FLOAT THERAPY: a solo escape.

For all the convenience of technology and the deluge of content, we all need to unplug with regularity. All the screens, shows, podcasts, emails, texts, pings, and other notifications can at best work us up, and at worst give us serious mental and emotional distress. There’s a lot going on, and if you don’t control it, it can take you over.

Which is why it’s worth disconnecting. Completely disconnecting. Like The Matrix, but without that dystopian world. Self-care is a popular term now, and it can have a lot of meanings, but actually putting in effort to counteract the negative effects of always being logged on is vital to one’s health and happiness. And one of the best ways to do that is going for a float. Indeed, an enclosed saltwater pod is the solution to what troubles you.

Originally developed as isolation tanks for neuropsychological and medical reasons in the 1950s, sensory deprivation or float pods gained some self-care appeal in the last couple of decades, gaining steam in Europe (of course) in the last ten years. The floating scene, as it were, started to populate big cities in North America, like San Francisco. Over the last few years, it’s expanded as more and more people take to embracing pampering, rejuvenation, escape, and all those other positive, introspective activities.

Floating finds you, well, literally floating in a saltwater bath, laying on your back with arms and legs spread out. There are no lights (although some may give you the option of having stars above you) and there is no sound. These baths are (escape) pods, where a door or lid closes so as to drown out all stimuli. Once you settle—there may be a floating head rest for added comfort and earplugs will be available—and take some deep breaths, you begin to detach and then figuratively float away.  And now you are (gasp!) alone with your thoughts.

It’s an environment that not only forces you away from all screens; it more or less removes you from everything going on. There is no phone, no music, no games to play, nothing to fidget with. You are literally and figuratively naked and alone—and it’s one of the most refreshing things you can do.

Slow your breathing as you relax, and soon you will lose a sense of time and space—in a good way. When you’re still, you’re likely to not be able to feel where your skin ends and the water and air begin; you won’t notice a difference between being in and out of the water. You just are. Even if you resist, staring wide-eyed, watching twinkling stars or staring off into blackness, it’s still hard to calculate just where and when you are. Closing your eyes may give you a sense that you are drifting within the pod even thought you’re not. Maybe you’ll feel like you’re floating down a river, or maybe you’re ascending to the clouds. For more experienced floaters—those who are more prepared and open to the event— you may start hallucinating or even lucid dreaming. That’s when you know you’ve achieved peak disconnection.

It’s a great escape. Even when we sleep nowadays, if we were watching TV or looking at our phones prior to nodding off, our brains will still be active and our sleep poor. So many us can’t sit still; meditation can even be a tricky, foreign concept. 

Aside from the obvious mental aspects of letting your brain reset, there are many physical benefits too. The saltwater has rejuvenating properties, leaving your skin feeling smooth and your muscles relaxed. Often a float is aptly paired with yoga or exercise, where, like a massage, your can soothe your body following physical activity. Floats are also great after massages, because why not double down on the self-love?

There are few things to keep in mind when floating. In order to minimize distractions, make sure you eat and drink enough beforehand; an empty stomach is distracting and uncomfortable. That said, don’t eat and drink so much that you’re bloated or have to use the bathroom. Having to leave the pod pretty much ruins the experience. 

It’s also best that you don’t have much to do afterwards. Likely, and hopefully, you will feel blissfully relaxed. You’re not necessarily tired, but you’re probably going to move around a little more slowly and will want to seek out similar leisurely self-care pursuits. Going to the gym or back to work is not advised. 

Turning off screens, noise, and alerts is an essential part of calming yourself, staying focused, and maintaining mental and physical health. Because we can be connected, even when we sleep, we need to take decisive, powerful steps to regroup. Even if you can’t float regularly, there are some home hacks you can try to get a similar experience. Take regular baths: ignite candles but turn off other lights. Add Epsom salt and even some bubbles. Make sure your phone, watch, tablet, and anything else is out of the room. Just relax and be, for as long as you can.  

Meditation is another worthy endeavor. Turn off the lights and noises. If sounds carry easily where you live, headphones can help, especially if you opt for meditation or nature sound podcasts or apps. It’s not completely deprived you of your senses, but the effect of disconnecting is still felt. Take measures big and small to make sure you have some time alone—really alone—and you’ll be amazed how invigorating it can be. Float on.

Images / Unsplash + Wiki

Anthony Marcusa
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. But he’s always curious.