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Something in the world of floating have you stumped?

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Show Highlights

Ashkahn takes the reigns on the show to talk to John Turner, a professor at the Medical University of Toledo and one of the original researchers into the benefits of float tanks.

They discuss some of the surprising benefits of floating, mindfulness, and just good ways to live a positive life. A very heartwarming and lovely chat.

Show Resources

Buy your tickets for the Float Conference now!

The Float Conference Podcast (where you can listen to guests like this one!)

Peace is Every Step  (referenced by Dr. Turner in this episode)

The Healthy Mind Platter

Listen to Just the Audio

Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Ashkahn: Okay everybody, welcome to the the Daily Solutions Podcast. We have a slightly different episode for you today. It’s just me here, Ashkahn, no Graham, and instead of answering a float question, today we actually have one of our float conference speakers here. We did a full interview over on the Float Conference Podcast, and thought we would ask one more bonus question for you guys over here at Daily Solutions. So today I’m here with John Turner. Welcome John.


John Turner: Hello.


Ashkahn: And just a quick background for people who don’t know who you are. John Turner is one of the original float researchers, did work with Tom Fine over in the what’s now the University of Toledo, and did a bunch of the famous studies on cortisol levels, and that sort of stuff with float tanks. So super excited to have you coming out to the Conference.


John Turner: I’m looking forward to it.


Ashkahn: So here’s my little bonus question for you. You did basically the first scientific float research done out there. You guys had this brand new device that you installed in your lab, and you’re doing research on it. Over the course of the years that you were studying this, I’m wondering, what was the most unexpected, or one of the most unexpected results that you found? Like what did you see coming out of the data on floating that was the kind of least intuitive to you?


John Turner: Well, that’s a good question. I think probably, although what we know now about feedback loops and regulatory systems might have given us some inference about it. One of the things that was not intuitive was that after, when we were doing studies where people would float multiple times, like six, eight, ten times, then we would with several weeks, and we had measured some variable, where we had seen a decrease in activity in this variable, like blood pressure, or plasma cortisol.

And then we would come back a week later or more, and we they hadn’t done anything more, no more floating, they were just going about their daily activities, and we would find that their blood pressure and cortisol levels had remained low. They weren’t as low as they were at the lowest point, but they were well below where they started. So to us, that was not something intuitive. We did not initially expect that flotation would produce changes that could be carried forward for an extended time period like that.


Ashkahn: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’ve always wondered what the actual limit of that is. At what point do those things actually start to diminish?


John Turner: That’s really a good question. I think it’s kind of hard to get an answer to that, because I think once people start floating regularly, they don’t want to quit. So you’re going to try and convince them that they got to stop floating for a month, they might give you some grief. Anyway, we don’t know. Because we only looked at this over a period of a week or two. And that was enough to convince us that there is this carryover effect. But as far as I know, there haven’t been any long term formal studies done with it. It would be worthwhile finding out you know, because it could help people to judge how frequently they want to float. You know every person has their own program as to what they can afford, and what they want.

I don’t really don’t know what it is for a lot of people that makes them decide they’re going to float once a week, or once a month, or three times a week. And it would be good to have some reference information. And it’s probably variable across people, I would assume, like most everything else is. That there would be some people who would have a longer term benefit than others, and maybe not feel the need. It would be interesting to determine what the individual person feels is, when they start feeling the need to float. You know people will sometimes say, “Boy I really need to float.” And you know that says something right there, about, for that person, what the interval is for them. But there’s no formal study. So it would be a really interesting thing to test.


Ashkahn: In my experience, one thing I’ve noticed from running a float center, is that when you have people coming in who have this acute need of floating. Something’s going on in their life. They’ve tried floating, it totally clicks and is helping them with that thing. I mean, we have people all of a sudden start floating with huge frequency. You know, they’re in our place twice a week, three times a week, and they’re doing that for months. And then those people tend to hit a point after three, four, five months, where they start to slow it down. This is something I’ve noticed kind of over and over again, as they have this acute need to float a huge amount of times for a concentrated period of time. And then it seems like they’re in a better place with what they were dealing with, and kind of pull it back to once a week, or once every other week.

So it might also be based on something like that, the greater thing that’s going on with you that floating is helping with. Perhaps for short bursts of time you’re doing, heightened frequency of floating, and then it becomes more of a regular just maintenance thing.


