You might only know what a sensory deprivation tank is because of “Stranger Things” (or maybe you saw something similar in “the Simpsons”), but while they might sound like something strictly science fiction, there’s actually a place right here in Jacksonville you can try it at.
If you’re still wondering what the hell a sensory deprivation tank is, well then let me explain a little about the history. Back in 1954, John C. Lilly, a medical practitioner and neuropsychiatrist developed the concept for the device during his training in psychoanalysis at the US National Institute of Mental Health. Lilly experimented with sensory deprivation for over a decade, both with and without taking any psychoactive substances — primarily with LSD, which was legal at that time in the U.S.
Also referred to as an isolation tank, Lilly pioneered this device, which you can now find all over the world. The tank is a lightless, soundproof container with about 10 inches of highly salted water heated to skin temperature. The high salinity of the water allows you to float effortlessly.
So, for my experience, we headed over to H20m Float Spa over on St. John’s Bluff to see what the whole experience was all about. I had known about sensory deprivation tanks before this, but had never tried one out myself. As someone who’s quite ADHD, I had heard good things about the treatment, and after watching “Stranger Things” myself, I was pretty excited to check it out.
We walked in and were shown around by the helpful staff, who gave me some quick instructions on how to get setup before entering the tank. After a couple of minutes, I was alone in the dark room with the ominous tank gently humming beside me.
First things first, I stripped down to my skivvies and showered off before putting in my earplugs and dipping a intrigued, yet cautious toe into the tank. It was warm and the blue lights inside were inviting. I clambered inside and closed the hatch behind me.
As I settled into my new surroundings, my mind began to race about what to expect from the next 60 minutes. I mashed the large white button on the inside of the tank’s wall and cut the lights. Now, I sat in total total darkness and complete silence, left with the only sense I had left — smell.
At first, only the smell of the salty water reminded me of where I was, but after laying back and finding a comfortable position, even that sense began to fade. After the first 15 or 20 minutes, my mind began to relax and settle into something a little hard to explain. I’m definitely not one of those people who has full control over their mind, being able to silence it at will or focus on one thing easily without becoming distracted, but inside this setting, I found solace in the isolation.
The next thing I really remember was a warm feeling of calmness, almost sleep-like, but something more in-between. My mind eased, and the next 40 or 30 minutes I spent in total mental bliss. If you’ve ever had a lucid dream, you might say the feeling was something like that, only more clear. When there’s nothing for your brain to think about (how cold/hot you are, visual distractions, sounds, smells, etc.), you can really explore your mind in some interesting ways.
Around the hour mark, a small jet kicked on behind me, easing me gently out of my relaxed state of mind. I sat up, not sure if I had been asleep or somewhere lost deep in my thoughts for the last half hour, and began to exit the tank.
Now there’s a lot of “facts” or “studies” on the effects of isolation tanks you might have a hard time believing. That being said, after spending an hour inside one, being able to cut yourself off from the world to focus on things inside your mind is reason enough to me. Considering a personal tank can will cost you a minimum of $1,200 or $1,700 for a pre-fabed one, the $60 per session at H20m Float Spa is not a bad deal. The salt alone will cost you upwards of $400, and H20m offers several discounts for students, or an introductory rate of $45 for first-timers.
If you’ve ever thought about giving one of these things a try, I’d highly recommend it, and no longer needing to drive to Orlando to check it out is a huge plus.
Find more information about H20m Float Spa here.