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Floating Up from the Depths

Floating Up from the Depths

As a vehicle for both relaxation and recovery, float tanks are fairly unparalleled. There are lots of studies and anecdotes about the benefits that even a single hour float can offer. The most profound (and often inspiring) results, however, actually come from floating more regularly.

We hear this everyday in our conversations with our members and regulars, and so for this month’s blog, we wanted to highlight some of the personal stories from long term floaters that have been shared publicly. While these are just a small sample of the incredible stories we’ve heard, they help to illustrate the wide variety of benefits floatation has to offer. Stories like these are why we opened our center, and why we’re so proud of the work that we do.

 

Emily Noren, as a young teenager, developed anorexia and bulimia. Maintaining her weight occupied much of her thoughts and actions for the next decade and a half of her life, and the treatments and medications she tried never provided long-term solutions. All too often, eating disorders like this are more than just unhealthy – they can be tragically fatal. Floating, which started off as an uncomfortable and slightly unsettling experience, became the catalyst for change in Emily’s life. She credits floating with, not only helping her have a healthier and happier life, but also with her full recovery from anorexia and bulimia: an achievement that some experts in eating disorders have questioned is even possible.

https://youtu.be/DyPIekihs8g 

 

Here is a link to Emily Noren’s book, “Unsinkable,” in case you want to read more about her story. 

An Australian soldier, Michael Harding was deployed to Afghanistan as an infantry machine gunner. He faced hostile contact, experienced the deaths of those around him, and was returned home experiencing severe symptoms of PTSD, including full-body muscle spasms. He and his partner Bek tell the story of his trauma, his struggles and substance abuse upon returning, and his path towards recovery through a regimen of alternative treatments: including support groups, medical cannabis, yoga, and floating. 

https://youtu.be/2c5CxbYfzT4 

 

Read more about Michael’s story in this article by Time magazine. 

 

Murphy Monroe tells his story of nearly debilitating verbal and physical tics. He spent most of his life, from childhood on, working to overcome these  through disciplined habits, such as clenching his whole body and running through mental distractions like adding large numbers in his head. He tells this story after his first year of floating, which completely reframed his control, and his views, of his previously uncontrollable habits: 

https://youtu.be/ra_Amta_vZ8 

 

 

Conclusion

At Paradise Float Spa, we have countless customers with stories like these. People who are struggling – with physical injuries, chronic stress, sleep disorders, and more – who find relief in floating as part of their ongoing efforts to better themselves. There is more and more evidence coming out showing how our long-term health and happiness depends on these habits of self-care. 

 

Whether it’s a practice of stillness (like floating and meditation), or something more active (like yoga, bicycling, and running), routines that involve giving your mind a break from constant input are crucial. A single, novel experience can definitely be beneficial to people on many different levels, but there’s no doubt that for floating, as with so many things in life, the benefits become stronger as you integrate the experiences into your everyday life over time. 

 

We want to leave you with Melissa Martinez, who floats every week – not to overcome an acute disability or trauma, but instead to simply have time set aside for herself, and no one else. Time free from the demands of the world and the people around her. Time to think, to recover, and to relax. She talks about how the practice of floating regularly has impacted her joy and her stress levels, and why she believes that she will continue to float for the rest of her life. 

Where Did Float Tanks Come From

Where Did Float Tanks Come From

Hopping into a soundproof, light-proof box filled with saltwater may be a popular relaxation therapy today, but those just discovering it are likely asking themselves: “who came up with this strange device, and when were float tanks developed?” In order to answer those questions, we first have to ask “why did they want to make them in the first place?”

 

In the early 1950s, neuroscience was a relatively new field of study, and how the brain worked was much less understood than it is today. One prevalent theory at the time was that our brains were designed to react to stimulation and that everything we did was solely a reaction to something external. Because of this, some scientists thought that if we were to remove all sensory stimulation, our brains would simply shut down. Early experiments to test their theories involved rooms with white noise (such as fans) blocking out sound and goggles with bright lights to keep participants from seeing anything clearly.

Physician and neuroscientist John C. Lilly thought this theory was incomplete and the testing methods being used weren’t a good way to demonstrate sensory reduction. Lilly, along with his colleague Dr. Jay Shurley at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), wanted to create an even more optimal environment to remove all sensory input on the human mind. To that end, they created the first float tank (or “isolation tank” as they called them) in 1954. It involved being fully submerged in water, and looked nothing like the sleek fiberglass designs we see today. In fact, they looked like something more out of a Halloween Haunted Mansion rather than a relaxation device. They required operators to monitor the air supply, which was sent to cumbersome breathing helmets at all times during use.

