What exactly is flow? Imagine for a moment that you are running a race. Your attention is focused on the movements of your body, the power of your muscles, the force of your lungs, and the feel of the street beneath your feet. You are living in the moment, utterly absorbed in the present activity. Time seems to fall away. You are tired, but you barely notice. Which is what happened to me when I ran the Reading Half Marathon in 2016, I will talk about that later.
According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what you are experiencing in that moment is known as flow, a state of complete immersion in an activity.
He describes the mental state of flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."
Flow experiences can occur in different ways for different people. Some might experience flow while engaging in a sport such as skiing, tennis, soccer, dancing, or running. Others might have such an experience while engaged in an activity such as painting, drawing, or writing. In other words, flow state is a state of hyper-focus, essentially ignoring everything else not related to the task.
What links floating to flow is the state of consciousness you achieve whilst in the state of flow and whilst you float. Your brainwave patterns are the same as your mind enters Theta State. Theta Brain Waves occur most often in sleep but are also dominant during deep meditation. In Theta, we are in a dream; vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond normal consciousness awareness. It helps us improve our intuition, creativity, free association, sudden insights, creative inspiration, feeling of serenity and oneness with the universe and makes us feel more natural. This is also the Flow State Zone.
By floating on a regular basis, you can train your mind to be more prone to achieving flow state; floating helped me prepare mentally for the Reading Half Marathon in 2016. It was my first half marathon and if I am honest, I don’t enjoy running long distances. Never have done, I was always a sprinter in my younger years. You may ask why I decided to run, well I ran for a local Fibromyalgia support group to raise funds for them. I quite enjoyed the challenge, physically I knew with a training programme I could do it. Over the 3 months lead up to the half marathon I stuck to my running programme. The first few weeks were hard going and although I was clocking up the miles, mentally I was a mess and found training mentally draining and I couldn’t focus at all.
I floated for recovery initially, but then after a while I started floating pre-training as well, especially for longer runs of 6 – 10 miles. The difference was huge, not only was I physically preparing myself by allowing my muscles to relax I was also fully immersed in the float session and visualising my next run. Over a period of weeks, I found my run times improving and my mind was clear, time stood still.
I was in what you would call, "the zone," reaching this state of flow allowed me to experience a loss of self-consciousness just as I had done in the float pod and have a sense of complete mastery over my performance during training. In the last week before the race I didn’t run, I had a sports massage a few days before and floated twice that week. Once, post massage treatment and the other the night before the race, in addition to this I also attended a Yoga Nidra class to stretch and meditate. I needed all the help I could get to maintain focus and prepare for the race.
The day of the race came and I spent my time before the race trying to get into a good headspace. This was more difficult than anticipated with the noise and buzz of 20,000 people running, I had to dig deep and try to focus on the 13 miles ahead. The first 3 miles of the race were tough, as my legs warmed up and started to get into a steady pace I found myself zoning out. I had reached flow state and reached a level of serenity, time seemed to slow down. Even with crowds around me cheering me on I was still able to focus on my goal.
I remember seeing the finishing line and sprinting for it, crossing the line felt amazing! Not only had I completed the challenge but I had beaten my target time by 10 minutes. This was of course in part to the physical training, but they say that sports are 80% mental and 20% physical. By focusing on the mental aspect of training I found it easier to achieve flow state and complete my first half marathon.
Obviously reaching this state of flow is something many of us would like to accomplish on a regular basis. Fortunately, flow is not something restricted to just elite athletes, artists and performers. You can achieve this state during a number of activities such as while working, while engaging in exercise or while engaging in a hobby as I have demonstrated. The combination of floatation and meditation trained my mind to be more focused on the task at hand. Not sure if I will be running another half anytime soon but I am using the skills I have learnt and applying this to my work and projects. Maybe I will run next year! Float your way to Flow…
We recently ran an overnight Float Session at the centre where two lucky people had the chance to Float for 8hrs. One of those lucky people was artist Matt Smith, Matt has written about his experience below!
My first floatation tank experience was nearly 16 years ago. It was something that intrigued me, having read a few articles and I've always been interested in how they came about. That first float, was wonderful and much more than just a bath with a lid. The ambient air temperature, skin and water temperature matched, when the light was off, for the first time, I felt I was literally 'nowhere', this is sensory deprivation, at its best.
Over the years I've floated, but never regularly, as they were not always easy to get to where I was living at the time, but from time to time I managed to go.
Secretly I had high expectations that I would see some great visions while floating, this didn't really happen in a fireworks kind of way, so I was underwhelmed by myself. As I work in design and digital art, I thought it might even help me come up with crazy ideas or solutions to creative problems - maybe with practice I thought.
