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For Better Time Together, Spend Time Alone

For Better Time Together, Spend Time Alone

“What? Sorry, can you say that again – I was distracted.”

This is a phrase that’s all-too-commonly uttered these days. However, it seems apparent that it’s less a sign of personal failure and more an indication that the technological world we’re surrounded by is, indeed, incredibly distracting. Some of this is accidental, but much of it is purposefully designed by businesses, government, and individuals to grab our attention and keep it for as long as possible.

Unfortunately, this sensory assault takes its toll on us human beings, and being distracted is a symptom of the much larger problems of endemic stress and anxiety that plague so much of the population. It’s no surprise that this environment has led to an increase in popularity for meditation, mindfulness, and activities like floating. Floating lets us escape all of these distractions for a time, to give your body and mind time to rest, process, and heal.

When you come out of a float tank, the world often seems more vibrant. Colors appear brighter, the air after a fresh rain smells nicer, and good food tastes even more delicious. This heightened awareness isn’t just limited to your normal senses – many floaters report feeling more connection and empathy with the people around them. Often this is directed towards close friends or loved ones, but we’ve heard plenty of stories about small acts of kindness towards even total strangers post-float.

There is a common saying, phrased in many different ways through the years, that taking care of yourself and loving yourself are necessary preconditions for taking care of, and loving, others. Like an emotional version of the oxygen masks that drop down in a plane during an emergency: you make sure that you’re taken care of before taking care of those around you. Floating is a great example, and as any experienced floater will tell you, many of the most significant benefits of floating extend past your time spent in the tank, and beyond just making you feel better.

As a result, although it’s a practice that’s essentially about being completely alone, floating can actually be a wonderful experience for bonding and deepening connections with others. It’s very common for friends to come in together so that they can relax and hang out afterwards. Many couples also find that floating is a wonderful way to start off a romantic weekend together, or even just a casual date night. Taking time to process the thoughts that are always whirling through your head, and to let go of the stress from your regular obligations, is a perfect way to free up more space in your awareness and attention for those things (and people) that are right in front of you.

There is an openness and joy that comes along with being both relaxed and present. Some people might refer to it as being in a kind of flow state, where conversations and interactions just seem to click into place. This is a state where if something goes wrong, it’s laughed away rather than dwelled upon, and where normal distractions breeze by completely unnoticed and unheeded. Plus, if you’re grabbing lunch or dinner afterwards, food really does taste amazing (which certainly doesn’t hurt that magical feeling you have post-float).

All of these effects are more than just collected anecdotes – research on floatation consistently shows reduced stress and anxiety, along with increased feelings of serenity and well-being. Several studies have also shown that creativity increases  post-float, which could certainly be a part of why spending time with others right after a float can be so enjoyable. Feelings of being more present and aware are also consistently reported by float participants, and there are even some pilot studies showing improvement in attention and quality of life for those diagnosed with ADHD.

The unfortunate fact is that our brains are hardwired to be on alert for threats in our environment, and the modern world that surrounds us – with its loud noises, flashing lights, ever-present screens, and bustling crowds – keeps us pretty much constantly on edge. Being so mentally preoccupied all the time, it’s no wonder that it’s often hard to even focus on the person right across the table from you, and what they’re saying.

Whatever way you accomplish it, it’s important to cultivate the ability to tune out the ever-present distractions that bombard us (both those from the real world, and the ones that come from your own mental chatter). We, of course, recommend floating as the ideal tool, and whether you come in alone, with friends, or with your romantic partner, we’re sure that you’ll find the distractions melt away as your attention resurfaces.

Floating Up from the Depths

Floating Up from the Depths

As a vehicle for both relaxation and recovery, float tanks are fairly unparalleled. There are lots of studies and anecdotes about the benefits that even a single hour float can offer. The most profound (and often inspiring) results, however, actually come from floating more regularly.

We hear this everyday in our conversations with our members and regulars, and so for this month’s blog, we wanted to highlight some of the personal stories from long term floaters that have been shared publicly. While these are just a small sample of the incredible stories we’ve heard, they help to illustrate the wide variety of benefits floatation has to offer. Stories like these are why we opened our center, and why we’re so proud of the work that we do.

