Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons when Homer and Lisa are introduced to sensory deprivation tanks?
To refresh your memory, Lisa goes on a spiritual journey, while Homer goes on an actual journey.
A couple of weeks ago I went floating in a sensory deprivation tank (or isolation tank) and it was not like that episode of The Simpsons at all. However, it was still an experience like no other.
As a person who deals with anxiety and stress, I have the desire to escape from reality occasionally.
The start of a new semester at uni is always a stressful time. The stress usually occurs when I read through my assessments and try to comprehend how much work I have ahead of me. I become overwhelmed, and as a result feel very stressed out and anxious.
On my quest to ‘escape reality’ I discovered ‘floating.’ An experience that offers relief from chronic pain, anxiety and depression. I was extremely curious and did some research to see if there were any places in the Illawarra that offered this experience.
Cocoon Flotation, located at 70 Kembla St. Wollongong, seemed like the best option so I clicked on their website and booked an appointment.
What is Floating?
Floating is a form of sensory deprivation that involves lying in an isolation tank filled with water. It’s basically like a giant bathtub where you float in darkness and the outside world completely disappears.
How does it work?
The tanks are filled with Epsom salts which makes the water extremely dense, so when you lie down you float. Many people float to relieve stress, anxiety or to eliminate chronic pain. Others may do it to gain a spiritual experience through meditation or to help with learning and creativity. The water is kept at a constant 34.5 degrees Celsius, which is skin receptor neutral so you don’t get too hot or too cold.
Floating naturally increases dopamine and endorphin levels, boosting your mood and leaving you with a pleasant afterglow that lasts for days after your float.
Before my floating appointment I was slightly nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I had some concerns going in such as:
- Will I be claustrophobic?
- What if I can’t switch off and I’m bored?
- Will I come out looking like a wrinkly old prune?
I arrived at Cocoon Flotation and was greeted by the lovely Catherine. I filled out a quick medical form and was taken through to my float room.
When I first got into the tank I felt a little bit anxious. It was quite dark and I felt uncomfortable having the lid closed at first. It was the weirdest sensation because you’re literally just floating in water, which can take some time to get used to.
Once I had adjusted, I closed the lid and tried to clear my mind. It took me about half an hour to become fully switched off and I found myself drifting to sleep. Unlike Lisa in that episode of The Simpsons, I did not have any crazy hallucinations, however I was totally relaxed and enjoyed my time immensely.
I was eventually woken up by the jets turning on, signalling that I only had 10 minutes of my float left. I got out, showered and then met Catherine at the reception desk who was thrilled that I had enjoyed my first floating experience.
Coming out, I was amazed at how easy it was for me to relax. The fact that I was able to switch off completely was a huge accomplishment, as I struggle to do so on a daily basis. My initial fears of claustrophobia and boredom faded away as I became immersed in the water.
As for looking like a prune, this was not the case. The Epsom salt made my skin feel hydrated and smooth and overall I felt amazing (basically like I could accomplish anything).
A 60-minute float costs $79, which is a little pricey but in my opinion, totally worth it. This is not something I would do all the time but would consider doing every three months or so. You can either book online via the Cocoon Flotation website or by phone.
According to the Cocoon Flotation website, the longer and more often you float, the stronger the benefits become.
Tips for beginners
- It’s best to shower before and after you float. Try not to make the shower too hot, otherwise you might be cold when getting into the tank.
- When floating you should be fully naked so no loose clothing or garments can distract you.
- Put your phone on silent before going in so you’re not distracted.
- If you are feeling claustrophobic, you can leave the lid open and the light on the entire time.
- Floating can be very relaxing and because of this many people may be afraid of drowning if they fall asleep. This will not happen! The buoyancy of the water will keep you afloat.
My experience with Cocoon Flotation was amazing and I am 100% booking another appointment in the future. I would recommend this experience to anyone who deals with stress, anxiety, chronic pain or even those who are looking for some creative insight.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any further enquires about my experience!