When Floating Point arrived in Pangbourne, I was delighted to have such a high quality floating experience so near. Michael and Tina are so knowledgeable and great to share and discuss ideas with, and I was confident to try an all-night float when they ran one recently.
I had been intrigued by this idea for some time, but a little unsure as to what to expect - I had some initial thoughts and questions; Would I try and turn over in my sleep? Would I sleep or exit all wrinkled like an alien from a B-Movie? Should I have watched those kind of B-Movies? Oh I digress, that's for another time....
In the end there is nothing to worry about, maybe we turn in our beds naturally to avoid prolonged pressures on our bodies, while floating, I guess that's not an issue. Maybe the Epsom salts helped too, as I didn't look like a wrinkly prune space alien at the end of the night either.
The night float started around 10pm, and was broken up into a number of shorter sessions, I chose music which had Isochronic Tones mixed in for the first session, there are more details in the link below, the basic concept is that it may help produce a meditative state. I recommend it, it's a great combination.
The first session was just over 1 hour 30 mins, then a relaxing 20-30 minutes sitting in a separate relaxation room with tea and snacks. Each float session of around 2 hours, was followed with a break with tea and snacks (healthy ones of course).
The second session was around 2 hours, this time without sound and music, and time just seemed to melt away. I slept or dozed off, rather than a deep sleep, it was a half-asleep, half-awake state, reminded me of when you sometimes wake in the morning and need to get up, but drift off for a few blissful moments where you lose track of time, it was more like that but for hours.
The last session was longer, around 2 hours 30, in this one I felt quite awake in the last half an hour, but also aware that I hadn't slept in a traditional sense.
I didn't really see any visions, again I was a little disappointed initially, but for a fleeting moment I did imagine a giant fish, shaped like a dog, Freud may have some fun with that one. The next few days however I began to realise the real benefits, the penny dropped so to speak, and this was the surprise for me. With the constant always on data driven world we live in, with all the visual stimulus, mobile phones, internet, and creative projects, maybe this is exactly what I need, a blank canvas. I now think of the tank as a kind of sorting hat, not for Hogwarts Wizards but for the human mind, maybe it gives us what we really need, be it crazy ideas or a blank canvas to work with.
When I got back home around 8 am, it felt like I'd been away for longer, like a short holiday, which is bizarre given that it was only one night.
The following week, I was more relaxed, focussed, I slept very well, and with a few deadlines looming with work, my outlook was more balanced, it seemed the long night of the float, had evened things out somehow. Long may that last, hopefully beyond Christmas, but I'll be back for a top in January, of some shorter floats, and to try an all-night float again in the future.
Check out http://uniqueforms.net/ to see Matt's work and projects.
I understand, you’re too busy. Everyone’s too busy. Actually you’re probably thinking you’re too busy to read a short blog post about being too busy. In today’s society, when you meet a friend and ask how they are, you are pretty certain that they are going to say ‘I am so busy!’
‘Have you told someone how busy you are and it’s really a boast hidden as a complaint?’, ‘Does the idea of being alone send you into panic mode?’, ‘You make too many commitments you can’t keep?’, ‘Does your 'to do' list involve all the things you made up’, ‘Are your meals are spent in front of your computer’.
Did any of the statements ring true with you? If so then you are caught in the busy trap!
So why do we glorify being busy? We wear it as a badge of honour, a status symbol.
Being so busy, we manage to gather up whatever energy we have leftover listing off all the ways we are busy, unknowingly competing with others, playing this internal comparison game of "who's busier?", and thus, "who is more successful?".
We are constantly looking forward and not living in the present. We are always looking for what we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing. If we don’t feel like we are achieving something we tend to fill our time with ‘Things to do’ to create the illusion of achievement.
We have this idea that life is like packing a suitcase for a trip, we have a fixed amount of space and a fixed amount of tasks we try to fit in. Some of us who are more organised manage to fit everything in, then there are the rest of us who are disorganised and end up sitting on the suitcase to try and force it shut.
So how do we escape the busyness trap? We need to understand what busy-ness is in this era of information and 24/7 connectivity. We live in an age where we work with computers and information all the time, there is no limit on what we can theoretically do. Plus, we live in a consumer economy, there is always a better brand to buy, a lifestyle upgrade to make and this all costs more. This means that we have to work more in order to earn more.
The world is moving faster than ever and we feel the need to keep up, we tell ourselves that there aren’t enough hours in the day. We keep working ourselves to the bone, ironically being constantly busy blinds us from what it takes for us to succeed in life.
There is a way to manage being chronically busy, it is called ‘Doing Nothing’. Now I know what you are all thinking ‘What do you mean do nothing?’. To some people the idea of doing nothing sounds ludicrous, ‘How can I do nothing when there are so many things I should be doing’.