 

Emily Noren, as a young teenager, developed anorexia and bulimia. Maintaining her weight occupied much of her thoughts and actions for the next decade and a half of her life, and the treatments and medications she tried never provided long-term solutions. All too often, eating disorders like this are more than just unhealthy – they can be tragically fatal. Floating, which started off as an uncomfortable and slightly unsettling experience, became the catalyst for change in Emily’s life. She credits floating with, not only helping her have a healthier and happier life, but also with her full recovery from anorexia and bulimia: an achievement that some experts in eating disorders have questioned is even possible.

https://youtu.be/DyPIekihs8g 

 

Here is a link to Emily Noren’s book, “Unsinkable,” in case you want to read more about her story. 

An Australian soldier, Michael Harding was deployed to Afghanistan as an infantry machine gunner. He faced hostile contact, experienced the deaths of those around him, and was returned home experiencing severe symptoms of PTSD, including full-body muscle spasms. He and his partner Bek tell the story of his trauma, his struggles and substance abuse upon returning, and his path towards recovery through a regimen of alternative treatments: including support groups, medical cannabis, yoga, and floating. 

https://youtu.be/2c5CxbYfzT4 

 

Read more about Michael’s story in this article by Time magazine. 

 

Murphy Monroe tells his story of nearly debilitating verbal and physical tics. He spent most of his life, from childhood on, working to overcome these  through disciplined habits, such as clenching his whole body and running through mental distractions like adding large numbers in his head. He tells this story after his first year of floating, which completely reframed his control, and his views, of his previously uncontrollable habits: 

https://youtu.be/ra_Amta_vZ8 

 

 

Conclusion

At Paradise Float Spa, we have countless customers with stories like these. People who are struggling – with physical injuries, chronic stress, sleep disorders, and more – who find relief in floating as part of their ongoing efforts to better themselves. There is more and more evidence coming out showing how our long-term health and happiness depends on these habits of self-care. 

 

Whether it’s a practice of stillness (like floating and meditation), or something more active (like yoga, bicycling, and running), routines that involve giving your mind a break from constant input are crucial. A single, novel experience can definitely be beneficial to people on many different levels, but there’s no doubt that for floating, as with so many things in life, the benefits become stronger as you integrate the experiences into your everyday life over time. 

 

We want to leave you with Melissa Martinez, who floats every week – not to overcome an acute disability or trauma, but instead to simply have time set aside for herself, and no one else. Time free from the demands of the world and the people around her. Time to think, to recover, and to relax. She talks about how the practice of floating regularly has impacted her joy and her stress levels, and why she believes that she will continue to float for the rest of her life. 

Where Did Float Tanks Come From

Where Did Float Tanks Come From

Hopping into a soundproof, light-proof box filled with saltwater may be a popular relaxation therapy today, but those just discovering it are likely asking themselves: “who came up with this strange device, and when were float tanks developed?” In order to answer those questions, we first have to ask “why did they want to make them in the first place?”

 

In the early 1950s, neuroscience was a relatively new field of study, and how the brain worked was much less understood than it is today. One prevalent theory at the time was that our brains were designed to react to stimulation and that everything we did was solely a reaction to something external. Because of this, some scientists thought that if we were to remove all sensory stimulation, our brains would simply shut down. Early experiments to test their theories involved rooms with white noise (such as fans) blocking out sound and goggles with bright lights to keep participants from seeing anything clearly.

Physician and neuroscientist John C. Lilly thought this theory was incomplete and the testing methods being used weren’t a good way to demonstrate sensory reduction. Lilly, along with his colleague Dr. Jay Shurley at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), wanted to create an even more optimal environment to remove all sensory input on the human mind. To that end, they created the first float tank (or “isolation tank” as they called them) in 1954. It involved being fully submerged in water, and looked nothing like the sleek fiberglass designs we see today. In fact, they looked like something more out of a Halloween Haunted Mansion rather than a relaxation device. They required operators to monitor the air supply, which was sent to cumbersome breathing helmets at all times during use.

Lilly and Shurley initially experimented on themselves and recorded their reactions to this sensory reduced environment before later bringing in other people to try it out. Most of the subjects they had in the tank (including the two researchers themselves), found the tank incredibly relaxing.

In fact, their time in the tanks completely subverted their expectations – it was entirely different from what other researchers had published at the time on “sensory deprivation.” They were not slipping into a comatose state, nor was it the least bit distressing. Instead, Lilly found his time in the tank surprisingly profound and physically rejuvenating. Shurley found the float experience equally impressive, and the two of them spent the next decade improving on the design.