Lilly and Shurley initially experimented on themselves and recorded their reactions to this sensory reduced environment before later bringing in other people to try it out. Most of the subjects they had in the tank (including the two researchers themselves), found the tank incredibly relaxing.

In fact, their time in the tanks completely subverted their expectations – it was entirely different from what other researchers had published at the time on “sensory deprivation.” They were not slipping into a comatose state, nor was it the least bit distressing. Instead, Lilly found his time in the tank surprisingly profound and physically rejuvenating. Shurley found the float experience equally impressive, and the two of them spent the next decade improving on the design.

Over the next few years, Lilly also experimented with lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) inside the float tanks. The drug was extremely novel at the time and was beginning to widely circulate in academic circles in the late 50s. This was a departure from what Shurley was interested in studying, but Dr. Lilly found the combination of LSD and sensory isolation to be life changing.

So much so that it inspired him to write several books on how this combination of therapies impacted his life, work, and philosophy.

 

Throughout the 70s Dr. Lilly did speaking tours and workshops, bringing awareness of floating to a broader, but still very small, audience. He found himself in the middle of a cultural revolution in the United States as the world experienced a wave of social and political change. In 1972, Lilly met Glenn Perry at one of his speaking engagements at Bear Rock in California.

The two quickly became good friends. Glenn was an engineer who was also deeply interested in the meditative benefits that came from floating. He offered some suggestions to Dr. Lilly about how to improve the tank by adding salt to the water to raise the specific gravity, making it easier to float on the surface. It wasn’t long before they were collaborating on a design for a commercial float tank intended to go in every house in America. Thus Samadhi, the first float tank company, was born!

 

They started manufacturing in 1973 and opened up a 20 float tank center in Beverly Hills. Celebrity endorsements quickly started rolling in: Susan Sarandon, Michael Crichton, and Robin Williams all shared their profound experiences in interviews. The world learned about floating and they liked it!

 

Since those early years, a lot has changed. The tanks have evolved and a global industry has developed around floating, but that sense of discovery that inspired the first float tank is still a fundamental part of the experience. There’s still something to discover every time you go for a float: what will you find in the quiet darkness?

Appreciation, Inspiration, and Thoughtfulness

If you’ve ever gone on a walk after a good float, you’ve probably felt something similar to the experience of cresting a summit after a long hike or staring deeply into a beautiful painting. It’s that overwhelming feeling that comes from a profound sense of awe after being in the presence of something greater than yourself.

When we stop to smell the roses, it improves more than just the scent of the roses. When we slow down to appreciate the little things, those little things take up more of our mental focus. If we stop to think about this phenomenon, it can inspire some curious questions. What actually is awe? Why does it feel so good to experience it? Beyond being satisfying, how does it impact us?

Brain scans of people experiencing awe give us a few insights into some of these questions. Awe-inspiring moments can reduce activation in an area of the brain called the Default Mode Network. While a lot happens in this area of the brain, some of what it’s responsible for is auto-biographical information like our memories, opinions, and personal traits. Essentially, the Default Mode Network helps us understand the world through the context of ourselves. As a result, it’s also what helps determine how we feel about ourselves, our memories of the past, and our thoughts about the future.

The Default Mode Network works opposite another part of our brain called the Executive Control Network, which is the part of the brain that helps us make observations, pay attention to things outside of ourselves, and perform tasks. They are anticorrelated, meaning they don’t typically work at the same time. It’s difficult to make observations about the world around us while focusing on something from our past, which is why it’s easy to get distracted nostalgically strolling down memory lane when we were supposed to be studying for that final exam in college.

Basically, when we experience awe we’re quieting down the part of our brain that makes us focus on ourselves, the past, the future, and the outside world. These are the very same types of thought that we work to quiet in our brains when we float or practice mindfulness in other ways. That’s not just conjecture, either: the Float Clinic at the Laureate Institute of Brain Research has been researching what exactly happens to the brain when we float. We’ve learned that floating can be incredibly helpful for those who experience anxiety and other mental health conditions.

We’re also finally starting to see that part of the reason it’s so effective is because it’s reducing the activity in the Default Mode Network as well, which helps explain how it reduces anxiety. If we can’t think about social obligations, failures from the past, or worries we have for the future, it makes it much more difficult for our brains to perpetuate anxious thinking. This leaves more room for other parts of our brain to sit in the driver’s seat.

After a float, we’re likely at our most receptive to the sensations outside of ourselves, making it easier for us to appreciate the beauty of the world around us and the communities that we’re a part of. This is also a possible explanation for the profound sense of awe we can have when we observe beautiful artwork or when we meditate.

