The Science of Combating Stress with Float Therapy
While some stress can contribute to creativity and motivation, chronic, unmanaged stress can make us sick. According to article 10 HEALTH PROBLEMS RELATED TO STRESS THAT YOU CAN FIX on WebMD, stress can contribute to everything from heart disease and obesity to depression, anxiety, headaches, and even premature death.
The good news is that there are things we can do to help ourselves. According to Griffin, learning some relaxation techniques, meditation, or yoga will help with stress management. He noted that getting good at any of these approaches will take a little time and practice, but the payoff -- for your short-term mood and long-term health -- could be substantial.
Funny story, I overheard two nurses talking the other day about managing their stress, and one said to the other, if one more person tells me to meditate or do yoga, I think I will scream. My #FloatyFriends, I offer up another alternative – you guessed it - #FLOTATIONTHERAPY. The beautiful thing is that there is no need to study or ‘learn’ how to float. You may need to practice relaxing, and that can be challenging enough for us in this high tech, over-committed world that we have created.
At a recent TEDx Talk, a well-known scientist, Dr. Justin Feinstein from the Laureate Institute of Brain Research, shared some of his research findings of the effects of floating on stress. What I found fascinating was that every single person who participated in the study experienced some amount of stress relief. Most experienced a significant reduction in their stress levels, lasting more than a full 24 hours after a single session.
“Dr. Feinstein has been studying people with stress-related illnesses like PTSD, depression, and anxiety, and what he’s finding is that people who have the highest levels of stress before floating experience the largest benefit. Basically, everyone who floated returned to a baseline level of relief so no matter how anxious you are, floating is going to bring you down to a similar level of relaxation as everyone else.”
I can hear you know, "Come on, is it as simple as sitting in the dark and doing nothing for an hour? " It looks like it.
“Floating allows our minds and bodies to slow down, gives us the ability to recharge more quickly, and puts our brains in a more dreamlike state. The unplugged solitude of a float is surprisingly difficult to find elsewhere.”
“To help illustrate this point, let’s move from science to history. There’s a psychologist named Peter Suedfeld who did a lot of groundbreaking research into “sensory deprivation” back in the 60s and 70s. Dr. Suedfeld’s work didn’t focus on float tanks (at first), but instead involved placing people in completely dark rooms in total isolation for 24 hours or more at a time. He called this process REST (Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy).”
“At the time, psychologists were very misinformed about sensory deprivation -- they essentially thought it was torture. Previous research was incomplete, and the methods that researchers used were suspect at best. They would prime subjects to bad outcomes before the experiment even began; focusing on negative side effects in their introduction. The experiments themselves involved exposure to constant harsh lights and loud noises -- which doesn’t exactly sound like sensory deprivation, does it? Dr. Suedfeld thought that it was possible to take a different approach and get a positive effect. And he was right.”
“Dr. Suedfeld focused on keeping subjects at ease and making the process simple for anyone participating. What his research found was that instead of feeling like it was torture, people actually enjoyed the sensory deprivation experience! The subjects felt it was relaxing and beneficial. One participant even tried to sneak in multiple times under different names to repeat the experience!”
“Over the years, he found out that there was a positive potential benefit to REST in many areas: addiction treatment, helping people with autism, enhancing creativity, and, of course, reducing stress. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that there are entire groups of people who choose to live in total darkness for months at a time and say they find it peaceful.”
“This research was foundational for the future of float tanks, and helped to key in early on to the benefits of floating and reducing stress. In fact, back in the 80s and 90s, scientists started calling it “Floatation REST” and referring to the dark rooms that Dr. Suedfeld used as “Chamber REST”.”
Scientific understanding of reduced sensory environments continues to grow. In the era of non-stop interaction with people, television, radio, social media, computers, we are #stimulated constantly; the benefits of isolation are not only obvious but sorely needed.
“In his talk, Dr. Feinstein notes how we aren’t designed to be constantly plugged in and looking at screens all day, listening to cars driving by, or dealing with the glare of fluorescent lights non-stop. Neither were we supposed to be constantly thinking about what we have to do next, fit a full 8-hour workday on top of raising families, going to school, and being a part of our communities.”
I am not suggesting that we drop off the grid and avoid technology, swear off our favorite shows or video games, or go on a #darkretreat. Almost anything can be useful in moderation. I am suggesting that if you feel the effects of #stress in your life, you do something about it, and Flotation Therapy might be just the reset that you need!