5 Ways to Calm the Mind while Floating
Whether you’re a meditation master or a novice to the modality, racing thoughts and a busy mind can sneak up on anyone. And that’s where floating can help. Science that sensory deprivation tanks or “REST” therapy “has positive effects on physiology (e.g., lower levels of cortisol, lower blood pressure), well-being, and performance” and “can be a useful stress management tool in addition to or instead of other stress management tools.”
For some, calming the mind is as quick and easy as closing the lid on the pod, but if you find yourself needing a little more time to decompress and quiet your thoughts, here are five repeatable steps to help you transition into a state of floating bliss, separately or in your own special, very personal, combination.
1. Focus on your breath:
Breathwork is a meditation 101 tactic with benefits that include oxygenating the blood, resetting the nervous system, and calming the mind. However, there are quite a few different breathing techniques for different occasions.
When in the tank, simply focus your attention on the breath, without forcing or changing its pace. Feel your inhale, experience your exhale. Where do you feel the breath the most? In the lungs? At the nostril? In your throat? Simply hone your attention on the power of your own breath. When your mind wanders (and you notice it!), redirect your thought to the breath. Has it changed? Is it deeper, shallower, in your belly, in your chest?
Another way to direct your attention to the breath is through measured count. Inhale for 7 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds. Repeat this for as many cycles as needed.
2. Do an “Ex-Tension” practice
Floating is a very effective way to elongate the spine, recover muscle fatigue and release cooped up tension in places you might not even realize are tense. This “ex-tension” technique is intended to help you locate and let go of tension just as you would any other “ex”. And bonus: it can be done with the breathwork above simultaneously or just on its own. For the first few moments in the tank, take three deep releasing breaths. Notice where you feel pain, or need release. After three breaths, focus your attention on this area, take three more deep breaths and on each exhale, say to yourself “Let go.” or “It’s ok to relax my (body part: shoulder, neck, lower back etc)”. Repeat this until you feel the tension release. Be patient, and be kind to yourself in the process. Once the tension or stress pangs melt away, locate your next area of tension, and repeat, as you feel necessary.
3. Do 3–5 cycles of body scans:
Similar to breathwork, body scans are intended to keep your attention with your body, and away from your full mind. Most start with the feet and work up. You can go as macro or micro as you prefer, i.e. feet vs toes vs bones in feet, or belly vs reproductive system vs each internal organ.
4. Do a pre-float anxiety journal:
Before ducking into your float session, decide which anxieties, worries and stressors you want to leave at the door. Jot them down on a piece of paper or a mental notepad. Write “Anxiety A, B, C, are not joining me in the tank today.” If they bubble up while floating simply say, “Anxiety A, you’re not welcome with me while I’m floating today. I’ll attend to you when I’m finished.” At Pause we have a relaxation lounge perfect for pre-float prep and re-acclimation post-float. Once out of your float therapy, it can also be a nice reflection to observe how you feel about and relate to your anxieties post-float.
5. Ditch your tech distractions:
This is the most straight-forward way to get the mind ready for a sensory-free environment. Give yourself at least 30 min in the distraction-free zone before heading into your float session. Arrive early to your appointment and get in your relaxation mind lying in one of Mot’us tranquil massage therapy rooms.
Everyone experiences floatation therapy differently, so when in the tank, be playful, and find which technique (or combination) works best for you. While all five of these will prepare you for an unbelievable float session, quiet the mind and help you reach deep relaxation, it’s important to remember to do just that, relax! Be patient with whichever technique or combination of techniques you choose to do, and try to not obsess about getting it right or doing it perfectly! Keep breathing, keep refocusing the attention to the physical body, or find yourself in a deep sleep. And with practice, instant relaxation will become second nature once in the pod.