Floatation therapy, also known as a sensory deprivation tank, is a method of meditation that takes place in a light-proof, sound-proof tank of salt water, where you float inside the tank for an hour. This method of meditation comes with multiple benefits, especially for Veterans who suffer from anxiety, PTSD, or chronic pain from injuries. While floating in the tank with no external stimulus to distract you, you can easily focus on your breath and enter a meditative state; meditation has proven medical benefits (source), but can be unattainable for some people, so perhaps floatation therapy will allow you to achieve the calm that meditation can bring. For more information on floatation therapy, read on!
There are multiple floatation therapy centers across the US, but they all seek to achieve the same goal: provide their floaters with a chance to relax their bodies in a place of quiet darkness. (For those out there with claustrophobia, some centers have open tanks in sound-proof and light-proof rooms to avoid triggering it.) The near-weightless environment is created by pouring thousands of pounds of Epsom salts into the water, which makes floaters more buoyant, and the experience is similar to floating in a pool. The magnesium in salt provides muscle relaxation, as well as more cosmetic benefits; as an exfoliant, magnesium improves the health of your skin, hair, and nails, as well as your muscles. Salt baths in general provide a way to prevent inflammation in joints/muscles, treat sprains and strains, and improve circulation, but floatation therapy takes it a step further.
Floatation therapy can provide a lot of help for your brain. A few mental benefits of floatation therapy include reduced stress, increased creativity, improved mental health as a whole, and reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue. Floating itself has multiple restorative factors, as the lack of stimulus around you reduces external sensory input to the brain, so you can tune into your own body’s heartbeat and breathing as you float. The near-zero gravity state allows your body to relax, and your brain enters a status commonly associated with sleep and dreaming. Floating and focusing on your breath decreases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and after you leave the tank, the stress circuits of your brain shut off, providing a zen state of calm that some achieve after regular meditation (source). While floatation therapy is more commonly known as “sensory deprivation”, some doctors say it’s more of a sensory enhancement, as floatation therapy allows you to tune into your body’s needs without getting distracted by anything else in the space.
Floatation therapy also provides more benefits to your body, including an increase in blood flow to your joints and muscles, elevated dopamine and endorphins, pain relief, stress reduction, and even increased creativity. Here are some physical benefits that come as a result of floatation therapy:
- Decreased blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure, or if it runs in your family, floatation therapy could assist in lowering it. A large cause of high blood pressure is stress, so through floatation therapy, you can increase dopamine levels and decrease cortisol levels simultaneously, which will help contribute to lowering your blood pressure significantly.
2. Relief from chronic pain
People with conditions like inflammation, arthritis, tendonitis, tension headaches, and chronic pain from injuries have seen improvement and relief through floatation therapy. The Epsom salts present in the baths help soothe sore muscles and relax the body, providing a therapeutic experience.
3. Accelerated muscle recovery
Floatation therapy is unsurprisingly popular among athletes! There’s a lot of research out there that proves floatation therapy works wonders on speeding up muscle recovery from injuries. The meditative state can also improve your focus outside of the tank, so athletes and sporty types thoroughly enjoy floatation therapy to help better their minds and bodies.
4. Increased magnesium levels
As we noted before, the magnesium in Epsom salts brings a lot of benefits to your body, including faster recovery from injuries, reducing stress, exfoliating your skin, and even adding volume to your hair!
5. Better sleep
The deep relaxation that you can achieve through floatation therapy can help you regulate your sleep schedule and improve the quality of your sleep, as floatation therapy helps reduce stress and cortisol levels. (Also, did you know that some floaters actually fall asleep inside of the floatation tanks? The environment of the tank itself is so soothing that some floaters can actually sleep through their hour of floatation therapy. If that’s not relaxing, then what is?)
Veterans have been utilizing floatation therapy for several years now, and seeing many of these benefits and more as a result. With reductions in blood pressure, physical pain, anxiety, and stress just a handful of the incredible benefits that floating can bring, and this deep meditation can unlock ways to improve your sleep and mental health with repeated visits. Veterans suffering from chronic pain, insomnia, PTSD, anxiety, or depression could utilize floatation therapy to help alleviate some symptoms where regular meditation could not.
When considering floatation therapy, some restorative meditation exercises may help you bring awareness to your body and your breath to allow you to fully experience floating to its fullest ability. A positive, open-minded view to the experience will allow you to best reap the benefits of floating, and visualizing what you hope to gain from floating can also assist in gaining those perks.
Floatation therapy is a form of meditation that allows the body and brain to take a well-needed break. With several health benefits for both mental and physical capabilities, floating could be the next step that you or a veteran you know could need to take towards recovery. For more information on floatation therapy, check out a floatation center near you and see if it would be the right place for your needs! While Operation Red Wings Foundation does not have floatation tanks, we have multiple other resources for Veterans in need of therapy that’s less salty; guided meditation, yoga, equine therapy, and group sessions allow us to help Veterans help themselves through recovery from their time in the field.