Growing up, it was a very common occurrence for my mother to disappear into the bathroom for an hour or two at a time to lose herself in a good book and to soak in a bathtub full of Epsom salts. Honestly, she’s still prone to doing this daily and I’ve gotten to where I try to do it weekly. Something about floating in the warm water just makes me feel more relaxed and rejuvenated.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that she was actually onto something that has medical benefits! As I’ve gotten older and started looking into more natural treatment options for various conditions, I keep seeing magnesium deficiency being referenced. And imagine my shock when my midwife told me that an easy way to get magnesium levels to increase is to take a warm bath with, none other than, Epsom salts!
Another great way to increase your magnesium levels is to spend some time in a sensory deprivation tank doing what is known as flotation therapy.
What Is Epsom Salt?
According to epsomsaltcouncil.org, “Epsom salt is a pure mineral compound made of magnesium and sulfate. These naturally-occurring minerals have numerous health, fitness, and beauty benefits.”
One of the ways of using Epsom salts is to spend some time in what is known as a sensory deprivation tank. And no, it’s not as scary or as horrible as it sounds!
What Is A Sensory Deprivation Tank?
A sensory deprivation tank is a float tank containing a foot or less of water and 800 pounds (over six pounds of salt per gallon) of Epsom salts or magnesium sulfate, which is aimed at promoting floatation. The concentration of magnesium sulfate is purposely kept so high that it’s difficult for a floater to submerge underwater—keeping the person afloat in a deeply relaxed yet awake state of mind.
The water is set to skin temperature and the room is dark and soundproof. As the name denotes, the tank was designed to induce a state of sensory deprivation. When the non-locking lid is closed, the experience involves the elimination of all outside sound, sight, smell, and tactile sensation from the pull of gravity. Although you can have your own music playing inside some of the tanks and the option to leave the lid open is available.
What Are The Benefits Of Flotation Therapy?
The tank is said to provide a deep form of meditation without the normal distractions of discomfort (such as leg cramps from sitting cross-legged). There are many pieces of emerging clinical research evidence that support the claims for the health benefits derived from a 60-minute session in a sensory deprivation tank. These include pain relief, alleviating anxiety, improving mood, reducing depression, and more.
Floating decreases anxiety and depression and improves sleep
When you become stressed (as all of us do in our daily lives) the brain sends out hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones prime your body to react in a flight or fight scenario.
Once upon a time, this would have been triggered by encountering a wild animal such as a saber tooth tiger while hunting for food for your family. These days, it can be triggered by something as simple as running late for a meeting or a slow driver or a missed phone call. This means that our bodies are in a constant state of fight or flight, with constant amounts of stress hormones.
This leads to an increase in anxiety and depression and the inability to wind down also leads to decreased sleep quality.
Numerous studies have shown flotation therapy to be an incredibly effective and accessible way to reduce many symptoms of stress. Participants in these studies experienced elevated moods, better sleep, reduced cortisol levels and lower blood pressure. Insomnia comes in many forms, but it’s never a welcome visitor to your bed. Floating for just two hours a week for two weeks has been shown to improve insomnia symptoms for 12 weeks. Stress makes life harder; luckily, floating is an easy solution. Begin a once-a-week float habit, reduce your stress levels, and start sleeping better…what’s not to love about that?
Speed Up Muscle Recovery
Some promising research suggests the practice of floating is effective in helping the body heal and recover after exercise. This 2013 study found that a one-hour float session after vigorous exercise resulted in significant reductions to pain perception (essentially decreasing pain sensitivity), as well as significantly lower levels of blood lactate, a compound produced by the body during intense exertion. Flotation therapy has also been shown to reduce lactic acid
Float therapy may help regular exercisers and recreational and professional athletes recover more quickly, and experience less pain. Exercise and sport are strongly influenced by sleep. Less pain means better rest, which translates to higher endurance, more power, speed, and strength, and a more consistent exercise routine.
Combining flotation therapy with a weekly massage to help improve your circulation while also lowering the lactic acid and pain levels can also provide quicker healing from a muscle injury as well as improved health of the skin, blood circulation, and the functioning of the urinary and digestive systems. You can read more about the benefits of massage on OrganicFacts.net.
These days, it’s practically common knowledge that taking a break can boost our creativity and problem-solving. Most everyone has experienced a “Eureka” moment in the shower, or while going for a walk around the block. And it’s not just anecdotal: research backs up these kinds of experiences.