Over the next few years, Lilly also experimented with lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) inside the float tanks. The drug was extremely novel at the time and was beginning to widely circulate in academic circles in the late 50s. This was a departure from what Shurley was interested in studying, but Dr. Lilly found the combination of LSD and sensory isolation to be life changing.

So much so that it inspired him to write several books on how this combination of therapies impacted his life, work, and philosophy.

 

Throughout the 70s Dr. Lilly did speaking tours and workshops, bringing awareness of floating to a broader, but still very small, audience. He found himself in the middle of a cultural revolution in the United States as the world experienced a wave of social and political change. In 1972, Lilly met Glenn Perry at one of his speaking engagements at Bear Rock in California.

The two quickly became good friends. Glenn was an engineer who was also deeply interested in the meditative benefits that came from floating. He offered some suggestions to Dr. Lilly about how to improve the tank by adding salt to the water to raise the specific gravity, making it easier to float on the surface. It wasn’t long before they were collaborating on a design for a commercial float tank intended to go in every house in America. Thus Samadhi, the first float tank company, was born!

 

They started manufacturing in 1973 and opened up a 20 float tank center in Beverly Hills. Celebrity endorsements quickly started rolling in: Susan Sarandon, Michael Crichton, and Robin Williams all shared their profound experiences in interviews. The world learned about floating and they liked it!

 

Since those early years, a lot has changed. The tanks have evolved and a global industry has developed around floating, but that sense of discovery that inspired the first float tank is still a fundamental part of the experience. There’s still something to discover every time you go for a float: what will you find in the quiet darkness?

Appreciation, Inspiration, and Thoughtfulness

If you’ve ever gone on a walk after a good float, you’ve probably felt something similar to the experience of cresting a summit after a long hike or staring deeply into a beautiful painting. It’s that overwhelming feeling that comes from a profound sense of awe after being in the presence of something greater than yourself.

When we stop to smell the roses, it improves more than just the scent of the roses. When we slow down to appreciate the little things, those little things take up more of our mental focus. If we stop to think about this phenomenon, it can inspire some curious questions. What actually is awe? Why does it feel so good to experience it? Beyond being satisfying, how does it impact us?

Brain scans of people experiencing awe give us a few insights into some of these questions. Awe-inspiring moments can reduce activation in an area of the brain called the Default Mode Network. While a lot happens in this area of the brain, some of what it’s responsible for is auto-biographical information like our memories, opinions, and personal traits. Essentially, the Default Mode Network helps us understand the world through the context of ourselves. As a result, it’s also what helps determine how we feel about ourselves, our memories of the past, and our thoughts about the future.

The Default Mode Network works opposite another part of our brain called the Executive Control Network, which is the part of the brain that helps us make observations, pay attention to things outside of ourselves, and perform tasks. They are anticorrelated, meaning they don’t typically work at the same time. It’s difficult to make observations about the world around us while focusing on something from our past, which is why it’s easy to get distracted nostalgically strolling down memory lane when we were supposed to be studying for that final exam in college.

Basically, when we experience awe we’re quieting down the part of our brain that makes us focus on ourselves, the past, the future, and the outside world. These are the very same types of thought that we work to quiet in our brains when we float or practice mindfulness in other ways. That’s not just conjecture, either: the Float Clinic at the Laureate Institute of Brain Research has been researching what exactly happens to the brain when we float. We’ve learned that floating can be incredibly helpful for those who experience anxiety and other mental health conditions.

We’re also finally starting to see that part of the reason it’s so effective is because it’s reducing the activity in the Default Mode Network as well, which helps explain how it reduces anxiety. If we can’t think about social obligations, failures from the past, or worries we have for the future, it makes it much more difficult for our brains to perpetuate anxious thinking. This leaves more room for other parts of our brain to sit in the driver’s seat.

After a float, we’re likely at our most receptive to the sensations outside of ourselves, making it easier for us to appreciate the beauty of the world around us and the communities that we’re a part of. This is also a possible explanation for the profound sense of awe we can have when we observe beautiful artwork or when we meditate.

This makes mindfulness self-reinforcing. When we practice being more present and less focused on ourselves, it becomes a habit. The more often we practice stepping into this mental state, the easier it is to return to when we need to. It also enhances our appreciation for other things as well. Food tastes better, art is more captivating, we can engage in creative activities more easily, building connections between us and the rest of the world. This, in turn, has the potential to extend that enhanced sense of presence beyond just ourselves, into others around us.

Book your FLOAT today!