John Turner: Yeah. And that’s pretty common with medications. So, where people initially have to take higher doses, and then they work it down to a dose that’s less frequent lower dose that they can take for a long time. So I mean, there’s precedent in healthcare for that kind of a perspective. So you might be right. There could be this threshold where people say, “Okay, I’m happy now, I can deal,” and then they just wait until they start feeling that again, and maybe it takes longer after a while. I don’t know, maybe they’ve restructured their feedback loops. Maybe allostasis has taken place and they’re now, their own body is anticipating the next stressor and adapting better to it. I don’t know, those kinds of things are questions that could be empirically challenged. They could be answered, but it would require people who have background training, and the money to do it.


Ashkahn: Yeah. And I’m curious how much other, another thing I’ve noticed is that when people start doing these huge amounts of floating is, they often start changing other things in their lives as well. We have people coming in who are floating two to three times a week, and they’re like, “Yeah, I started swimming every day, and I’m even eating better, and I quit smoking,” it’s almost like a self-empowering sort of thing that leads you to realize you can make other changes in your life. So I wonder how you’d have to try to control for stuff like that?


John Turner: Yeah, I don’t know how. But I certainly wouldn’t be surprised that a study could be set up that would take into account a whole bunch of variables that could be sort of like that, to limit them, and then really see what’s really going on in terms of, is there a physiological basis to this? Are there receptors that are being now occupied at the right rate for something, somewhere? I mean, that’s just a theory, theoretical stuff. But who knows? That kind of stuff needs to be done. Because I think the more we as humans increase our density, the more the need will be to be able to quantify how, when and where we can regulate our functions most effectively. People are doing it on their own now to some extent, but then there’s plenty of people out there who don’t even know about floating, or don’t know about any form of the benefit of relaxation.


Ashkahn: Well at the very least, it seems like a growing awareness, which is nice. The whole idea of mindfulness and the benefits of doing what sounds like simple things for your own health, is kind of growing in the public awareness, which is nice.


John Turner: Yeah, I’ve been reading a book that’s pretty interesting, and fairly simple. It’s called, Peace With Every Step. And it was written by a monk from Thailand I believe, or maybe, no, Vietnam, excuse me. Anyway, it’s a fairly simple set of directives, but it does that. It addresses mindfulness. And I keep thinking the tank is a great place to have that experience.


Ashkahn: Mm-hmm. There’s this other thing that actually one of our past conference speakers spoke about, called The Healthy Mind Platter. I don’t know if you’ve seen that at all?


John Turner: No.


Ashkahn: It’s kind of like an attempt to mimic the food pyramid, or at least the better version of the food pyramid, with mental health. So it’s from a very kind of quantified, empirical sort of perspective of the people who made it. So they kind of break down, I forget what it is, eight, maybe nine different aspects of mental health, and kind of define them, and have studies to support each one of them. And there are different ways, different things that you can do from, floating kind of falls into there like, I think they call it time out, like spending time just like decompressing versus doing things that are more vigorous mental exercise and stuff like that, that they think leads to a healthy mind.


John Turner: What’s it called again? I’m writing it down.


Ashkahn: The Healthy Mind Platter. It’s a really interesting little diagram, and then supporting information.


John Turner: Cool. I’m going to check it out.


Ashkahn: Yeah. Cool, excellent. Super great to have you on here, and very excited to have you out at the Float Conference.


John Turner: Yeah, looking forward to it. And actually, I’m looking forward to it as a form of relaxation.


Ashkahn: Great, great.


John Turner: Assuming I’m prepared.


Ashkahn: Yeah, yeah, we try to make it as relaxing as possible.


John Turner: It’s a nice-


Ashkahn: But it’s also, there’s a lot of bright lights, and parties, and stuff like that too.


John Turner: Oh that’s okay. As long as it’s not deadlines.


Ashkahn: Excellent. Great John. Yeah, see you in another couple of weeks.


John Turner: All right. Yeah. Take care Ashkahn.


Ashkahn: All right. You can listen to the full interview we did with John Turner, over at the float conference website, floatconference.com. Hope you guys can make it out to the conference this year, it’s coming up real fast, August 18th and 19th, 2018. And if you have questions you want us to answer, like we normally do on this podcast, of course, you can go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast and I will talk to you tomorrow.

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