Is floating helpful for managing things like depression, anxiety and stress? Researchers are finding that floating offers possible long-term results for a variety of mood and mental health issues. In addition to showing promising benefits for depression, anxiety and stress, floating has also been shown to help with muscular pain and sleep disorders. What is it about sensory deprivation that appears to be so good for both the mind and body? Many people wonder what to expect when getting in the tank. A sensory deprivation tank is used as part of something called restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) that significantly reduces sensory stimulation to create an environment of relaxation that is impossible to achieve in ordinary settings. Containing just enough water for the floater to relax on their back, a sensory deprivation tank reduces the way a person experiences the effects of gravity. Tanks are also soundproof to minimize distractions.
What the Research Says About Floating and Wellness
A study published in 2018 on the short-term anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of floatation-REST shows considerable promise for people suffering from a wide variety of mental health issues. Researchers designed a study using 50 participants suffering from anxiety and depression. What makes this particular study so interesting is that the participants chosen were experiencing a wide range of different anxiety and stress-related disorders covering social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers were able to conclude at the end of the study that a single one-hour session of floatation-REST was capable of inducing a strong reduction in anxiety states while creating substantial improvements in mood.
Another study, this one from 2014, showed similar results. In this study, participants reported significant decreases in stress, depression, anxiety and pain after taking part in flotation-REST experiences. Those same participants also reported increases in optimism and sleep quality. By contrast, no significant results were reported in the control group. It actually gets even more interesting after that. Researchers concluded that flotation participants experienced a significant correlation between mindfulness in daily life and degrees of altered states of consciousness during relaxation in the flotation tank. This seems to point to long-term cognitive and mental benefits that reach into daily life even when participants are not in the float tank.
Why Is Sensory Deprivation Good for Mental Health?
There's still a lot being revealed by researchers about the benefits of floating with sensory deprivation. Many people know that they anecdotally "feel different" both during and after floating. It's known that at least some of the benefits of floating are tied to the way that sensory deprivation activates something called the parasympathetic nervous system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, people can enjoy a slower heart rate that induces a state of bodily relaxation. The parasympathetic nervous system also helps reduce blood pressure while decreasing the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol that runs rampant through the body when we are "all charged up." Cortisol is linked with feelings of anxiety, panic and burnout.
Is Floating the Future of Mental Wellness?
The research on floating for mental health couldn't look better. People struggling with nearly all forms of anxiety and depression are finding relief using this natural, carefully controlled method of rebalancing the mind and body.