How to Learn to Love Yourself (and Others)!

How to Learn to Love Yourself (and Others)!

Let’s talk about loving yourself. It’s that time of year when partners and paramours really try to show their affection to their special someone. Alternatively, for the unattached, this time of year can be a reminder of our own isolation (and after 2020, that’s something we don’t need more of).

Whatever your Valentine’s Day might look like this year, you already have the perfect date: yourself. Even if you’ve already got a beau, belle, or similar beloved you intend to dote on, dedicating some affection internally can pay off for them as much as for you.

This means more than buying yourself something nice, giving yourself compliments, or going for a spa day. In fact, limiting your idea of self-love to such a surface level interpretation is going to be counterproductive in the long term.

If you’re going to date yourself, you gotta remember that it’s not going to be like a first date. You already know your best stories, after all. It’s more like going on a date night after a lifetime of marriage. The kind of date that reminds you why you fell in love in the first place. The important thing is to find ways to connect with yourself, to show that you care about your own well-being and you can appreciate the things about yourself that no one else will notice.

Self-love is as much about self-acceptance as it is self-care. When you accept yourself for who you are, it makes it easier to focus on others around you. Look at it this way: if we place most of our attention on our mistakes, then we are also failing to appreciate what’s truly important in life: the subtle flashes of beauty that come into existence before blinking away forever, the quiet moments of serenity that exist in between the big ones, or the joy that comes from sharing these things with those closest to us.

Too much focus on your flaws can become a compounding issue, too. If you dwell on your negative traits and behaviors (like many of us are prone to do) they can become self-reinforcing. Guilt isn’t a great motivator for change and instead can lead to fatalistic conclusions about how inevitable our perceived inadequacies can be. And since we have a bias towards negative information, we tend to seek out harsh or critical information over positive information, and if no one provides it, we’ll often provide it ourselves.

This is especially relevant right now on the heels of 2020. Most of us have probably been more than a little critical of ourselves lately, even if we’re not aware of it. We often blame ourselves for things that are outside our control, making it easy to feel like we’ve fallen short of our goals. This means now more than ever – it’s important to handle yourself, your ambitions, and especially your failures, with a little grace.

So how do we address this? Are there things we can do on our self-love dates that can help make us the best version of ourselves?

Yes! As it turns out, mindfulness is a great way to counter this impulse of self-obsession, so long as we do it correctly. Mindfulness, as a practice, has been a fundamental part of Hinduism and Buddhism for centuries. The practice of quieting the mind and keeping the body still was about stepping outside of one’s regular, self-oriented experiences, and was essential to religious practices that helped emphasize how the individual could improve the greater community. As mindfulness in the Western world has become more popular, it has often been used to amplify our sense of self, instead of helping to diminish it. So, while mindfulness can be extremely effective at reducing this cultural self-obsession, it needs to be approached intentionally to achieve that goal.

Floating is a great way to practice mindfulness and exercise being present. In fact, without any external stimulation, it can be difficult to do anything but live in the moment while your sense of self melts into the water and air around you. Dr. John C. Lilly, the creator of the float tank, used his invention to help develop his own radical personal improvement techniques.

So this Valentine’s Day, do yourself – and your loved ones – a favor. Treat yourself, not just to a pleasant and relaxing experience, but form that meaningful connection with who you are deep down. Go for a float, become one with the Nothingness you’re surrounded in, and come out ready to give everything you’ve got to those who need it. With the way this past year has been, it’s more important than ever to look out for each other, and that starts by looking out for yourself.

Fall for Floating

Fall for Floating

 

FALL FOR FLOATING

 

 
Fall is a great time to stop and reflect.   The trees look beautiful as they change colors.  They prepare to let their leaves go in anticipation of a new season.
 
 
However, with the constant barrage of information coming in whether it be ‘Breaking News’ or COVID-19 infections, or keeping up with your child’s online learning…
 
…it’s often difficult to recognize how much we are letting our thoughts control us.
 
 
Or maybe you have tried meditation, only to find out how very difficult it is to quiet your world and remain comfortable.
 
A float room is a perfect place to disconnect from the distractions and allow our body and mind to heal and reflect.
 
Spending time in a float room is an amazing tool that allows you to step away from your ego-mind and become an observer of your thoughts.
 
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
 
As an observer, we are free to choose the thoughts that serve us best.
 
Ancient wisdom has always known that knowledge can be found in silence and stillness.
 
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