Won’t you help me sober up
Growing up it made me numb
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Some people will tell you of the far reaching, extremely beneficial effects of floating in body-temperature saltwater in a sound controlled tank allows the body to be completely comfortable. This sensory deprivation, of course, supports the immune system, promotes relaxation, better recovery, pain suppression, releases beneficial parasympathetic (relaxation) hormones, and unlocks the doors of perception to expand consciousness itself.
So, what we should all be doing for better health and performance is periodically depriving the body of all sensory input.
Some people will tell you of the far reaching, extremely beneficial effects of cold water immersion. There’s even a cold guru who runs barefoot marathons through the snow and sits in ice for nearly two hours. This total body confrontation with the cold, of course, supports the immune system, promotes circulation, better recovery, pain suppression, and releases beneficial sympathetic habituation, and your mindset.
So, what we should be doing for better health and performance is periodically embrace the discomfort, exposing ourselves to incremental amounts of specific stress.
… … …
Ok. So which one is it?
What the literature says:
Despite much funding in product design and marketing, there is very little on the benefit of sensory deprivation beyond what would be expected from placebo effect. The mind is powerful, and we tend to believe what we WANT to believe. Sure, it feels good to chill out for a while and not attend to anything.
On the other hand, the literature points to legitimate beneficial effects on the immune system (by measuring various “antioxidative defenses” such as T lymphocytes and red blood cells). Full body cold water immersion and cold air chambers also resulted in increased metabolic rate (caloric demands just to maintain body temperature). It reliably produces a sustained increase in norepinephrine, which substantiates the long-term pain relief touted by cold gurus. Cold has also shown promise for those with chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic heart failure, and even some types of cancers.
What I think:
In the grand scheme of things, most of this is -probably- nonsense. Most of us these days are indeed far too comfortable for too long. Do not get me wrong. We should be supremely thankful when we do not have to endure slavery in exile, long and barren winters or marches through the snow to achieve independence from tyranny. But for many modern American lives, I think that comfort, and our quest for it, is killing us at worst and making us numb at best. Some NEED their air conditioners while others complain when the temperature drops one centigrade below what we’re comfortable with. But really…
We. Are. Fine.
Or we would be if we weren’t accustomed to so much comfort.
We work and live and drive in climate controlled environments. For many of us, even our time exercising involves machines/crutches and televisions and not even a little bit of dirt. We should not wonder why life stress, physical and mental, perturbs us.
What we should do about it:
There is nothing “natural” about complete sensory deprivation. Unless, of course, we’re talking about the miracle of sleep, which is free. And yet we seldom take enough advantage of that offer.
Extreme discomfort is unnecessary at best. It’s life threatening at worst; a classic example of how trying to be extremely fit and healthy can kill you. We do know that ice therapy immediately after intense training limits the beneficial adaptations involved with inflammation and recovery. If you did not hear that, please know that ICING AFTER A WORKOUT ACTUALLY RESTRICTS YOUR GAINS.
But I think that an intentional dose of discomfort is Juuussst Right, precisely what’s required to help keep us healthy with immune system blah blah blah and mentally sober. I mean, look at typical children. They play and laugh and don’t feel the weather and go all day. I want to hang on to some of that vitamin Don’t Grow Up for as long as possible. Even if the benefit is a package deal of keeping a youthful mindset, or plain placebo, so be it!
One moderately extreme discomfort per month and one moderately fair discomfort per week…yeah, that seems about right.
-That’s why I jump into the lake or stream when I get a chance. Even moderately cold water feels like a shock treatment to me. But I still do it. This is called “Getting The Month In” and it does wonders for your mind. **Know your limits and systematically apply the stress. You’re not setting any world records, so always error on the side of caution.
-That’s why I try to train (and train others) outside once or twice per week if possible, rain or shine, so long as conditions are not dangerous. An hour outside in the beautiful and the ugly weather. The discomfort itself is the benefit…getting the full dose of your exercise session. Breath in those gnats for extra gains.
Floating may feel relaxing for a while. There are certainly worse things that you could do with your time. But in the end, I really do not think that our own health, wellness and fulfillment can be found inward. Sensory deprivation offers practically nothing in terms of loving God and others. Even moderate discomfort makes the mind and body more resilient, capable, and even grateful.
This is obviously an opinion piece. Please do share your perspective.