You’re understandably stressed. The human brain did not evolve process the grind of office work, flashing lights, car horns, Twitter alerts, or a borderline hypnotic Dorritos commercial featuring Peter Dinklage rapping.
With this barrage of stimulus screaming for your attention every minute it is crucial – for your mental and physical wellbeing – to be able to clear your mind. That’s where floating comes in.
The basic setup of an isolation tank is simple. It is a large, light-free capsule filled approximately 18 inches deep with dense salt water that has been heated to 98.6 degrees. The precise temperature makes it difficult to tell where your skin ends and the water begins. Most floaters also opt to wear ear plug, effectively a blocking out all sound.
To those who haven’t floated this may sound like a claustrophobic torture chamber from some 1970’s sci-fi movie. It’s the farthest thing from it. If anything it feels closer to floating effortlessly in the cradle of a primordial salt lake under a starless sky. And even though you won’t develop telekinesis like in the 70’s movie (admittedly disappointing), you will pick up some special powers.
Research suggests that flotation increases creativity. A study of five university professors found that after six 90-minute float sessions they were able to generate more creative ideas along with an increase in free imagery. This is supported by a study with 40 university students who increased their scores on a standardized test after a single hour of floating.
This is due to the change in brain wave activity floaters experience. When measured with an EEG scan people in isolation tanks moved from alpha and beta states into a theta state. Simply put, theta is the state of day dreams and great ideas bursting up to the surface like pirate booty that had been buried on the sea floor.
Sounds pretty great right? Here are some key ways to make the most of floating.
- Vaseline – No, this isn’t anything kinky. You’re going to be partially submerged in a tank with super-thick SALT water. So unless you want to be screaming like a wolverine getting a bikini wax, cover any cuts in Vaseline right before you get in.
- Breathe – The tank will calm your senses, but it’s up to you to calm the rest of your body. So channel the little Zen monk that lives inside and focus your breathing – inhale 3 seconds in through your nose, and 7 seconds out through your mouth. “Circle breathing” like this calms your nervous system and lets your body relax.
- Visualization – While it’s probably best to let your mind roam on your first float, visualization is a great tool. With all your other senses deprived you will find it two-thousand times easier to visualize things clearly. Have a really tough task coming up? Visualize yourself completing it perfectly. Tomorrow is a stressful day? One by one, visualize each thing you need to do and carefully put those things into an imaginary drawer once you’re done.