This makes mindfulness self-reinforcing. When we practice being more present and less focused on ourselves, it becomes a habit. The more often we practice stepping into this mental state, the easier it is to return to when we need to. It also enhances our appreciation for other things as well. Food tastes better, art is more captivating, we can engage in creative activities more easily, building connections between us and the rest of the world. This, in turn, has the potential to extend that enhanced sense of presence beyond just ourselves, into others around us.

Book your FLOAT today!

How to Learn to Love Yourself (and Others)!

How to Learn to Love Yourself (and Others)!

Let’s talk about loving yourself. It’s that time of year when partners and paramours really try to show their affection to their special someone. Alternatively, for the unattached, this time of year can be a reminder of our own isolation (and after 2020, that’s something we don’t need more of).

Whatever your Valentine’s Day might look like this year, you already have the perfect date: yourself. Even if you’ve already got a beau, belle, or similar beloved you intend to dote on, dedicating some affection internally can pay off for them as much as for you.

This means more than buying yourself something nice, giving yourself compliments, or going for a spa day. In fact, limiting your idea of self-love to such a surface level interpretation is going to be counterproductive in the long term.

If you’re going to date yourself, you gotta remember that it’s not going to be like a first date. You already know your best stories, after all. It’s more like going on a date night after a lifetime of marriage. The kind of date that reminds you why you fell in love in the first place. The important thing is to find ways to connect with yourself, to show that you care about your own well-being and you can appreciate the things about yourself that no one else will notice.

Self-love is as much about self-acceptance as it is self-care. When you accept yourself for who you are, it makes it easier to focus on others around you. Look at it this way: if we place most of our attention on our mistakes, then we are also failing to appreciate what’s truly important in life: the subtle flashes of beauty that come into existence before blinking away forever, the quiet moments of serenity that exist in between the big ones, or the joy that comes from sharing these things with those closest to us.

Too much focus on your flaws can become a compounding issue, too. If you dwell on your negative traits and behaviors (like many of us are prone to do) they can become self-reinforcing. Guilt isn’t a great motivator for change and instead can lead to fatalistic conclusions about how inevitable our perceived inadequacies can be. And since we have a bias towards negative information, we tend to seek out harsh or critical information over positive information, and if no one provides it, we’ll often provide it ourselves.

This is especially relevant right now on the heels of 2020. Most of us have probably been more than a little critical of ourselves lately, even if we’re not aware of it. We often blame ourselves for things that are outside our control, making it easy to feel like we’ve fallen short of our goals. This means now more than ever – it’s important to handle yourself, your ambitions, and especially your failures, with a little grace.

So how do we address this? Are there things we can do on our self-love dates that can help make us the best version of ourselves?

Yes! As it turns out, mindfulness is a great way to counter this impulse of self-obsession, so long as we do it correctly. Mindfulness, as a practice, has been a fundamental part of Hinduism and Buddhism for centuries. The practice of quieting the mind and keeping the body still was about stepping outside of one’s regular, self-oriented experiences, and was essential to religious practices that helped emphasize how the individual could improve the greater community. As mindfulness in the Western world has become more popular, it has often been used to amplify our sense of self, instead of helping to diminish it. So, while mindfulness can be extremely effective at reducing this cultural self-obsession, it needs to be approached intentionally to achieve that goal.

Floating is a great way to practice mindfulness and exercise being present. In fact, without any external stimulation, it can be difficult to do anything but live in the moment while your sense of self melts into the water and air around you. Dr. John C. Lilly, the creator of the float tank, used his invention to help develop his own radical personal improvement techniques.

So this Valentine’s Day, do yourself – and your loved ones – a favor. Treat yourself, not just to a pleasant and relaxing experience, but form that meaningful connection with who you are deep down. Go for a float, become one with the Nothingness you’re surrounded in, and come out ready to give everything you’ve got to those who need it. With the way this past year has been, it’s more important than ever to look out for each other, and that starts by looking out for yourself.

Fall for Floating

Fall for Floating

 

FALL FOR FLOATING

 

 
Fall is a great time to stop and reflect.   The trees look beautiful as they change colors.  They prepare to let their leaves go in anticipation of a new season.
 
 
However, with the constant barrage of information coming in whether it be ‘Breaking News’ or COVID-19 infections, or keeping up with your child’s online learning…
 
…it’s often difficult to recognize how much we are letting our thoughts control us.
 
 
Or maybe you have tried meditation, only to find out how very difficult it is to quiet your world and remain comfortable.
 
A float room is a perfect place to disconnect from the distractions and allow our body and mind to heal and reflect.
 
Spending time in a float room is an amazing tool that allows you to step away from your ego-mind and become an observer of your thoughts.
 
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
 
As an observer, we are free to choose the thoughts that serve us best.
 
Ancient wisdom has always known that knowledge can be found in silence and stillness.
 
