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float away - a beginners guide to floating

I love this photo. Kids just do what feels good without thinking too hard about how their actions will be seen by others. I'm aiming to be more child-like in my choices and just do what feels good to me.

That's one reason why I bought a Groupon for Floatation Sessions. I had heard that floating is beneficial to your body and mind, but honestly, I put on my kid-cap and jumped in because I thought it sounded fun. Guess what? It really is!

Why Float?

According to The Chicago Stress Relief Center's, Beginner's Guide to Floating, "floating naturally increases your dopamine and endorphin levels, boosting your mood and leaving you with a pleasant afterglow that lasts for days afterward."

I can attest to that! I felt amazing when I left the center and all the next day. It was like I had done hours of meditation or body work. I was just "chill."

After the post-float glow settled and life resumed to normal, I started doing a bit of research as to why I felt so relaxed after just spending an hour floating around in salt water.

Turns out that floating is amazing because it focuses on what you "can't" do -

* the 1000 pounds of epsom salt, means you can't fight gravity;

* the 94 degree water, means you can't tell where your body ends and the water begins;

* the total darkness and complete lack of sound, means you can't take in any new information.

All of this means that your mind is free to think without physical distractions, and your body gets to experience its natural restorative state.

There are physical benefits to floating too, such as absorption of magnesium from the salt water, decreased cortisol levels (stress hormones), increased sleep and mood, decreased levels of pain. Floating can be used to manage migraines, treat anxiety and increase optimism. All good things!


My Float

Now you may saying, how does this logistically work and wouldn't I be scared to be in complete darkness in a pool of water for an hour? Um....I kinda was at first. I needed to know all of the specifics as to how this floating would work so that I could feel comfortable and actually RELAX into it.

At The Chicago Stress Relief Center, each Ocean Float room is large - like with 7' ceilings and 5' feet across, kind of large. Its like a private pool - not claustrophobia inducing at all. There are lights inside when you step in and the door pushes out. I did not feel insecure at any point.

You take a shower, then step in to the float room. I used a thin ring to rest my head in, so that my face stayed above the water. Everything else gets wet. I put in ear plugs to help keep the water out, but that is up to you. Since it is salt water, you don't want to get it in your eyes - or mouth - but I had a spray bottle of fresh water and a towel for that one time that I rubbed my nose. Epsom salt does NOT taste like regular salt, you can trust me on that.

Then, just lay there in your glorified tub. It took me about 10-15 minutes to relax my brain and stop all the thoughts from spinning. The lights automatically went off after 10 minutes - but I did keep opening my eyes to see if they had gone off yet. I kept trying to figure out how much time I had left, but in a good way, not in a rushing through the process way. Next time I'll turn off the lights once my brain settles a bit so that I won't focus on them.

I was able to work through my meditation process to begin the float. I breathe slowly while saying "breathe in" and "breathe out." This helps me maintain my focus. When thoughts or ideas pop in, I say "thinking" and then just let it go without judgement or comment. I have been meditating for a few months, but never for an hour at one time.

After a while in the float room, I did feel myself drift off. I don't think I feel asleep, but my brain went into a deep trance-like state and I just absorbed the silence.

Somewhere maybe halfway though my float, I thought I heard piano music from far away. Since each room is sound proof, I didn't know how this could be, but it did bring me back to the present very quickly. One of the staff members suggested that I might have imagined it, but who knows.

After the ghost piano, I was not able to get back to the ultra relaxed state that I was in prior. I still thoroughly enjoyed the session and was sad when the music came on to signal that the hour had ended.

The lights do not come back on again, so that your mind is not shocked back into reality too quickly. I turned them on myself before opening the door - bad idea. WAY too bright after 45 minutes in complete darkness. Next time, push open the door for some soft light from the shower room to step out safely.

Take a lovely warm shower to wash off all the salt - and clean your mouth if you tasted it just for kicks. Use tons of body lotion and conditioner - paraben free! Then dress and you are good to go.


I look forward to my second session in the upcoming month and testing my theories above. I am resolving to spend more time relaxing in 2019 and floating is definitely on the agenda!

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