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My very favorite self-care routine is heading to the float spa. Have you heard of it yet? Float therapy, also known as sensory deprivation is not new, but it is newer as a mainstream form of self-care.
When I used to think of self-care, my mind immediately went to mani-pedis, bubble baths, a trip to get my hair done and maybe massages. This is why I didn’t often make time for self-care.
I am not really a mani-pedi person. I tried, really I did. I even made time for it before my wedding, when really I didn’t care much about it. It made my bridesmaids and other girlfriends happy though, and I like to spend time with them. However I am not really the mani-pedi girl and I can count how many times I’ve had a professional hair cut on my two hands and feet. (I’ve cut my own hair many more times than that.)
It took me a long time to realize that “self-care”, as trendy as the concept seems, is definitely for everyone. In fact, it’s a necessity if you want to live your best life. What I didn’t realize is that “self-care” looks different for everybody, and you have to do a little trial & error to find what works for you.
Now when I think of self-care I think of putting aside time for meditation every morning and gratitude journaling. These things set my mindset for a productive day and bring my mind and body back to center. Along with that, I try to go for a float 1-2 times a month.
What is “Floating”
Floating is also known as sensory deprivation. I will go into a brief history here, but if you want to know all of the details click here.
Originally invented and studied in 1954 by neuroscientist John C Lilly, the sensory deprivation tank first became accessible to the public in the 1970’s. It was initially being studied as a way to cut out all sensory stimuli to see the effects on our thought processes and consciousness.
Through his research he found that his participants experienced extreme relaxation, some reported moments of self-realization, and many even had personal epiphanies. This encouraged him to keep researching and developing, eventually leading to the creation of float spas.
The popularity of the float spa in the United States dropped dramatically with the rise of AIDS and fear of shared water sources in the 80’s, however it continued to slowly grow traction in other countries. By the late 90’s/early 2000’s, float tanks and spas started to gain attention in the United States again.
Now there are float spas in every state across the country with many large cities having more than one. (My city of Wilmington, NC has two places to float at the time of writing)
The Benefits of Floating
There are crazy amounts of benefits to floating. Personally, I have found that it increases my mindfulness, gives me a creative boost and allows me to think more clearly in the few days following a float.
The magnesium in the epsom salt is known to be a relaxant, and can help with muscle aches, tension and pain. It also helps to calm the nervous system which can alleviate anxiety.
The state of deep relaxation that many feel while floating also slows your brainwaves to theta waves. Theta waves help expand learning, memory and intuition. When in a state of theta waves, people are more apt to have free-flowing ideas.
Floating also lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone), increases blood flow and stimulates the release of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that reduce pain and trigger positive feelings.
There have also been suggestions that floating can lower blood pressure and increase cardiovascular health. This theory is based on the idea that lowered stress would put less of a strain on the cardiovascular system as a whole.
What is the Float Spa?
The float spa is where you go to float. Next question.
Just kidding. The float spa is a magical place where you can destress, connect with your inner self and being, and get away from the noise and non-stop distraction of the everyday world.
Seriously, do you ever feel like your brain is processing 24/7? Because it is. The closest we can get in our everyday settings to giving our brain a processing rest is to meditate. I highly suggest doing this everyday to give your brain a break. However, nothing is the same as “turning off” all of your senses.
A trip to the float spa not only allows you to take that time, but the whole experience is designed to refresh your soul.
My Float Spa Experience
The place I regularly go, TrueREST, is one location of a national franchise. I have to assume all of their locations are as amazing as the one by me, but I am basing my recommendation on my personal experience in Wilmington NC.
From the moment you walk in, you are greeted with a light, fresh aroma which immediately relaxes you. When I say light, I mean my mother-in-law who gets migraines at the mention of fragrance, can handle walking in without issue. From my first steps into the waiting area, I immediately feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
I’m brought back to my room which is pretty much like a large bathroom, sans toilet, with a close-able bathtub as the focus of the room. The shower is off to the side, no curtain or door, just an alcove in the wall. There is a wooden bench which has a towel, a washcloth, ear plugs and a single-use vaseline packet.
Before hoping into the float pod, I shower off. (Tip: put in your earplugs before your shower. They will stay in better if applied by dry hands to dry ears.) If I wasn’t already relaxed, the smell of the body wash would do it. Again, it’s refreshing and clean and super uplifting. (Seriously, I live for my showers at the float spa)
Once I’m showered I hop in, close the pod, lay back, close my eyes and relax.
Even writing about it now, I am craving the float. The water is body temperature so once the pad is closed you don’t feel cold at all. Or warm for that matter. Which is the point, to not feel anything. No temperature, no textures, no weight of gravity. Your senses can rest, which means your brain can fully rest.
I float for an hour. They have the option of light music and you have control over a colored light in the pod. I personally choose to only have music for the last 5 minutes of my float, just as a warning that it’s almost over, and I turn the light off. Since the aim is to have full sensory deprivation, I find this most relaxes me.
During my hour I spend some time thinking, some time meditating and focusing on my breath, and almost always doze off into a place between consciousness and sleep. Similar to that feeling you have just before you fall into sleep.
After my float I shower off with the amazing body wash, shampoo, and conditioner provided by the spa. I get dressed and head out into the relaxation room.
The feeling after a float is different every time, however I am always relaxed and refreshed. My best floats leave me feeling almost euphoric as I’m leaving. I call it a floating high.
At TrueREST they offer a relaxation room, this may of course be different everywhere. Here I can have a cup of fresh brewed tea if I choose, and enjoy the oxygen bar they have set up. I have done this before, and found it to be a really lovely end to my float, but to be honest I don’t often sit.
The great thing about a float is it doesn’t have to be an “experience”. I love an experience, but I also like to be able to have a float be part of an average day. Which means I have things I need to do afterward. Sometimes I can get a float in before picking my son up from school or in between meetings.
My Final Thoughts on Float Therapy
I honestly think everyone can benefit from floating. In today’s world we are so overwhelmed with stimuli coming at us from everywhere. Many people I talk to don’t even think they can sit in silence for any period of time. I used to be that person.
That’s not healthy for our minds or bodies. We were meant to let our bodies and minds rest sometimes.
Float therapy is great even for people who think they need to always be going. When you are able to get to that state in between consciousness and sleep, you allow your body that quiet rest. Even without you having to think about how quiet it is.
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