By Danielle Spano | Photo courtesy of Mat Chandler

Clearing the mind is said to have positive effects on your well-being. Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) is a process where relaxation and meditation is performed in an environment isolated from sight and sound. The floatation form of this therapy, floatation REST, is commonly called float therapy or just floating. Floating takes place in what was formerly known as sensory deprivation tanks, invented by John C. Lilly in the 1950s. The modern form of these tanks, now called float or isolation tanks, are filled with a solution of water and about 30 percent Epsom salt to create buoyancy and a feeling of weightlessness. The water is heated to mimic the body’s temperature to eliminate any stimulation from the water. This reduced stimulation promotes relaxation and increases production of endorphins and theta waves, a type of brainwave that occurs during sleep and deep meditation.

Relaxation from floating REST initiates the body’s relaxation response, the direct opposite of the fight or flight response. This response reduces heart rate and blood pressure, relaxes the muscles and changes the body’s chemical balance. The decrease in stress-related biochemicals and increase of chemicals that create a sense of comfort reduce stress and increase tolerance for stress. This improves the ability to think clearly, and a decline in mental tension (stress) allows for more creative thinking. “I tried floating for an hour, and although I did have thoughts throughout, I found that I was able to think more constructively and categorize my thoughts,” said Ariana Aragon, a Gainesville resident. A study from the University of British Columbia, confirmed that floating facilitates a high level of creative behavior.

The meditative effect of floating stimulates the release of endorphins, which can promote a lasting state of well-being and create an ideal mindset for learning. Michael Hutchison, author of “The Book of Floating,” stated in his book “Mega Brain” that one session of floating induces a feeling of euphoria that results in more acute senses of sight, sound and smell.

From a series of studies at the Medical College of Ohio, researchers Thomas H. Fine and Dr. Roderick Borrie reported that floating decreases the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, making it a positive treatment for stress-related disorders such as hypertension, tension headaches, anxiety and insomnia. They do note, however, that counseling should be the principal treatment when depression is the primary diagnosis. Previously in 1983, Fine performed a study with John Turner for the First International Conference on REST and Self-Regulation and determined that the reduction of stress chemicals has what they call a “maintenance effect” that lasts for days after floating, resulting in an increased tolerance for stress following a float session.

“For people who have never done meditation, the float pods allow them to go into that same state through the lack of sensory stimulus,” Mat Chandler, founder of the Float Center in Gainesville (set to open by 2018), said. Floating assists in entering the theta state, also called a twilight state, which is where the subconscious dreams and daydreams and where intuition lives. A theta state is achieved through the increased production of theta waves that floating REST allows.

Floating is becoming more popular, and just one hour in a float tank can relax the mind and increase awareness with positive benefits to the body and mind alike.