Let us take a moment, like me I am sure many of us grew up with a mentality of doing anything to avoid doing nothing and thus achieving nothing. As I stated earlier we equate being busy with being successful, If I am not busy then I have failed, I am less than you. I don’t have a choice but to try and climb the societal ladder, constantly create and try make something of myself to try and pay the bills. Before opening the centre, the idea of slowing down was scary, the idea of quiet time alone meant that I had nowhere to run from my own personal pain and thoughts. I felt I had no choice but to keep busy to stop myself going crazy.
In actual fact, it was the total opposite. Being so busy had a greater negative impact than doing nothing. I was so busy with the constant distraction from friends, gadgets and unnecessary demands that I was actually losing my connection with my inner self. I learned over time that being busy can equate to exhaustion, breakdowns, distractions, suffering, stress and many other health problems.
If you fill your life with busy-ness and re-prioritising tasks, that can leave you with having nothing left for yourself. If you are continually trying to run on almost empty you aren’t going to be good for anything, just like a car once the petrol runs out the car will stop working and so will you. We can't go on and on like energiser bunnies, even their juice runs out at some point. Chill out is better than burnout!
The human mind was designed to take breaks and recharge so one’s body can replenish itself. Without distraction and spending “alone time” allows you to clear your mind and think more clearly. Your body also takes advantage of this time to revitalize and energize itself.
Being constantly busy, trying to juggle many tasks is also very stressful as I found out over the years. Stress builds up in our lives and it is difficult to differentiate between ourselves and what is within. Spending time alone offers us the opportunity to slow down, catch a deep breath and set our minds straight. During this process we rid our minds of thoughts that are negative and unnecessary. Less anxiety allows for time of innovation and self-searching.
I found Floating by accident or I could say it found me. Floating in a Pod has helped me so much. I have been Floating for over 3 years and it has helped me physically, allowing me to stop and give my body a much needed break. The zero gravity environment provided me with much needed physical rest, Floating allowed me to let go physically and mentally. It did take me a few sessions to truly let go of everything, my mind was racing with different thoughts like, ‘What am I doing here?’ and ‘Stop thinking!’. After my third session I understood that I just needed to let my thoughts happen, trying to force relaxation was not effective. Your mind and body empty and relax when they are ready.
The best thing about being in the pod once you close the lid, turn the lights off and the music stops is that time and space no longer seem to exist! You forget about everything and appreciate being in the present, thoughts seem to fade and disappear. Making time to do nothing doesn't mean that you've failed. You can still lead a productive and fulfilling life without being addicted to busy-ness. Taking time out for yourself to relax and do nothing is extremely beneficial, it is in those moments of doing nothing that some of the greatest ideas appear. So it makes sense that doing nothing in a Float Pod for an hour can help us achieve a whole lot more by doing a lot less.
Make some time for yourself, schedule time in your calendar where you can just do nothing. I promise that you will feel better rested, you will be happier and feel more productive.
I thought I would have an overhaul of the music in the Float Pods as it has been around 8 months since we have opened and I want to keep things fresh and try new things. I have always had an interest in music, sound and human behaviour. I studied music technology and completed my Certificate of Higher Education in Psychodynamic Counselling and Organisational Dynamics at Birkbeck a few years ago.
Floatation has had a profound effect on my life and over the last few months many of our clients, some of our clients like to have music or soundscapes throughout their session as it gives them something to focus on and helps them to let go. I have been Floating for about 3 years and every Float is different for me, sometimes it is easier for me to let go quickly, whereas other times it takes a little longer. I am a Float purist at heart and now prefer to Float without music myself, apart from the last 5 minutes to let me know the session is ending. I tried Floating with music in the past and it did help for my first few Float sessions, so I can understand when people want music all the way through or at the beginning and end.
As I have explored Floating, letting go and consciousness I have tried new methods and pushed the boundaries a little with Brainwave Entrainment. I have tried Floating using Binaural Beats throughout the session which was something else! Now some of you may ask what Binaural Beats are. Well here is an explanation according to the Immrama Institute.
'Binaural Beats were originally discovered in 1839 by physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove. He discovered when signals of two different frequencies are presented separately, one to each ear, your brain detects the phase variation between the frequencies and tries to reconcile that difference.
In doing so, as the two frequencies mesh in and out of phase, your brain creates its own third signal - called a Binaural Beat - which is equal to the difference between those two frequencies.
For example, if a frequency of 100Hz is presented to your left ear, and a frequency of 105Hz was presented to your right ear, your brain 'hears' a third frequency pulsing at 5Hz, the exact difference between the two frequencies.
