It is no secret that the whole reason that I own a float centre is because of the huge impression that my very first float made on me. As someone who has lived with anxiety and depression most of my adult life, I remember getting out of my very first float thinking “So, this is what NORMAL feels like”. I felt so light, so free, so blissful, and just at peace. I was able to ‘just be’ for the first time in a very long time. My racing thoughts were gone, my heart rate had returned to normal. I just felt this overwhelming sense of calm – a feeling that was very foreign to me. I was hooked on floating instantly.
Recently, I will admit, that I was quite overdue for a float. My ego and my anxious thoughts are tricky beasts – they lead me away from exactly the self-care tools that tame their power. My nerve endings felt like they were ’split ends’ like you would see in the ‘before’ picture of a Hair Conditioner commercial. I was having trouble concentrating, sleeping and functioning in general. Finally, I convinced myself to JUST GET IN THAT FLOAT, even for a few minutes. Well, instantly, like a muscle memory, I was transported back to that feeling of calm, bliss, and peacefulness that I had stepped away from for far too long. I could literally picture my nerve endings being smoothed in the water as my racing thoughts slowed down completely. My ‘few minutes’ easily turned into a little over 90 minutes, and I emerged feeling physically and emotionally lighter. Even for me, this was a huge lesson learned. This experience reinforced the fact that for me, floating is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity for my mental health and overall quality of life. Now, my floats are the first thing that I schedule into my calendar, as I have learned time and time again that my to-do list ‘magically’ sorts itself out.
As powerful as my own experience was, I am always curious to know exactly how things ‘work’. So, I was inspired to review (again) the clinically proven benefits of floating, and would like to share them with you. Dr. Justin Feinstein, of Laureate Institute of Brain Research, is the leading researcher into the world of Floating and its impacts on the body and brain. The notes below are from his presentation at the 2017 and 2018 Float Conference in Portland, Oregon, where he presented the results of his study on the effects of floating on symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Here are 5 clinically proven ways on how floating helps reduce anxiety.
- Floating reduces muscle tension. As your stress level and anxiety level increase, do you notice yourself clenching your jaw, holding tension in your neck and shoulders? Holding tension is part of a vicious cycle – muscle tension increases feelings of anxiety, which then brings about even more muscle tension. During your float, you can’t help but unclench your jaw, drop your shoulders from your ears, and release tension in places that you didn’t even know that you were holding it. Take a deep breath, pay attention to all areas of your body with a slow body scan, and release tension from all of those hot spots. Interrupt the cycle of muscle tension, and let your anxiety melt away with it.
- A 20 hour post-float glow. You know that post-float feeling – Calm, peace, bliss – words don’t do it justice. If you check in with yourself the day after floating, there is a very good chance that you still feel pretty blissed out. You may notice that crazy drivers in traffic don’t make you mad. Your kids or spouse are less annoying. Even your cranky boss seems to be nicer today. Do you know that the Calming effects of a float have been proven to last up to 20 hours after your session. Compare this to the 4 hour average effectiveness of most anti-anxiety medications and their long list of serious side effects.
- A training ground for your mind. Not only does floating help you shut out the chatter of the outside world, but it also helps you look inward. Interoception is is a lesser-known sense that helps you understand and feel what’s going on inside your body. It can be said that floating allows for Internal Sensory Enhancement. You have an opportunity to really pay attention to your body, to your heart beat, to your breath during your float. You really notice what your body feels like when it is resting, peaceful and calm. By noticing, paying attention, and practicing this deeply relaxed and meditative state, your mind captures this feeling and remembers it. With a regular float practice, you can train your mind to revert to this float state while outside the tank. Feeling stressed out in traffic? Tap into this stored feeling. Kids are being hooligans? Take a breath and remember how peaceful you feel in the tank. Your float training will bring you great reward in the outside world. Floating trains your brain to be cool in the face of a stressful environment.
- Avoidance. Anxiety is the 6th leading cause of disability in the world, and less than 1/3 of people suffering with anxiety seek treatment. Why you may ask? Besides the potential complications from anxiety medication, many talk therapy treatments that are recommended for treating anxiety involve re-visiting the source of your anxiety. If you are already in a highly anxious state of mind, chances are the last thing that you want to do is re-visit the source of anxiety. In a study of 50 highly anxious patients, Floating was shown, with 100% success rate, to reduce anxiety levels in each and every patient. And, not by just a little bit – by more than half in many cases. The more severe the anxiety at the beginning of the float, the greater the decrease in anxiety, regardless of gender or the type of anxiety that the patient was suffering. Did I say that the success rate was 100%? No re-visiting your anxiety. No drugs. No major negative side effects. Just a pure, natural body and mind response. Trust me, I am a fan of talk therapy, but doing it in a post-float state has been much more effective for me.
- Serenity now! If you are a Seinfeld fan, you may recall this hilarious episode, where the characters use the mantra “serenity now” when faced with stressful situations, and experience mixed results. Dr. Feinstein’s study has also shown that not only does floating reduce your feelings of anxiety, but it also enhances your levels of serenity. All 50 patients in his study reported increased feelings of serenity after their float session – again, this was a 100% success rate! This is an important mirror effect in the pursuit of reduced anxiety. Not only does floating decrease symptoms of mental illness, but it increases the state of mental wellness -something that a lot of other treatments for anxiety don’t offer.
There are so many other findings that I could share with you. However, if you ever experience feelings of anxiety, I highly encourage you to book a float and experience the difference for yourself.
For more information on the impacts of floating and anxiety, and for full articles of Dr. Feinstein’s research and additional scientific references, please visit www.clinicalfloatation.com.