PROVO — Haley Gustavson, 23, just graduated from college and is now studying for the certified public accountant exams before starting a new accounting job. With a rigorous study schedule, she looks for any excuse to escape her textbooks.
In the past, Gustavson has tried yoga and massages as means of de-stressing. When she heard about another recent trend, she knew she had to try it: floating in a sensory deprivation tank.
Gustavson hoped into a large pod filled with 11 inches of water and 1,000 pounds of dissolved Epsom salts. For 60 minutes, she floated in skin temperature water without interruption.
Provo’s True Rest Float Spa owner Kris Gunther said the experience puts people in a theta brainwave state of deep relaxation. “It’s before you fall asleep. It’s kind of where your brain slows down,” he said.
Gustavson said the experience is unlike anything she’s ever tried. “Quiet," she said. "Nothing to think about. You feel nothing. You’re just floating. No aches. It’s cool!
“You don’t have your phone. You don’t have any distractions.”
Intermountain Healthcare’s Jason Conover, a licensed clinical social worker at Utah Valley Hospital, said the experience can help people be more aware. “Mindfulness is really an opportunity to really take charge of our lives, to sit in the driver’s seat,” he said.
Gunther said floating can help people with insomnia, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. “We have quite a few people who have addictions who come here and absolutely love it,” he said.
Conover also said there are physical benefits to floating. “With meditation and mindfulness, you get decreased pain. You get improved blood flow,” he said. Conover also said meditation can increase activity in the prefrontal cortex which can heighten wisdom, perceptive and impulse control.
Athletes and people with chronic pain have also found relief. Bottom line, Gunther said floating can help just about anyone take a break from a busy schedule.
Small business owner Jacob Peterson said floating helps him step away from constant work. “It really just helps me take a step back and take an hour for myself,” he said.
Peterson said the practice is a relaxant but also a stimulant. “I feel recharged and able to handle tasks more effectively and efficiently after I float,” he said.
Annie Madsen also makes a regular habit of floating. She is a full-time student and works full-time night shifts.
“It makes it feel like I can keep going and keep doing the day to day things that I need to do and just feel that happiness and rejuvenation that I need after floating,” she said.
“Here in Utah, we don’t self-care enough. We don’t take the time to disconnect," Gunther said. "We are always on the go.”
Gustavson said she will be back. “After just laying there for an hour, you’re ready to take on the rest of the day,” she exclaimed.
Conover recommends people read up about the experience before taking a dip to have clear expectations so they’re not distracted during their float.
He said this will counter any unnecessary anxiety someone might feel their first time floating.
For more information on floating, visit True Rest Float Spa's website.