About 6 months ago I started ‘Floating’ on a regular basis. Floating is where you lie in a tank of warm, salty water in pitch dark and absolute silence. The high-density of the saline solution makes you feel weightless and the absence of light and sound eliminates all distractions. This is known as ‘sensory deprivation’.
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What’s the point in all this?
When you eliminate all senses this supports deep relaxation, stress relief and even creative thinking.
I did my first float a number of years ago just to give it a try really. But lately, I’ve been floating once a month and have come to really enjoy the benefits.
In this post, I’d like to share my experience with floating and if you’ve never tried it before, I’d highly recommend treating yourself to at least one session to see if it’s something you can benefit from.
The benefits of floating
You can read all about the benefits of floating online but in my experience I enjoy floating for a few key reasons:
- A chance to disconnect – In this day and age, how often do you get to just sit and be present with nothing but your thoughts? We live in a world of constant stimulation. We’re always connected to our phones, racing from work to home to other commitments, listening to podcasts or scrolling various social feeds. No wonder unhappiness and stress is at an all-time high. We never get a chance to stop and just be. When you float and you have no sense of light, sound or gravity to distract you, you get a chance to properly disconnect from the chaos of the world around you. And when you do, it’s incredible what can happen.
- A chance to process thoughts – Once you’ve disconnected from the world around you, it’s up to you how you spend this time. Sometimes I like going into the tank and let my mind wonder so I can process thoughts and make peace with anything that’s bothering me. Or you can do some creative thinking or problem-solving. After one particular float session, I came out with new so many new ideas I had to immediately start writing everything down into a note on my phone. I particularly enjoy thinking about things I’m grateful for (friends, family, health etc). It gives me so much perspective and reminds me of what’s important.
- Deep relaxation – More commonly people float to relax. I feel like you’re getting the benefits of being asleep while you’re still awake. Usually, I’ll start my floats by going through a meditative exercise and following my breath for as long as I can. This helps me to disconnect, unwind and get into a nice relaxing state.
- Physical recovery – I usually float on my rest-day from the gym and find the tank really helps your muscles to relax and recover. The use of epsom salts for floating has the nice side benefit that it’s great for recovery as well. I’ve found myself getting out of the tank to find that my muscles have completely relaxed. Again, it’s a bit like waking up even though I was never asleep.
- Get better at shutting down – I’ve found that the more I’ve floated the more aware I am of my thoughts and emotions and the better I’ve gotten at being able to shut down. Even in day to day life during regular meditation practices or when going to sleep at night, I now find it easier to shut down.
- Press pause on your life – For me, floating is a chance to hit pause on my life for an hour each month. It’s a chance to step back from all responsibilities, from work and everything you have to do and simply disconnect. As I undress before each float, I put down my phone, watch, keys etc. and this has become a mental queue that I’m putting down all my responsibilities allowing me to focus on just myself. As a husband and a father, I want to be the best provider I can be for my family. But to do that, it’s important that I look after myself as well. For me, floating is a great way to get some ‘me time’ each month.
Tips for first-time floaters
If you’ve never tried floating and you’re interested in giving it a go, here are some tips for your first float:
- Take your time getting in – Enjoy the ritual of floating. Not just the float itself but everything before and after. While I’m driving to my session I think about a few topics I might want to explore while in the tank. When I arrive, I spend 10 minutes in the waiting area drinking some tea or Kava which helps to relax the body and mind. Going into the room take your time as you shower and get ready to enter the tank. Go to the loo. You don’t want to be getting out to pee halfway through.
- Go in with zero expectations – The very first time I floated, I went in expecting this amazing euphoric experience to occur (and it didn’t). This left me feeling a little underwhelmed. For your first float, don’t go in with any expectations. I’d advise getting in and meditating for the first 15-30 minutes to relax your mind. After a while, if you want to think about stuff, go for it. Don't fight it or feel like you have to completely switch off. It’s up to you how you choose to spend the time.
- Don’t move a muscle – If your goal is to relax, it helps if you try not to move a muscle. The first time you float it’s tempting to move around as you get use to the new sensation. But every time you scratch your nose, flex your fingers or wiggle your toes, you’re reminded that you’re floating in a tank and you’re more aware of your body. If you really want to relax and unwind, limiting physical movements really helps your brain to slow down.
- Don't touch your face– If you get an itchy nose or eyes, do NOT touch your face. The saltwater is pretty irritating if it gets in your eyes.
- How to use your time – How you use the time in the tank is up to you. But here’s my suggested format: 1) Spend the first 15-30 minutes meditating, focussing on your breath. It’s okay for your mind to wander but try and come back to the breath each time. 2) Once you’re nice and relaxed or if you get bored of the meditation, spend some time letting your mind wonder. This is honestly part of the fun of floating; processing thoughts, exploring memories from your past and thinking of new ideas 3) I also like to spend some time towards the end of the session thinking of what I’m grateful for. I think about my family, friends, health, business, lifestyle and other things that are important to me. As someone interested in Stoicism, I’ll even dwell on what life might be life without these important things. It’s a nice way of reminding yourself how lucky you are for the life you have and you end the float with a great feeling of perspective.
- Take your time getting out – And finally, at the end of the session, take your time easing back into normal life. I enjoy relaxing in the waiting room and sharing my experience with the staff before I leave. And on the drive home (usually at night), I listen to calm, ambient music. It’s useful to look at the entire experience as time for yourself to slowly enjoy.
And that’s my experience with floating (so far). If you’ve tried floating and want to share your experience or tips, or if you’re interested in floating for the first time, please leave me a comment below.