Will Burns

Unleash Creativity Blog

Scientific studies that help us unleash our most human attribute: creativity.

Sensory Deprivation Through Floatation Therapy Increases Creativity

I used to think of floating in tanks and the resulting sensory deprivation as a kooky, trippy post-1960s gimmick, thanks mostly to the movie "Altered States" with William Hurt. But "floatation therapy" has come a long way since then. And the benefits could be life changing for some.

What is floatation therapy?

The short story is this: you climb into a tank, lie down and float in water while all sensory information is eliminated. Nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to feel (water temp is the same as our body temp), nothing to smell and unless you mistakenly taste the salty water, nothing to taste.

The tanks have about a foot of water in them and about 800 lbs of Epsom salt to keep you buoyant. 

Out of nothing, something.

Nearly every article I've read on this subject talks about how floatation therapy increases creativity (among many other health benefits). And there's science to prove it.

Comedian and Fear Factor host, Joe Rogan, told The Atlantic of his floating experience, "People don't realize how much everything is a distraction."

Interesting, right? And it got me thinking.

Our senses are a one-way street from the outside world into our nervous system and brains, and ultimately our consciousness. Creativity is also a one-way street but in the other direction, inside-out. 

By eliminating all of the incoming "noise" - where nothing is going in - floatation therapy leaves the street wide open for inside-out creativity.

But perhaps there's even more to it than that.

Working memory disabled.

Many of the studies I've posted on this blog are tricks we can pull on ourselves to occupy our working memory - the capacity of the brain that helps us focus - and thereby liberate our minds.

Focusing is the opposite of creativity. Focusing necessarily means eliminating irrelevant thoughts, but "irrelevant" thoughts are a requirement for creativity.

We know that coffee shop noise occupies our working memory, for example, which liberates our minds. We know walking, running, gardening, washing the dishes, taking a shower and any other repetitive, menial task occupies our working memory and liberates our minds.

Might it be that in these tanks, given that all sensory information is deprived, that our working memory simply stops working altogether? It's got nothing to focus on, nothing to do, no reason to work at all. 

This could be coffee shop noise on steroids.

I am personally excited to try floatation therapy. I'll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, please post your own experiences below - I'd love to hear how floating therapy influenced your creativity (or didn't).