Nothing: Am I Doing it Wrong?

Flotation therapy is an experience that used to be called sensory deprivation (but that sounds scary, so they don’t call it that anymore). The idea is that if you eliminate sensory stimuli, your brain relaxes, and so do you. As an introvert, this makes intuitive sense to me, and I wanted to try it.

Being overwhelmed with sensory input is exhausting, and blocking it out can be incredibly restful. It’s why I sleep with earplugs and an eye-pillow. Proponents claim flotation therapy promotes relaxation and reduces stress; can enable you to quickly reach brain states otherwise only found in deep meditation; can help reduce pain or heal injuries; and can increase focus and creativity.

I went to a local flotation spa and was shown into a lovely, private, soothingly-lit suite that included both a shower and the flotation tank. By the time I entered the suite I was starting to get a little anxious about this experiment, so atmosphere was everything. A glimpse of darkness or mildew, a whiff of junior-high-locker-room or mental-hospital-showers and I would’ve been gone. This said ‘spa’ in every detail.

I was given instructions and left on my own. Once I’d showered and put in earplugs as directed, there was nothing left to do but get in. I opened the tank door and slid feet-first into eight or ten inches of water exactly the temperature of my skin, so I was neither warm nor cold. I reached behind me, pulled the door closed, and stretched out. The water was infused with concentrated Epsom salt, so despite the low level of the water, I was floating – suspended.

For the first five minutes, I could see a little light around the edges of the tank door. This was a good transition; immediate total darkness would have been overwhelming. After five minutes, the motion-sensor lights in the room turned off, and all was dark. I am not at all claustrophobic, and I expected an ahhhh at this point. That never came; I really had to talk myself through staying in there once the lights went out.

I was anxious, so all kinds of chatter was happening in my brain. As I do when I’m nervous (and sometimes when I’m not), I began writing about this experience in my head. Once I realized I was doing that, I stopped and tried to focus on my heartbeat, or my breathing. I tried to meditate, which looked a lot like this. Since I didn’t feel relaxed, my inner perfectionist started in about how I was probably doing this wrong.

When my mental chatter finally quieted down, my body seemed to become very busy, even though I was not moving. Goosebumps rippling across the surface of my skin. Muscle twitches in my fingers, then in each arm and leg – even one of those whole-body startles that sometimes happens when you’re on the edge of sleep.

After a certain amount of time without input, the visual cortex starts to do funny things. I saw bright after-images, like you do when you close your eyes after a flash – except, of course, there had been no flash. Lights (which did not exist) blinked in the edges of my vision. I could not be sure if my eyes were open or closed.

While it seemed as though I had been aware the whole time, when the dim interior lights and gentle ocean sounds came on in the tank signaling the end of my hour, I felt as though I had just been awakened. Strangely, I was achy afterward; I had not been when I got in. Normally, Epsom salt baths are what I do for achiness; so this spoke to me of some kind of detox effect.

I felt good for the rest of the evening, alert, maybe a little keyed up. I slept well and felt fine the day after, but nothing out of the ordinary, either good or bad. I’m glad I did it, but I don’t know that I’ll do it again; it’s the same price as an hour of massage, which I seem to benefit from more directly.

And once again I’ve served my purpose: doing weird shit so you don’t have to!


Wait…Jell-O is a Superfood?

I recently attempted to add bone broth to my diet, after hearing about its many health benefits. And by ‘attempted,’ I mean ‘did it exactly ONE time.’ Turns out I hate it. I hate drinking it, hate making it, hate figuring out what in the hell to do with all of the meat you get the bones from. All of it.

Gelatin is made from the same kinds of animal connective tissue that makes bone broth so good for us, and that we’re sorely lacking in the modern Western diet, now that most of us no longer practice traditional ‘snout to tail’ cooking. These are just some of the more well-known benefits of gelatin:

  • Reducing joint pain
  • Improving skin elasticity
  • Improving symptoms of gastric conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Improving sleep
  • Suppressing appetite

There is some science, especially for skin elasticity and joint pain; but there’s a ton of anecdotal evidence of a variety of benefits.

At first I tried simply eating sugar free Jell-O in my favorite raspberry flavor, but, while delicious, there is really only so much of that you can consume in a day. I then moved on to stirring Knox unflavored gelatin into my tea, but couldn’t get past the texture.

I finally settled on Great Lakes collagen hydrolysate. It’s more highly absorbable, cold water soluble, has no taste, and does not thicken anything you put it in. Anthony and I drink it in coffee or tea twice every day. I also bought a canister for my mother. She has painful osteoarthritis, but due to other health problems, cannot take anything but Tylenol for the pain.

A month in, we’re seeing enough results to want to continue. Anthony and I are both enjoying the strange sense of calm well-being that washes over us after we drink it, and seeing some relief of what we refer to as ‘the old;’ that random achy stiffness that accompanies previous injuries, middle age, parenthood. Neither of us have noticed any gastric impact, but we didn’t have any digestive symptoms we were hoping to address. My mom has seen a great improvement in her digestion (slow because of the medications she takes), and a small but noticeable lessening in her pain. We’re hoping she’ll see more as time goes by.

Please pass the raspberry Jell-O….