Research has proven that introducing a Binaural Beat will cause the brain to begin resonating in tune with that beat. By creating a Binaural Beat at 10Hz - an Alpha frequency - you can trigger your brain to resonate at that same 10Hz frequency, automatically inducing brain activity in the Alpha range. This same technique can be used to quickly and easily guide your mind into any state'
The idea of adapting and changing brainwave patterns to help achieve a more relaxed and productive state was exciting and I decided to research a little further. Our brains are usually in one of the following frequency ranges.
- 40 Hz - Gamma waves, higher mental activity including perception, problem solving, fear and consciousness
- 13 - 39 Hz - Beta waves, active, busy or anxious thinking and active concentration, arousal, cognition and/or paranoia
- 9 - 13 Hz - Alpha waves, relaxation (while awake), pre-sleep and pre-wake drowsiness, REM Sleep, day dreams.
- 4 - 8 Hz - Theta waves, deep meditation/relaxation, NREM Sleep
- <4 Hz - Delta waves, deep dreamless sleep, loss of body awareness
During your Float session your mind and body slow down, as you relax deeper and deeper your mind will slowly enter the Theta wave state. Theta brainwaves are present during deep meditation, deep relaxation and NREM Sleep. During NREM Sleep the brain is quiet, generally the sleeper won't be dreaming and their body, although relaxed might twitch between phases. The heart rate slows, body temperature decreases and growth hormones are released, it is during NREM that the body is rejuvenated. Theta is the realm of your subconsciousness and only experienced momentarily as you drift off to sleep from Alpha and wake from deep sleep (Delta).
Your mind's most deep-seated programs are at Theta and it is where you experience vivid visualizations, great inspiration, profound creativity and exceptional insight. Unlike your other brainwaves, the elusive voice of Theta is a silent voice. Through regular Floating you can learn to reach the Theta state quicker and remain there for longer.
It is at the Alpha - Theta border, from 8Hz to 9Hz where the optimal range for visualization, mind programming and using the creative power of your mind begins. It's the mental state which you consciously create your reality. At this frequency you are conscious of your surroundings, however your body is in deep relaxation.
In addition to Binaural Beats I also began looking at Isochronic Tones. Isochronic Tones are a very effective audio-based method of stimulating the brain. Isochronic Tones and Binaural Beats are examples of a complex neurological process know as brainwave entrainment. At its simplest level, an Isochronic Tone is just a tone that is being turned off and on rapidly. The volume or intensity of the sound goes almost directly from 0 - 100 and back again in an evenly spaced manner. This leaves a stronger impression on the brain compared to Binaural Beats.
When Isochronic Tones are utilized as a stimulus under specific circumstances, research has shown evidence of beneficial outcomes such as anxiety reduction and increased concentration. It can be used for meditation, stress reduction and focus. Which is why I have now added two Isochronic Tones to the Pods, one at 5.5Hz. This is deep Theta 'Brainwave Entrainment' and has been designed to make it easier to experience a deeper state of meditation.
I have been trialing the Isochronic Tones with some of our regular clients and the feedback has been positive, it definitely helps you to reach the Theta state faster. I would recommend playing this throughout the 1hr or 1hr 30 min session. I have also added for those more adventurous among you an Isochronic and Binaural Beats lucid dreaming programme. Using a complex pattern of Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tone frequencies dedicated to help you achieve lucid dreaming. The track will help in placing you in a primed state for lucid dreaming, but lucid dreaming doesn't happen all at once. Patience is a factor with lucid dreaming, I have had 5 lucid dreams over the last 3 years and that is without Isochronic Tones.
I would only recommend using the lucid dreaming Isochronic & Binaural Beats for 1hr 30mins or 2hr Float sessions to get the most out of it. In addition, I would Float at least 3 times before trying these out. You need to be comfortable in your environment before taking the leap to the next level!
Heart Rate Variability
Remember the last time you got anxious, scared or stressed out because a lion was chasing you? No me neither. While these threats are pretty unlikely when you're walking through a busy high street you still find yourself responding irrationally over events that, on reflection, pose no risk to you. This will be your fight or flight response kicking in. This response, hard-wired into the brain is what assists humans and animals alike to react and survive in life threatening situations. When the response is triggered, the hypothalamus initiates a sequence of nerve cells firing up and chemicals adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and cortisol flush the bloodstream to prepare the muscles to react to the situation. Once this occurs we see the body transform from a sedentary state to a revved up, primed being ready for action. Our respiration increases, our pupils dilate, our pain perception decreases and blood is drawn from the digestive tract into the muscles to allow us to respond to what could be certain death.