Floating and Mindfulness

Floating and Mindfulness

 

Floating removes you from the outside world and gives your mind the freedom to wander wherever it wants to go. When you float, you don’t have anything you need to do.

 

There’s nothing you need to work on.

 

You have a space where you can lie down, removed from the pressure of thinking, discussing, or participating in anything at all. It’s an environment that exists almost completely opposite our current plugged-in, sensory-driven way of life.

 

In a float tank, you have the opportunity to be more mindful than pretty much any other environment in the world.

What does it mean to be “mindful”?

Make a mental note of how you’re feeling right now. Now, use the next 30 seconds to try this – you can have your eyes open or closed:

 

  • Clear your mind. Take a deep breath. Deep exhale.
  • Another breath. Flex your toes and fingers. Exhale. Breathe normally.
  • Relax your shoulders and your jaw.
  • If you chose to close your eyes,open them slowly.

How do you feel? How does that compare to how you felt beforehand? Odds are you feel better after spending 30 seconds focusing on your breath and where you hold tension. Bringing passive awareness to your state of being reconnects your body and mind and can help remove the physiological effects from the outside world, which can often be stressful.

 

This, more or less, is mindfulness (although it’s definitely more complicated than this).

 

It can be summed up as paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental manner. It’s one of the fundamental ideas behind much of Buddhist meditation. It seems absurdly simple, especially when looking at the many benefits attributed to it.

 

For the past thirty years or so, researchers have been looking more closely into what mindfulness is and why it works so well for us. There are two main components to mindfulness exercises from a clinical perspective: self-regulation of attention and orientation to experience. It can sound a bit technical, but they are pretty easy to understand concepts when they’re broken down.

Self-Regulation of Attention

Much of mindfulness relies on the passive observation of where your attention is focused and maintaining that attention on the present moment. When you pay attention to your breathing and what your body is doing, you’re keeping your mind focused on only things that exist and are affecting you in the current moment.

 

Many people assume that in order to do mindfulness “successfully”, you have to prevent yourself from thinking, but that isn’t true. Being mindful simply means you acknowledge whatever thoughts arise before returning your focus to your state of being in the present moment. It can be surprisingly difficult to maintain this over long periods of time, but maintaining a lack of attention to your thoughts allows them to flow freely and places you firmly in the present.

Orientation to Experience

This idea is a little more nebulous, but it builds off of what was already discussed. This is what you’d think of as “being present” in mindfulness practices.

 

All those experiences that you feel and the thoughts you have occur and you pass them by. You don’t pass judgement on any thoughts or feelings. You don’t assign guilt to what you’re doing or not doing. Everything that occurs to you is equally worthy of your curiosity and consideration.

 

  • You orient yourself towards your experiences and become a passive observer to your mental processes rather than an active participant. You’re open to whatever occurs and you’re better positioned to accept it than you would be otherwise.

What does this do for me?

If you look at these two elements of mindfulness, it might seem like a nice way to relax or a good way to organize your thoughts – it can be difficult to imagine just how impactful it is to place yourself in this state of being present. While it certainly isn’t a magic spell that can erase all the negativity you feel.

 

When you make mindfulness a habit, it starts to change how you live your life in subtle ways. It makes it easier to take control over your own behavior and moods, which in turn helps you focus on how you’re feeling. With proper focus, it can also help you build coping mechanisms for day-to-day stress, reducing the negative impact it can have on your life. This can help reduce the severity of stress-related anxiety disorders and depression, as well as manage chronic pain, improve creativity, and generally improve a person’s quality of life.

Float Your Way to a Better Way of Being

While this sub-headline sounds like a vocal warmup, it’s also a good way to make mindfulness a habit. Mindfulness is often associated with meditation, and floating is often described as “meditation with training wheels.” Floating makes the benefits of mindfulness much more accessible to people who may find meditation difficult to get into. It also enhances the meditative experience for people who are well-practiced in meditation.

It makes sense. Most often, when people describe problems with meditation, they mention that they were distracted by… something. Floating is the ultimate distraction remover!

It’s not just about distractions, either: being in a float tank feels safe. Not only can nothing bother you, but everything that is stressful or dangerous is outside of the float environment. That gives you room to breathe and relax, which in turn helps nurture exactly the type of thinking that mindfulness is trying to cultivate.

 

We’re still learning about mindfulness as well as floating, and there’s still a lot we don’t know. We can say fairly confidently, however, that mindfulness seems to go way up in the daily lives of people who float. Meaning, when you hear about the benefits of mindfulness, you’re also hearing about the benefits of floating.

 

So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, creatively blocked, or like your anxiety is ramping up, it might just mean that it’s time to go float yourself.

Are you ready to step away from the world for an hour and jump in a float room?

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