Why float?

We humans have an incorrigible need to romanticize the past; to romanticize that which is no longer attainable. We fantasize about living a simpler life in a simpler time, and the past is undoubtedly simpler than the present.

But play the thought experiment out a little longer, a little more honestly, and something becomes abundantly clear – boredom. Once the novelty wears off, most modern humans would be cripplingly bored existing in any previous era.

This isn’t to say that we have driven boredom into extinction, it’s just that each individual has more ways to extinguish dullness than any human has ever had in human history.

While merely decompressing inside a float (a.k.a. deprivation or isolation) tank may not sound like one of those ways, it is just that.

Think back over the past month and take note of what you remember. Despite taking up a large amount of time during that month, the day-to-day automatic activities occupy a conspicuously small percentage of the retrievable memories.

Forgettable routines are not, in and of themselves, bad, but it is exploration and new experiences that enhance human life. And getting inside a cavernous box devoid of outside stimuli is absolutely unforgettable.  The equation really can be that simple.

Departure from the status quo, perhaps more than anything else, is the reason to float. Even if you are seasoned in the practice, there is still a special physical and mental exploration that occurs each time you embark. Oftentimes, the effect stays with someone far beyond time in a tank.

One could surely sing the same praises about any number of practices (i.e. drugs) which contain serious downsides. That is not the case with float tanks. Excluding those who are claustrophobic, there really isn’t anything bad that can happen.

You float in a “tank” in total darkness. Tanks can come in various shapes, but all allow a normal sized human to fully stretch out. The tank is filled with a level of water which enables a comfortable float.  That floating occurs because the water density is increased through the use of Epsom salt. Part of the comfortability, and a floating in an isolation tank pretty much defines comfortability, is derived from the water temperature that is set to align with human skin temperature. Most people use earplugs to even further create a reality devoid of stimuli.  You are then left to your own thoughts for around sixty to ninety minutes.

This form of undisturbed meditation and relaxation has to be good for you, right? Stress reduction?  Less anxiety? Depression abatement? Improved sports performance?

There are studies that have positively answered “yes” to all these questions. There are even whispers that an hour in a deprivation tank is equivalent to around eight hours of sleep.

Is this evidence enough to conclude that a trip to the isolation tank will make your life dramatically better? The standard for anything that has (or purports to have) therapeutic and medicinal benefits applies – it’s ultimately up to each user to determine effectiveness.

Maybe those longings for a simpler time aren’t so misguided. Maybe boredom isn’t even that unappealing. Or at least a brand of boredom that comes from a paucity of options as opposed to boring inaction borne out of an overwhelming number of choices. Maybe it would be useful, and also downright enjoyable, to be totally free from distractions with nothing to do but feel and think.