What is floatation therapy? 

Do you remember the last time you did absolutely nothing? Switching off both body and mind is becoming an increasingly difficult thing to do, but its importance is perhaps greater than ever. Many of us know the health benefits of meditation, but the practice can be hard to master. Floatation therapy could offer an alternative, not only freeing the mind but also the body.

How does floatation therapy work?

Floatation therapy uses a floatation tank. This is a self-enclosed tub containing Epsom salt-infused water. Heated to body temperature, the idea is for the water’s buoyancy to hold your body as you let go entirely and experience deep relaxation. By removing sensory stimulation, your brain wave patterns will slow and you should find yourself feeling relaxed not only in the tank but for days afterwards. 

Taking away any stimuli from the outside world can make it easier to switch off for those who typically struggle with meditation. 

This approach has been found to be beneficial for a range of physical health conditions including migraines, joint/muscle pain and fibromyalgia. It can also have profound effects on reducing stress levels and easing mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and sleep issues. 

A 2018 study found that just a single one-hour session in a floatation tank caused a significant reduction in anxiety and improvement in mood in 50 participants with stress and anxiety-related conditions.

Therapy Directory’s own Membership Services Team Manager Jo Ferguson says floating does wonders for her mood. Here she recalls her first experience:

It sounds cheesy, but from the moment I emerged from the pod my overriding emotion was one of indescribable elation, and I remember driving home with the biggest smile on my face for absolutely no reason. Coming out of a float feels like a new start for me: I feel re-energised, reinvigorated and at peace with the world.

Floatation therapy has even been used alongside conventional therapy to support soldiers struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder

In Sweden, there are over 120 float centres and the treatment itself is covered by the health service. Opinions in the UK seem to still have a little way to go, with it being seen as a luxury rather than a medical provision, but with more awareness of floatation, this could be set to change.

If you’re keen to try it out for yourself, you can visit floatationlocations.com to find a floatation therapy centre near you. Once you’ve booked in for your first float, follow the guidelines below to make the most of your time.

Preparing for floatation therapy

  • Try to avoid large meals before floating and use the toilet before entering – remember, you want as few distractions as possible. 
  • Avoid caffeine and any other stimulants before floating, these may make it harder for you to relax. 
  • Avoid waxing or shaving immediately beforehand, the levels of Epsom salts in the tank may irritate your skin. 
  • Avoid using hair dye or fake tan before you float, this could contaminate the tank.

When you’re in the floatation tank

  • Try to be still as you float, rather than trying to move around the tank. Interlace your hands behind your head or have your arms stretched out. 
  • Keep your eyes closed and if thoughts pop in, acknowledge them and let them go. Breathe deeply and enjoy the feeling of weightlessness.
  • Remember there is no ‘right’ way to float. If closing the lid and having the light off doesn’t feel relaxing to you, experiment with leaving the light on, and/or the lid open. 

After your float

  • Try not to jump into strenuous work after your float. Take some time to enjoy the relaxing benefits and head back into your day slowly and with intention. 
  • Note how the float makes you feel just after, for the rest of the day and for the rest of the week. If you find it helps reduce stress, consider making it a regular thing. 

Carving out time for relaxation and self-care is important for both mental and physical health. If this is something you’re struggling with, you may find our guide to overcoming self-care stumbling blocks helpful. 

This article was updated on 27/06/23

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Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Content Producer for Memiah and writer for Therapy Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
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