Float therapy, or floating, is a trending wellness tool, allowing people to reduce stress, relieve pain and generally feel more positive and optimistic about life. Though this practice is new to many, float therapy was born in America and has resurfaced here, all grown-up and better than ever. Here’s a brief history of floatation therapy to better understand how this trend came about.
Floating is not some New Age mumbo jumbo; it was and remains a child of science. The first float tank was developed in 1954 by Dr. John C. Lilly, a neuropsychiatrist interested in the effects of sensory deprivation on the brain. HIs initial design evolved over time, and the first commercially available float tank emerged in 1972.
The basic design hasn’t changed much: A large, enclosed fiberglass tub filled with 11 inches of very salty, warm water allows anyone to effortlessly float, free of outside stimulation and distraction. Some tanks are smaller pod shapes, while others, like ours at Just Float, are larger cabins, roughly the size of a walk-in closet, with available light and audio to customize your experience.
Though floating did not initially enjoy huge popularity in the States, it exploded in Europe, where much of the best float research has been done (1). Today there are more than 500 float centers across more than a dozen countries overseas and more than 150 places to float in North America, with more opening every month (2,3). If you live in a major city in the U.S. or Canada, chances are there’s a float center nearby just waiting for you to stroll in and unplug.
One of the most exciting developments here at home is the creation of a new float research center at LIBR, the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Under the direction of Justin Feinstein, a young neuropsychologist, the new lab will use float tanks, fMRI and EEG machines to study how floatation therapy can be used to help patients build mind/ body awareness and improve the treatment of many common psychological conditions (4).
Considering the fact that Americans are spending billions every year to treat anxiety and depression, this new research could help shift our focus to more natural and effective solutions that don’t require a prescription.
While this little stroll through float history is nearing an end, your interest in floating may be just beginning. The future of floatation therapy is incredibly bright, and we at Just Float hope you explore this amazing new frontier for yourself sometime soon.