Luckily, 10,000 years later we are at a point where we don't need to scan the horizon for constant threat, but what happens when this huge psychological and physiological response occurs in the modern day? You have looming deadlines at work, you get cut up in traffic or you have a stressful argument with a loved one. These seemingly small threats still illicit that fight or flight trigger and now you have nowhere to flee and no-one to fight. This lack of release gets bottled up and can lead to heightened stress levels, over-reaction to situations, anxiety and even panic attacks. So what can we do to reduce these irrational fears and live a calmer, more peaceful life? We can look at our heart rate variability.
What is heart rate variability (HRV)? Rather than measuring your heart rate, you measure the fluctuation or variation between the rate at which these beats occur. We can use these variations to determine your current stress levels and also measure the body's ability to self-regulate when these stressful situations do occur. A high variation shows a dominance in our parasympathetic response, the side of the autonomic nervous system that promotes relaxation, sleep and recovery. A low variation indicates a dominance of the sympathetic response which prompts the initiation of the dreaded fight or flight side of the nervous system.
Getting to know your HRV and actively training it can prompt a change in the nervous system and will lead to a more relaxed, happier and stress free environment for not only you but those around you. Your resilience to everyday stressors increase, you remain calm and focused, sleep quality is enchanced and friction within relationships decrease.
How do we measure HRV? We can use a few devices to get the job done. One can be any bluetooth enabled chest monitor like the Polar. Twinned with a good iPhone/Android app like the IThlete or Sweetbeat. My preferred choice is using the Heartmath Inner Balance sensor.
A single sensor is placed on the ear and connects to any supported device and gives clear and precise feedback on your session. After using it for only a few weeks I noticed a decline in my own anxiety symptoms and having used the system for over two years now I've seen these irrational anxious episodes disappear completely.
Combining HRV training with mediation, floating and yoga really contributes to a healthier and centred self and assists in helping you live in the now.
Before I begin writing this article on 'The Art of Doing 'Nothing' let me ask you a question.
When was the last time you spent time alone doing nothing?
Obviously it depends on what you define as doing nothing, but for the sake of this article we can define doing nothing as not interacting with the outside world, be that through technology or social interaction and communication with others.
Our lives are extremely busy and our attention is in constant demand from people around us at work, emails, social media, phone calls, messages from friends and family...The list goes on.
Many people say that they don't have the time or are too busy to do nothing, but they will happily sit in front of the TV for a few hours or spend time worrying and overthinking things without allowing themselves the satisfaction of just being in that moment.
Doing nothing can be a great investment into your personal well-being and something worth making time for.
A day focusing on completing small trivial tasks can leave us feeling exhausted and we are led to believe that the day was a productive one or so we assume. The Dutch work expert Manfred Kets de Vries writes, 'Busyness can be a very effective defence mechanism for warding off disturbing thoughts and feelings'. It is when we are truly doing nothing that we can finally confront what matters. You will be able to regain control of your attention.
I can definitely vouch for that, prior to Floating that was me. Always busy filling my life with things to do, places to be, not making time for myself and being afraid of being alone alone with my thoughts.
For the majority of people, being alone with their thoughts can be quite daunting. According to a study conducted by Timothy Wilson a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, most people really don't like being alone with their own thoughts. Timothy Wilson found over the course of 11 experiments that most people found it difficult to sit alone in a room for just 6 to 15 minutes. With some participants stating that they would rather have small electrical shocks than sit alone.
According to the research around 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women would choose to shock themselves at least once while trying to spend time alone inside their own heads. The research was published in Science July 2014.
In another experiment, the researchers asked students to sit in an empty room without books, smartphones, or other distractions. Another batch of people found the task was even harder at home. Overall, the participants said they found it much less enjoyable to spend time alone thinking than participating in an activity such as reading. In other words, we really can't shut ourselves off.
'People prefer doing to thinking, even if what they are doing is so unpleasant that they would normally pay to avoid it', the author's write. 'The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself'.
A fear of boredom, missing out, loneliness and fear of being overwhelmed by anxious and depressive thoughts are just a few fears that could be part of the underlying dread of being alone.
Doing nothing and boredom are closely linked. While most of us find it hard to tolerate boredom, it can trigger our imagination and creativity creating limitless possibilities. But as I stated earlier we have an almost limitless selection of entertainment and distractions to hand, it's easier to find ourselves in a state of constant busyness than it is to do nothing. Our constant activities online - a world of multitasking and hyperactivity - help us to convince ourselves that we are productive.
There is a danger that we may lose our connections, not just with one another but with ourselves. If we don't allow ourselves periods of uninterrupted, freely associated thought then personal growth, insight and creativity are less likely to emerge.
We need to get past 'monophobia' (An acute fear of being alone and having to cope without a specific person, or perhaps any person, in close proximity), to gradually practice being alone in small doses - to gain confidence that it's intolerable and it's not forever.
