Humans are in general social beings and depend on each other for their survival as indicated by (Young, 2008), nevertheless, the idea of being alone or isolated has been proven to bring about the best in humans as history has proven. The late Dr Storr who authored numerous books related to psychology including numerous books, including ‘The Integrity of the Personality, The Art of Psychotherapy and The Dynamics of Creation’, also points out that writers such as Kipling, Thoreau and Kafka had also voluntarily served extensive duration in isolation which has been thought to have served their inspiration with regards to some of their most prominent works. Similarly (Jung & Jaffé, 1965) from within the psychological spectrum revealed that Jung actually had spent years in solitude as part of his self-exploration strategy for which eventually had an impact on the fundamental aspects of his theories related to psyche. Based on these revelations, it has become evident that solitude and isolation is part of the social phenomenon fabric which has played a considerable role towards our perception and acceptance of philosophical, religious and artistic insights. This paper is a review of literature revolving around the impact of flotation therapy otherwise known as – REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique) in order to gain a deeper understanding of its fundamentals.
Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy
The brainchild of Dr John C Lilly, R.E.S.T is basically a modern sensory deprivation technique which has rapidly gained traction outside and within the health care system due to its alleged use towards relaxation, performance enhancement and self-development (Suedfeld et al., 1994). Thus far, there is sufficient evidence of the proven positive-effects of this treatment which has led certain health care factions mainly in the private sector to recommend it for use as a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as highlighted by (Jonsson, 2018). In essence, REST has been configured into specific treatments where inducing deep relaxation and introspection is critical to the recovery of patients. This is achieved via limiting sensory input whilst subjects float in a comfortable pod or compartment filled with Epsom salt-saturated water that provides a high level of buoyancy. The pod itself is an insulated compartment that blots out external stimuli such as noise, light and temperature while the ‘floating effortlessly’ in the highly Epsom salt saturation eliminates the effects of gravity (Kjellgren & Westman, 2014). Among the most common uses of REST includes performance enhancement, stress relief, pain management and PMS/ Pregnancy alleviation.
REST for Performance Management
Among the biggest proponents of floatation tanks for decades have been athletes. This section reviews the use of REST as a performance management application for athletes. The use of this therapy by athletes to enhance their performance has been increasingly marked over the last few decades. A report prepared by Jeremy Bond who was the Head of the Sport Psychology Unit at the Australian Institute for Sport supervised the use of floatation tanks for four years at the institute revealed that floatation therapy does enhance the performance of athletes that utilise it (Bond, 2018). The report indicates that by releasing the mind and musculo-skeletal construct from the effects of gravity, a larger area of the brain is liberated to process information which allows the brain to manage matters of the mind which eventually renders the athletes into a state of enhanced awareness of of their internal or biological states.
REST for Stress Relief
A study conducted by (Kjellgren & Westman, 2014) revolving around an evaluation of the psychological effects following a series of flotation therapy in 65 individuals (healthy male and female participants) revealed that floatation therapy had a positive impact on them. The preliminary findings indicated that individuals subjected to the therapy/ treatment showed signs of significantly decreased levels of experienced stress, anxiety and as well as depression. Apart from that the study also observed that on average, the individuals subjected to the treatment showed signs of increased sleep quality and optimism. These participants were compared to an equal number of participants in a control group that were not subjected to the treatment for over a period of 60 days. In essence, the target group showed a heightened state of mindfulness to a noticeable degree and were mentally healthier by a significant level. The study provided clinical evidence that float therapy or REST had a positive impact on stress and was suitable to be used as a Complementary and Alternative Medicine which was the primary objective of the study.
Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy simply reduces sensory input into the human nervous system which includes signals from visual, auditory, gustatory, thermal, olfactory, tactile, vestibular, proprioceptive and gravitational impact along with general movement and speech. A multitude of studies that have investigated the effects of drastically reduced flow of ambient information and as well as stimuli revealed that basic psychological and psycho-physiological processes are fine-tuned to the extent that individuals do not just show signs of improved physical health, but also mental health. Despite the substantial data that exists currently, adequate theoretical explanation of the phenomenon has yet to be proposed or offered for the consistent, wide and considerable effects that REST therapy has on humans.
Bond, J., 2018. Floatation Therapy Current Concepts. White Paper. Melbourne: Australian Institute for Sport (A.I.S.).
Jonsson, K., 2018. Flotation-REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique) in the age of anxiety: Exploring the role and treatment applications of sensory isolation. Doctoral Thesis. Karlstad, Sweden: Karlstad University Studies Karlstads Universitet.
Jung, C.G. & Jaffé, A., 1965. Memories, dreams, reflections. New York: Random House.
Kjellgren, A. & Westman, J., 2014. Beneficial effects of treatment with sensory isolation in flotation-tank as a preventive health-care intervention. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, pp.1-8.
Storr, , 1988. Solitude: A Return to the Self. NY, New York: Simon & Schuster.
Suedfeld, P. et al., 1994. Explaining the effects of stimulus restriction: Testing the dynamic hemispheric asymmetry hypothesis. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 14(2), pp.87-100.
Young, S.N., 2008. The neurobiology of human social behaviour: an important but neglected topic. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 33(5).