Posted on 24 March, 2018
Imagine the feeling of floating on a cloud effortlessly while being supported by a liquefied bed of minerals blended to produce the most profound relaxation experience you’ve ever felt. So powerful that it lasts for days.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is becoming the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia and increasingly debilitating for sufferers. But what is anxiety? Fundamentally, it is a future state experienced in the present moment, inducing physiological stress and arousal.
Anxiety in itself is not a bad thing — being able to foresee the future, and to feel urgency to avoid bad consequences, are both tremendously valuable abilities. They only become problems when the physiological stress and arousal become too frequent and begin burning so much of the brain and body’s resources that you cannot relax. The body can become stuck in the fight or flight state, and the anxiety can drive compulsive behaviours in a futile attempt to solve problems that aren’t actually present.
The world we live in is one of constant connectivity and input. Lack of downtime may be driving the epidemic of anxiety.
Keeping yourself in the present and in your body is an effective response to anxiety, and floating is great at doing both of these.
Float therapy has been proven to help those who suffer from anxiety
Thankfully, many people with anxiety are finding that floatation helps alleviate their symptoms. American neuropsychologist, Dr Justin Feinstein, is researching how floating has an effect on anxiety as dramatic as some anxiety medication. Studies and accounts of personal experiences show that floating has both an instant and accumulative effect on feelings of anxiety.
How does floating help alleviate anxiety?
Completely free from external stimulation, floating helps synchronise the brain’s two hemispheres. This triggers the physiological relaxation response, and the brain begins to release theta waves as if in a deep state of meditation.
In the short term, this can immediately resolve the physiological fight or flight response which causes stress and anxiety, and can help stilling the chatter in your head. With consistent use over time, floaters will notice a stronger and more long lasting effect with their anxiety or depression symptoms diminishing.
There have been many studies of floating and its effect on anxiety (see also here). An increasing body of evidence shows that floatation helps with:
•Reduction of self-reported stress and anxiety
•Decrease in muscle tension, blood pressure and heart rate
•Decrease in stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol
•Increase cardiovascular efficiency and nutrient delivery due to dilation of blood vessels.
For example, in one study, 32 patients were diagnosed with stress-related muscular pain, and 16 of the participants also received a second diagnosis of burnout depression. Patients were treated with flotation and after 6 weeks they exhibited lowered blood pressure, reduced pain, anxiety, depression, stress and negative affectivity, as well as increased optimism, energy and positive affectivity (Department of Psychology, Karlstad University, Sweden. 2005).
All of this said, there’s still one particular worry often expressed by anxious people with regard to floating, and it’s about the tanks themselves!
When never having floated, many people think they look claustrophobic. This is totally understandable, but it’s important to note that most of the people who worry about this, stop worrying once they actually get into a tank.
For one, the tank is actually much bigger on the inside than you might think, and you can sit up and move around easily. This is especially true of our cutting edge float pod models, which are actually the size of a small car.
If you want, you can also leave the lid a gap wide or fully open with a soothing chakra colour therapy light on — some people find this helpful to ease themselves into the experience. The key to remember is you’re in total control of the experience at all times and that it’s completely safe. Total darkness is actually more likely to feel infinite than enclosing.
While much more research is needed to sway private health insurance companies, Dr. Feinstein is on the right path to offering an alternative to pharmaceuticals and faster paths to symptom improvement than traditional meditation.
In the meantime, we continue to see positive results for many people with anxiety who commit to a regular floating practice.