Since all external sources of distraction are removed, floating provides an extreme form of rest, and this appears to amplify the positive effects of letting our default-mode networks take over.
Practitioners of floating routinely talk passionately about the powerful focusing effect that floating has on the mind, and the creative juices it unleashes. A study done on 5 psychology faculty members who spent six 90-min sessions sitting alone in their office and six 1-hour sessions floating in a restricted environmental stimulation tank (REST) (warm saline solution, darkness and silence) showed that showed that novel ideas generated after REST were ‘better’ (more creative) than those developed in office sessions.
Scientific research suggests that the reduction in tension and stress, combined with the uptick in energy that floating provides, is likely behind the creativity boost that floaters experience.
This 2011 study measured floating’s effects on creativity in a group of college jazz students. The group spent four weeks in one-hour weekly float sessions. Compared to a control group, the floating group performed better in a blind-scoring of improvised jazz performances—and they also received higher grades.
Allows You To Meditate Easier
Floating and meditation are natural complements. Both involve finding a place of quiet within your own mind, and both have been linked to incredible benefits like lowering stress and anxiety. Floating can act as “training wheels” for newcomers to meditation—and can help take even experienced meditation practitioners to new levels of calm and peace.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in many different forms, and can have different meaning in different context. Most broadly, though, meditation involves training one’s mind to find peace and calm, to distinguish between one’s thoughts and one’s inner self, and to sit quietly without distraction or worry. Mindfulness meditation, which has grown immensely in popularity in the Western world over the last decade, involves ongoing self-awareness of thought processes and bodily states.
Meditation and flotation therapy share many benefits. In addition to reducing stress, like floating, meditation also has been shown to help improve learning and memory and help individuals quit smoking. Since meditation is relatively affordable and easy to practice, it’s also been adopted by the corporate world as a way to improve employee performance and even reduce turnover.
Floating and meditation likely share many of the same benefits because they share the same purpose: removing distraction while improving awareness of self.
It stands to reason that floating can enhance meditation so greatly because it acts as an aid to removing distractions. In the float tank, you are literally shut off from the outside world; noise doesn’t reach you, and you can’t reach your smartphone!
That’s why floating can be so beneficial to newcomers to meditation, or to individuals who have a hard time finding inner calm in a busy world. The float tank really does make it easier to leave the noise and distractions of the outside world behind, in a way that sitting in even the quietest room simply can’t replicate.
Additionally, floating often helps individuals connect with their bodily rhythms in new and profound ways, which is also a key component of some forms of meditation. Many floaters have reported hearing their heartbeats more clearly, or being aware of their breathing in ways that they’ve never experienced outside the float tank.
Finally, for those who suffer from muscle tension or aching joints (making sitting still painful or difficult), the weightless sensation of the float tank can make meditation much more comfortable.
Relieves Chronic Pain
From migraines to arthritis to backaches, pain can unfortunately come in all shapes and sizes. The good news is that floatation therapy offers relief to many kinds of pain: effortlessly floating with zero pressure on muscles and joints, supplemented by the stress reduction and enhanced sleep, can work wonders for relieving pain.
Chronic pain disorders are notoriously difficult to treat because their causes can be impossible to pinpoint. However, promising research—including the Fibromyalgia Float Project— is beginning to clearly demonstrate that floating can provide immense relief to fibromyalgia sufferers.
Other chronic pain conditions, such as endometriosis and chronic fatigue syndrome, haven’t been studied as intently. However, flotation therapy’s many benefits—muscle tension relief, stress reduction, and improved sleep—correspond directly with many of the symptoms associated with many of these disorders.
Migraine headaches and chronic headaches can interfere with a happy, healthy life…but research shows that floating can provide relief! In one study comparing different forms of treating chronic tension headaches, a combination of floatation REST and muscle relaxation techniques showed significantly higher levels of improvement than other treatments. Migraine sufferers specifically may benefit due to the potential for magnesium absorption in the float tank—the water is very high in magnesium thanks to its concentration of Epsom salt, and some research suggests magnesium is an essential treatment for migraine headaches.
Arthritic pain is often associated with the joints, and can be a huge barrier to enjoying many of life’s daily activities. While floating isn’t a cure for arthritis, it has been shown to reduce intensity of pain in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Thanks to its weightless environment, floating can relieve pressure and tension on the joints, and provide immediate physical relief to arthritis sufferers.
If you or a loved one suffers from chronic pain of any kind, the scientific research suggests that floating is absolutely worth a try.
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