One trick is to schedule 'Do Nothing' time, or 'Float Time' (As I like to call it!) like you'd schedule tasks. Just don't expect others to understand when you decline some social event on the grounds that you're busy not being busy.
Floating is the easiest and sure fire way to do 'Nothing' in its purest form, I Float once a week for 90 minutes. If you are new to Floating, I will give you a quick overview:
Floatation is a unique and deeply relaxing mental and physical experience. Each pod is filled with 1000 litres of heated Epsom salt water that supports your body allowing you to float effortlessly. By giving yourself a break from the input of sensory experiences, your mind has a chance to recharge & rest, you will emerge with renewed perspective and energy.
The great thing about Floating is that you can have that private space where you can have a break from all the world's distractions. After 35/40 minutes your brain enters a Theta brain wave pattern, your mind and body are occupying that space between deep sleep and being fully awake. The majority of people that have Floated with us are unsure if they fell asleep or not. Your mind empties itself as you are not expending any energy to support your body, the water supports you completely across all pressure points. As the water is heated to body temperature, after 10 minutes you will not even notice that you are in water creating the sensation of 'Zero Gravity'. This allows your mind to be totally free from any physical and sensory distractions.
The first time people Float they want to experience the feeling of floating and be present throughout the session. Once they reach their 3rd or 4th Float they have found it much easier to let go and really embrace doing nothing.
This type of doing nothing is similar to meditation, but you don't have to think of it that way unless it helps. Just as in meditation, by focusing on your breathing as you Float comfortably doing nothing, you will find that your body begins to relax. You might start to feel that there are no thoughts in your head. This is another thought for you to simply observe. Become the watcher of this procession of thoughts, this consciousness stream, and marvel at the range of memories, ideas, images and opinions that come up.
It takes a few Floats to master this, but it's a great justification for doing nothing. As the emptiness between thoughts increases you will find that you develop a richer awareness of the world around you and also a great serenity. Next, you will find ideas and solutions begin to pop into your head almost automatically either in the pod or in the days following your Float session.
As Depeche Mode once said, 'Enjoy the Silence' which I do every week. The total freedom from thoughts and the outside world is truly liberating, it can take a few sessions but it is worth persevering to see positive results that are carried over to your everyday life. You will find that your overall stress levels will reduce and you will have greater clarity when dealing with different situations that life brings up.
I leave you with a quote from Peter Suedfeld, Ph.D - Floatation REST Researcher,
'Consider: Right now there are dozens of thoughts pin-balling through your mind. There is a cacophony - a noisy din - in your head. The absence of the din is a genuine revelation. I highly recommend you find that out for yourself'.
Thanks for reading & happy Floating
Jory Bond (Michigan Medical School Student) and Carl Jessee (Film Maker) set out across 20 states, visiting 30 Float Centre's over a range of 9000 miles to interview researchers, inventors, doctors and more to separate fact from fiction in relation to floatation therapy.
There is a wealth of promising floatation research ranging from addiction cessation to chronic pain relief, the creators of this film wanted to dispel myths, talk to patients and increase floating access. I for one have my copy and highly recommend watching it, it is easy viewing and available to view on Youtube (See below).
I for one am very glad that there is a comprehensive and accessible documentary on the history and benefits of floating. If you like documentaries I recommend watching it!
Watch Float Nation
Mindfulness… I’m sure it’s a word most, if not all of you, are now familiar with. There has been a definite Mindful revolution in recent years with the practice very successfully introduced into schools, being a feature of a highly publicised TedTalk and being the subject of numerous books and articles as our modern society seeks a way to take stock and reconnect with our inner thoughts and feelings.
The Spafinder.co.uk trend report for 2014 has Mindfulness as the overarching trend informing their Top 10. As they say, there is a growing desire to:
“…clear the clutter in your mind caused by the over-stimulation of today’s supercharged world. This (mindfulness) is the biggest movement the wellness industry has ever seen, and people from all walks of life are waking up to the fact that mindful living breeds a healthy mind” — 2014 Trends Report, Top Ten Global Spa and Wellness Trends Forecast - Spafinder.co.uk
It has long been proclaimed by those such as the Dalai Lama that a healthy mind is the key to true happiness and contentment and without using the tools available to work towards a healthy mind, we are putting ourselves at an implicit risk, especially with the increasing pressures and stresses of the modern, constantly connected world. From Google’s Zen-based employee program, “Search Inside Yourself”, to Steve Jobs attributing much of his success to meditation and Zen Buddhism, the use of these long-standing techniques has moved from the New Age movement into mainstream culture.
How does lying in a floatation tank help with this, you ask?
Well, with Floatation, you have the ideal environment to perfect and deepen meditative and mindful practices. The silent, reduced sensory experience allows you to more easily let go and escape the constant influx of external stimuli, which is great for both those seeking an introduction to meditation and those looking to delve even deeper.
