this might seem like the epitome of new age nonsense, past research shows an impressive array of benefits experienced by people who have used a floatation tank, such as stress reduction and pain relief*. In addition, floatation tank advocates also claim a number of other benefits including improved concentration, creativity and immune system strength. However, these claims lack substantial scientific support.

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So, what's it like to use one of these things? To begin, the water in a floatation tank is a special solution containing 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt. This ensures that you will easily float and that your eyes, mouth and nose stay above the water. In addition, the water is kept at skin temperature so that you don't feel too hot or cold while in the tank. If you're a bit claustrophobic, don't worry. A typical tank is big enough to stand in (4 feet wide, 8 feet long and 7 feet high) and you can easily get out whenever you wish. The tank is designed to minimize sensory stimulation—it's completely dark, you can only hear the sound of the water gently moving and you feel virtually nothing.

Floatation tank

After spending 45 minutes in a floatation tank, I can personally attest to having had a unique and blissful experience. After first entering the tank, it took about 15 minutes for me to get used to it. From that point on, I began to notice that I was alone with my thoughts, but not in the usual sense. My thoughts came very slowly and were much easier to manage, compared to my thinking on an average busy day.

Little by little, I felt myself sink into a deeply calm state. I've tried many other relaxation techniques, but using a floatation tank gave me a rather unique feeling of tranquility. Indeed, the tank gave me an experience that's frankly difficult to describe. Immersed in pitch-black weightlessness, I began to forget about everything that had been troubling me before I entered the tank. I felt very present; imagining a moment in the past or the future made no sense and held no meaning.

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The experience made me realize that my mind is typically occupied with all kinds of sensory input. Being in the tank gave me some mental rest and more resources for paying attention to the present moment. I also felt very peaceful. It was comforting to be in such a soothing state, while still feeling conscious and aware of my surroundings. After 45 minutes, I emerged from the tank feeling profoundly relaxed. I felt calm and ready to handle whatever stress came my way.

Overall, I recommend giving a floatation tank a try, especially if you find it difficult to manage your stress and you're feeling a bit adventurous. Prices vary depending on the location; typical rates are about $1 per minute, with sessions lasting at least 30 minutes. It can be difficult to find a floatation tank facility, but U.S. locations are listed here and here.

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Virtually everyone could use some help dealing with stress. As technology advances, we're bound to find devices that can counterbalance the inevitable stress that piles up each day. I believe the floatation tank is such a device, so give it a go! Worst case, you'll get a bit wet!     

*Suedfeld, P. & Borrie, R. A. (1999). Health and therapeutic applications of chamber and flotation restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST). Psychology and Health, 14, 545-566.

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