The advent of technology and smart phones has had a remarkable impact on our daily lives. We live in a privileged time as the first generation exposed to technology and its many advances over the last decade. However, while technology has allowed us to connect in new and more expansive ways, it has undeniably taken a toll on mental wellbeing. By denying our brains important downtime for deep thinking, we experience a reduction in ability to maintain focus as well as a shortened attention span. Additionally, studies have shown that our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined as our use of technology as increased.
What’s the remedy? Achieving True REST. Justin Feinstein, Ph.D. Clinical Neuropsychologist Director, LIBR Float Clinic & Research Center recently shared the amazing results flotation therapy has on mental health in his TED Talk: The Amazing Thing That Happens When You Disconnect.
Addicted to Smartphones
When people use their phones, studies show reduced activity in the anterior cingulate cortex which has been linked to a broad range of cognitive processes. In fact, a 2020 study from Heidelberg University shows that individuals who use their phone often had reduced volume of gray matter in certain important areas. On average, individuals tap, touch or swipe their phone a staggering 2,617 times per day and spend over 8 hours a day on screens – more time than they are asleep! Often times their smartphone is the last thing most people look at before going to bed at night. More concerning than these statistics is the impact of technology on children. At least 1 in 4 children and teenagers display problematic and excessive use of their smart phone, putting them at the greatest risk of anxiety and depression.
Impact of Technology on Wellbeing
Unfortunately, this increased use of technology One additional side effect of increased access to technology is the creation of the 24/7 workday, which has exponentially increased stress levels. In fact, 60% of people have shared that a traditional holiday or vacation no longer relieves their stress with many admitting to checking emails and taking calls multiple times a day. The World Health Organization just added “Burnout” to its international classification of diseases. In general, increased use of smart devices has had an adverse impact on general happiness and wellbeing. The 2019 World Happiness Report ranked America 112 out of 132 countries, just a few spots ahead of Afghanistan.
The Benefits of Disconnecting
A social psychology study in 2014 found that participants did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think. In fact, many preferred to administer electrical shocks to themselves instead of being left alone to do nothing with the study concluding that most people prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.
Dr. Feinstein is currently conducting a research study on the effects of flotation therapy on mental health. His laboratory investigates the effects of flotation REST, or Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy, on both the body and the brain while also exploring its potential therapeutic treatment for promoting mental health and healing in patients who suffer from anxiety and stress-related disorders.
Flotation therapy provides a sensory and gravity-free environment, restricting external sources of distraction. Each float pod is filled with 1,200 pounds of Epsom salts and 180 gallons of water that creates a 30% salt solution, enabling effortless floating. The float pod’s water is perfectly heated to body temperature and provides a weightless sensation, promoting psychological benefits of feeling inner peace. During flotation therapy, the brain enters the theta brain wave state, associated with deep sleep and dreaming. This allows a natural increase in dopamine and other neurotransmitters, which creates feelings of euphoria that aid in mental relaxation. An hour of zero gravity and zero distractions decreases the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, making its practitioners feel refreshed, serene with a profound sense of calmness. Not only did Dr. Feinstein’s results show that flotation therapy had a profound impact on stress and anxiety, it also found that floating lowered the blood pressure of his research subjects – opening the door for flotation therapy to be used to treat a host of physical and mental maladies.