Absence of the external stimuli is of course not the prime objective. The prime objective is to silence that chattering “mind-boy/girl” within us. As leading floatation researcher Peter Suedfeld says,
“Consider: Right now there are dozens of thoughts pinballing through your mind. There is a cacophony—a noisy din—in your head. The absence of the din is a genuine revelation. I highly recommend you find that out for yourself.” — Peter Suedfeld, PhD - Floatation REST Researcher
Due to the nature of the floatation environment, this goal is more easily achievable and leaves even the least experienced with a feeling of mental clarity. If you have an interest in exploring these ideas and taking advantage of the well-known calming benefits, then look no further than floatation. Not only will it calm and straighten out the knots of the mind, but it will also work out those niggling physical knots. Total relaxation of body and mind… who wouldn’t want that?
Big thanks to Chris at Float Level in Manchester for this post. If you are ever in Manchester go and check out his amazing centre.
Winter is around the corner, with the colder weather and short, dark days there is an increase in SAD (Seasonal affective disorder). About 4 to 6 percent of people may have winter depression. Another 10 to 20 percent may have mild SAD. SAD is four times more common in women than in men. Although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn't start in people younger than age 20.
If you suffer from SAD, depression or anxiety, flotation therapy can be a helpful treatment for you, along with talk therapy and medication. Flotation therapy might seem like an odd match in this situation, but it has had proven effects when it comes to elevating people’s moods and relieving anxiety. Flotation has been helping people feel better and think more clearly since its development for general use in the 1970s, but how?
How Flotation Therapy Benefits Depression
A depressed brain is a brain that simply isn’t working properly on a chemical level. When you slip into a float tank, however, you take the first step towards a more synchronized brain. Flotation can help your brain to slow down and re-synchronize its two halves. This slowed down brain, which may begin releasing theta waves, acts like a brain in deep meditation, calming your body and mind, and bringing about relaxation. This meditative state can be very powerful in calming and de-stressing patients who suffer from chronic depression.
Another reason that flotation therapy is helpful in fighting depression is because it causes the brain to release a flood of endorphins. Endorphins are natural pain fighters – opioids made specially by your body – and they are also good for lifting your spirits. You might also release endorphins when eating a bar of chocolate, or doing something else pleasurable. These feel good hormones produced while relaxing in a floatation tank can help correct a brain deficient in these chemicals.
Along with the positive feelings caused by endorphins, it is not uncommon for those who engage with flotation therapy to feel very peaceful, or even joyful or euphoric. Flotation can result in very clear and creative thoughts, very different from the often cloudy thinking of the depressed brain.
How Flotation Therapy Helps with Anxiety
Anxiety is often the bedfellow of depression, and flotation therapy has also been shown to help with this condition. One reason flotation therapy is so helpful for anxiety is because it slows down the more analytical side of your brain, turning off parts of your brain that might keep you worrying or make you suffer from racing thoughts. A slowed down brain is a less anxious brain.
While flotation therapy is not a standalone treatment for depression and anxiety, it can be an integral part of a comprehensive care plan. Talk to your doctor or therapist about pursuing flotation therapy as part of your treatment for depression and anxiety. This natural relaxation process can help change your brain so dramatically that it will change your life.
Many people have some fear or concern before they use the Pod for the first time. Fears such as being alone in the dark, drowning, not having enough air, claustrophobia, and others. These fears are usually the result of the thought or idea that YOU won't be in control of the situation, but in this situation you are completely in control at all times. You can go in and out of the Pod as you please. You can use the Pod with the door completely open, you can keep it partially open, or you can close it. There is an interior light. You can turn that light off or leave it on. There is no particular way to use the pod that is more correct than another. Any way you use it that is comfortable for you, is correct.
If you close the door while inside the Pod, once the light is turned off it is completely dark and that may be disorienting. When you get in and before you lie down, open and close the door several times, noticing how it feels different from the other surfaces. If at any time you try to push the door and it doesn't open, it's not the door.
The solution within the Pod is only 25cm deep. It is made up of 40% Epsom salt. You can't sink in the Pod, regardless of your size and fitness level. You will float effortlessly and it is 100% safe to sleep in the Pod. Since there is no pressure or hot spots anywhere on the body, you do not have the desire to toss and turn the way you do while on a mattress. If you *were* to somehow roll over while sleeping in the Pod, you would wake up the very instant the salt water touched your eyes or sinuses.
The Pod is designed so that it is not airtight. You'll have plenty of air. To keep the Pod air fresher, an air circulation system brings additional air from the room. The air enters at the front of the Pod. You normally float with your head at that end. You can also brace the door open slightly if this is more comfortable for you.
