Floating works. That’s according to hundreds of thousands of people who step in the tank for myriad reasons. For some, it’s to alleviate chronic pain. For others, floating soothes brain injuries. Still more people harness the internal peace, clarity, and focus the darkness of the tank can offer. It’s a multi-purpose tool, and it’s taking the world by storm.

But how does it work? Why is it so effective? Pretty intriguing questions. So intriguing, in fact, scientists of all persuasions are dedicating valuable time and resources in an attempt to unlock the hard stuff - the tangibles behind the incredible results experienced by people around the world.

That work has yielded multiple explanations, which we’ve crunched down to something more bite-sized. Read on for the details:

1. A Reduction in the Effects of Gravity

It is estimated that gravity occupies 90% of all nervous system activity, and research indicates gravity may be the largest single cause of ill health. The buoyancy experienced during floating eliminates gravity’s pull on the body, liberating the brain to focus on other activities, like healing, creativity, and expanding awareness. Think of it like this - if the brain is under a barbell, floating takes the heavy plates off.

2. Increased Theta Wave Activity

Research indicates that theta brain wave activity is potentially the most productive. It leads to creativity, enhanced memory, enlightenment, serenity, and total harmony. Theta wave activity normally precedes sleep, making it difficult to harness in any tangible way. Regular floating makes it possible to generate theta wave activity for up to three weeks after floating, allowing you to apply the benefits to any endeavour you choose, not just sleep.

3. Diminished Left Brain Dominance

The brain comprises two hemispheres, the left and right. The right is said to be more creative, intuitive, more concerned with the broad view and, because it works principally by recognising patterns, provides the analytical left-brain with a more balanced and comprehensive overview than would otherwise be the case. Recent research indicates floating promotes the right-brain function. And who doesn’t want a little more creativity in their life?

4. The Evolving Brain

Some researchers hold that the brain has three separate physiological layers. The most ancient is the reptile brain controlling the most basic instincts; self preservation, reproduction; the basic life support stuff.

The second houses emotion, while the third - the neocortex - is concerned with abstract thought, language, memory, intellect and consciousness. While the three layers overlap, they don’t talk to each other much, and in fact, often override each other without any conscious thought (you’ve probably experienced it when you’re really, really hungry). Recent research has shown that floating can promote a dialogue between the three layers, allowing for a more measured, cerebral approach to life.

5. The Chemicals of the Brain

As you know, the brain is in charge of everything, and it’s a cocktail of chemicals that co-mingle to manage behaviour. Floating can control the tap flow of these chemicals, inducing enhanced pleasure and focus, while diminishing tension, anxiety, and other brain states that cause harmful physical conditions like heart disease and high cholesterol. Fascinating!

6. Control

As we mentioned right above, floating can manipulate the brain states, yielding positive results for you in the short and long term. What was once thought of as involuntary has been shown to be controllable, be it brain wave amplitude, heart rate, and blood pressure. The best time to focus on these phenomena is during periods of minimal external stimuli. That makes the floatation tank a perfect place to hone those skills.

7. A Return to our Origin

As we look back at our genetic ancestors, some scientists have argued that the human gene once lived as aquatic or semi-aquatic creatures. If true, floating is a way to connect with our heritage, meditate on the past, and consequently, inform the present and future.

8. Harmony

As a species, we live best in a world where the external environment provides very specific conditions with which the human can achieve harmony. Today’s world, stuffed to the brim with technology and structures, can dull our coping mechanisms and inherent desire to be one with nature. In the peace of the floatation tank, we turn the volume of the modern world down, deflecting useless stimuli and allowing our mind to focus on what’s important to it - restoring us to a state of harmony.

People have mused on the benefits of floating for decades, and these are just a few avenues they’ve gone down. Ultimately, your experience will inform your own theories, and that’s the best part of floating - it can be completely different for everyone. The possibilities for you are, like the darkness of the tank, endless.