First, it was the precogs in Minority Report. Then came Eleven in Stranger Things. In Hollywood, floating in water is often depicted as a supporting element in various forms of esotericism. But what if floating in water had non-esoteric benefits? In other words, what if flotation could be an effective therapy for mental and physical conditions?
A newly popularized technique of flotation therapy involves spending an hour in a dark, soundproof room and floating in a warm pool. The pool is filled with approximately 1,330 pounds of magnesium sulfate, more commonly known as Epsom salt. The salt concentration of the pool enables you to float without effort and experience a sense of weightlessness.
Studies surrounding flotation therapy are still in the initial stages, but Dr. Justin Feinstein is one of the researchers seeking to identify its potential mental health benefits. Using functional MRI, Feinstein obtains images of each volunteer participant’s brain before they enter the pool, which allows him to map the brain’s metabolic activity. After an individual floats for an hour in the pool, Dr. Feinstein takes additional brain images. His findings suggest that floating seems to subdue activity in the amygdala, the brain’s center of anxiety and fear. In one of Feinstein’s initial studies among individuals with anxiety, it was reported that all 50 who tried flotation therapy showed measurable signs of relaxation, including lowered blood pressure, lowered brain activity, and reduced anxiety symptoms.
While the science behind flotation therapy is still under investigation, the prospect of treating a range of mental and physical issues such as anxiety, depression, and chronic pain without prescriptions seems worth delving deeper. So, would you spend an hour floating away your stress and anxiety?