The last weekend my wife and I decided that we would experience a floatation tank, sometimes called a sensory deprivation tank. There is some research passed on these devices that suggest they help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety on extensive use. In this blog post, I explore my experience, thoughts, and judgment on my first floatation tank experience and where you too can take part in your own floatation.
My first floatation tank experience in London
We booked our first floatation tank experience in London, Canary Wharf on a Sunday morning at 10 am thinking it would leave plenty of time to get there and enjoy the rest of the day to do something else just as relaxing. Oh boy, were we wrong! The trains were delayed…again and again, we thought we wouldn’t arrive at the therapy rooms in time so as our stress levels became elevated we believed we may have to cancel our appointment and accept it wasn’t meant to be…
Alas! Through a combination of my wife’s determination, running through London’s train stations and up many escalators and streets of canary wharf whilst maintaining a slight possibility we could still arrive at our destination, even if in a hurry, we were only late by 15 minutes! If there was any time to test out whether a therapy is meant to relax you completely or not then this certainly was it.
Introduction to the floatation tanks
When we arrived at the floatation centre in Canary Wharf, one of the few in central London, we were greeted by a warm and friendly woman from Estonia. Very kind, gentle, and informative in discussing the benefits of floatation and how to prepare before entering the tank. Handed some earplugs and ordered to shower we locked our doors and prepared for our moment in total sensory deprivation.
Preparation to float
Once I had showered, placed the earplugs in my ears, and felt ready, I placed my left foot followed by the right, into the pod of heated body temperature salt water and slowly, began to close the lid over my head. As the lid closed and I began to lay flat I could already feel that my body was beginning to float like a buoy in the water. I could tell it was going to be impossible to sink and that put my mind at ease and so, I pushed the light button off to put myself in complete darkness and slowly drift off into the centre of the pod. Once the light was off I began to hear the sound of waves and seagulls being played from inside the pod. Listening to these sounds and laying in the water my mind began to wander as though I was floating just off a Caribbean island as I tried to find my center of balance as I did notice I kept moving to each edge of the pod until, after around 10 minutes, I found it.
A floating body, drifting creative mind
As I found my center of balance and I could no longer feel any edge of the pod the sounds stopped and now it was just me, complete darkness and a warm body of water that was very relaxing, a little like taking a hot bath.
At first, I found the water a little like a sauna, hot and the air fairly dense which admittedly, made me feel a little claustrophobic at first but after 15 minutes of enduring this warmth I relaxed completely and that is when my mind wandered from thought to thought.
It is an incredible thing to think how imaginative our minds can be (take this as a pre-warning to my vivid imagination) as whilst I was floating my visions, in my mind’s eye, were almost like having dreams whilst awake! It started with thoughts of blue whales swimming around me in circles and at my feet and the concept of being under the ocean remained for quite some time as my mind imagined drifting effortlessly next to coral and schools of fish. It was completely relaxing and in no way did I feel in danger or panicked. I guess this stage was my mind starting to relax and get into a deep sense of relaxation.
After this quite surreal experience, I imagined floating in outer space and almost felt like I was spinning slowly in a 360 even though I was completely still!
30 minutes into the floatation
At this point, my family started coming into my mind. How I care about them and all my concerns for them, how could I improve their lives? Then I began to also think of this very website, how could I make it work for people, was it going to help? Was I wasting my time? Was it going to have good repercussions or not? The more common thoughts we all tend to have day to day began to flood my mind rather than the initial creative, abstract, and vivid visions I began with.
45 minutes into the floatation
I had noticed something about the pod, I could see a small gap in the lid of the pod. A different shade of black entering the complete darkness…in fact, I seem to remember it looking like a line of white rather than black thus was the depth of darkness inside the pod. I remember, at one stage, looking to the left of my head and seeing nothing but darkness and then to the right, the light (or gap in the lid).
My mind wandered again…if we have a soul, when we die is this is what it is like? Is there just darkness and the tunnel of light that people talk about who have near-death experiences? I continued thinking
‘this nothingness really is emotionless and eventless…even if our life is hard, challenging or difficult surely that is better than ‘nothingness’ ‘
I felt a deep sense of gratitude for being alive at this moment and for what my life is, how far I had come and changed things around, how very lucky I am rather than what focusing on what I tend to believe is lacking from my life. What an incredible gift life is!
Leaving the pod and the aftereffect
At 55 minutes the sounds of the sea and seagulls returned and so did the light…my session was over and boy, did I feel relaxed!
After my session, I felt a renewed sense of what it means to be alive. My perceptions of the world were changed, my confidence seemed lifted and also just a complete sense of utter relaxation.
Can floatation tanks help people who have a common mental illness?
There are several studies that suggest floatation tanks are known to help people who have depression, anxiety, or high levels of stress but after experiencing the floatation for myself, what do I think?
I have no doubt my floatation experience gave me many benefits. It relaxed my mind, gave confidence, and was worth spending time ‘away from the world’ for a whole hour to reorganize an often very busy world where we never give ourselves time to do much thinking.
This alone time I believed changed my perceptions and reorganized my thoughts. I believe, for some, several sessions of floatation would help, alongside other treatments, to improve depressive, anxious, or stressed feelings.
Like most therapies it is about trying it out for yourself, experimenting with different methodologies, techniques, and strategies to see if it benefits you in a positive way. Saying this, I have a deep sense and belief that if you are someone who has quite a busy and stressful life then these 1-hour escape from the world and all your senses could be extremely beneficial to you to get some stress relief, relaxation, and a peaceful mind.
Find a floatation tank near you and test it out, you may find it is something that benefits your health! Please comment below if you have had a floatation tank experience or what your thoughts are on this alternative treatment.