This month’s soother is float therapy or floating, the latest nonpharmacological treatment for all sorts of ailments including chronic pain, sleeplessness, and anxiety/depression. Also said to improve creativity and enhance athletic performance, floating is trending nationwide as floating “studios” and “clinics” are popping up everywhere.
Although the health benefits of floating have not been scientifically proven, recent research has been promising. In one small study of 50 anxiety sufferers, 100% of participants experienced lowered blood pressure, relaxed muscles, decreased brain activity and lessened anxiety symptoms after just one session. Other studies using MRIs of the brain before, during and after floating have shown that it is akin to deep meditation. And the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming—Anxiety Sisters have been swearing by this simple yet expensive (a 1-hour session can cost from $50 to $100, depending on location) activity.
Here’s how it works: wearing a bathing suit, you enter a “pod” (a soundproof, unlit tank) where you lie, belly up, in a foot of salt water, the same temperature as the air. Then you float there for 60 minutes, in the quiet dark, and allow the salt water to work its magic. Proponents say that, when they emerge from the tank, they feel as though they have taken the most relaxing nap of their lives. They are not only refreshed, but also completely calm, and these effects can last for up to 24 hours.
The floating pod is the new version of the sensory deprivation tank, which, since 1954, has been used for Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy (REST). By removing all sensation (you can’t see, hear or smell anything and the water is the same temperature as your skin so you don’t feel that either), REST forces the brain to quiet down. Because of the concentration of Epsom salt, your body feels completely weightless so there is no stress on any muscle group. Additionally, magnesium, which is the main ingredient in Epsom salt, has calming properties of its own.
As a claustrophobic sister, Abs is a bit nervous about the dark, enclosed pod, but Mags—a real water baby—is very excited to give it a try. We will report back on the results!