The Magic of Zero Sensory Input
Of those that come to us with a phobia-based fear, we would say 90% of them settle right in to their first session without any issue. For the remaining 10%, fears and concerns are typically dissolved by the second or third session. The float Pod itself is excellent at calming the mind and any fears it may harbor within it. This is simply the nature of the zero stimulation environment. We have had a surprising number of particularly sceptical clients complete a session and say something along the lines of "I just couldn't be afraid. I even tried to think of things that normally upset me, and they had no power over me while I was in there."
The float pod is actually a wonderful place to work through your phobias and anxieties.
The zero stimulation environment triggers some pretty profound physical and mental effects. There is no pressure anywhere on the body. The solution is the optimal temperature for our bodily systems. Our brains aren't constantly processing input. We are no longer struggling against the pull of gravity. As a result our blood pressure is reduced; stress hormone levels fall and endorphins are released. This creates an immensely pleasurable experience. It is downright difficult to feel anxiousness or fear once you enter that incredibly soothing physical and mental space. People might assume that time drags along while doing nothing inside the Pod, but that could not be further from the truth. Once you reach the super-relaxed theta brainwave (lucid dream/meditation) state all concept of time vanishes. The session ends in what feels like mere minutes after that. It sounds counter intuitive at first, but most claustrophobic clients find having the door closed with the light off far more comforting than leaving the light on.
The online photos of our float Pods are always a bit deceiving. They don't give an accurate sense of the Pods true size and interior space. Each Pod is about the size of a car and the interior is completely open. Once you lie back into the solution, you can stretch your arms up in front of you and you will not be able to reach the ceiling of the tank. We have had clients 6'5"+ float very comfortably here. Float Pods are not new. The safety record of floatation therapy is indisputable. Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world have enjoyed the benefits floating has to offer over the last 60+ years. To date, no sober floater has ever been seriously injured during a session.
Realistic expectations are essential. Floating does come with a learning curve. The float experience resembles an onion. At first you might only get one or two layers deep. Whether you suffer from a phobia or not, it is important to recognize that it takes 3-5 sessions to REALLY get a feel for floating's potential. A great number of beginners settle right in and have an incredible first float, but for a number of others the initial sessions can be challenging. In the beginning you might find some difficulty getting physically comfortable within the new environment. You might not be able to quiet your thoughts. You may experience some fleeting feelings of claustrophobia or anxiety. You may even end your initial sessions early. THIS IS ALL COMPLETELY NORMAL.
These challenges WILL be overcome if you choose to stick with the practice. The Pod always wins out in the end.
If a challenge arises, you must ask yourself how badly you want the benefits that floating can provide. The research is very clear on this. So ask yourself if you are willing to commit to the practice and push through the possible initial discomfort. It is best to view floating as an ever evolving path to improvement, much like a healthy diet, meditation or exercise regime. The benefits of floating are real, they are yours for the taking - but they may not come effortlessly.
Floating is not a one shot miracle cure, but if you stick with it miraculous changes can happen. One of the greatest gifts floating can provide is the realization that YOU are truly the master of your own thoughts.
Vogue Magazine floating and teaches us a new acronym: REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy). Nathan Heller writes, “In recent years, [float tanks] have regained a following, and, at the moment, the case for certain benefits is compelling. Under examination, floatation therapy has turned up , reducing blood lactate levels after intense exercise, and other physiological improvements. It’s been shown to , and it appears to be useful in (although their waterless cousins, sensory-deprivation chambers, have seemed slightly more effective). One study found that generally shot those arrows better than archers who did not.”
Floatation Therapy is great for pregnant women within the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, and only after a medical clearance from their doctor. Floatation Therapy can offer a brilliant level of relaxation and pain relief not found outside of the tank.
The term “lucid dreaming” refers to being aware of the dream and dream state while asleep. Some people capable of lucid dreaming are able to influence their dreams, making their dreams happen in a specific, desired way. Floatation tanks can be an optimal venue for lucid dreams. There are many ways to improve or cultivate lucid dreaming abilities, resulting in dreams that feel very real and often provide an out-of-body type of experience. Lucid dreaming can even allow people to consciously have experiences they would never have in real life.
Since John Lilly first began studying the effects of floatation/isolation/sensory deprivation tanks in 1954, a vast amount of research has been done showing positive results. Among all this research is the subject of athletic performance. Athletes have been enjoying the benefits of Epsom Salt baths for a long time. Performance Recovery is an integral part of any athlete’s training.
Floating is quite simply the most incredible means of stress relief and relaxation available. Your body and brain will be able to relax like no other treatment. A huge range of physical conditions can be treated by regular floating, such as bad backs, MS, ME, arthritis, insomnia, fibromyalgia, eczema and Sciatica.