Connectivity to Nature on Psychedelics
Could our increasing cut-off from the natural world and mental health crisis be connected? Are psychedelics the antidote?
A psychedelic experience can have a profound effect on us, often changing our outlook to the world. Throughout history these drugs have been a catalyst for political and environmental change. Indeed they are the only drugs that changed the way people voted, which is the reason they were made illegal during the Vietnam War. Controversial? Oh, yes.
The current renaissance in this field has highlighted that psychedelics can enhance our ties to the natural world.
Why is this and what are the implications?
A recent study investigated whether psychedelic drugs can make us feel more connected to nature. This was done through an online survey, collecting data at multiple timepoints from individuals who were planning to take psychedelic drugs.
What did they find? The psychedelic experience made participants feel more connected to the natural world. These effects continued long after intoxication effects wore off, contributing to a greater sense of wellbeing.
This suggests psychedelics play a role in enhancing connectivity to nature.
It is worth noting that because this is survey data, there are limitations to the findings. This research design has less control over results compared to lab studies. Nevertheless, these drugs are still very much illegal, which poses incredible difficulties to researching them. So despite methodologies not being ideal, it is often what researchers are left to work with.
Similarly, we have to keep in mind that individuals who use psychedelics are going to be different to those that do not. Psychedelic users tend to score higher on personality traits such as: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness the experience.
Though, psychedelic drugs can enhance these personality traits further. This suggests these drugs can alter our personality — which shouldn’t come as a surprise given how mind-altering they are.
Back to nature connectivity though — what are the implications of these findings?
Connectivity to nature has been associated with higher levels of psychological wellbeing. And logically, depression is associated with a disconnect from the natural world. This makes it worthwhile to investigate the therapeutic potential psychedelics have.
Psilocybin trials for depression treatment have found that connectivity to nature remains high several months after the psychedelic experience, suggest these drugs have a profound effect on our wellbeing in the long-term.
It makes complete sense as to why nature connection and psychological wellbeing are linked. Evolutionarily we have spent most of our existence in nature. Whereas currently we are disconnected from nature now more than ever. This may help explain the worrying levels of mental health problems in our society today.
Why are psychedelics so effective in the long-term? It has been suggested that psychedelics create a positive-feedback effect whereby the drug enhances nature relatedness, which leads individuals to seek exposure from nature — this increases connectivity further and becomes a reinforcing cycle.
What kind of a role does ego-dissolution play here? We know that a psychedelic experience has the potential to breakdown our sense of self. Ego-dissolution might be an explanatory factor for why we feel more connected to nature after taking psychedelics. By no longer feeling a boundary between yourself and the environment, this may lead to an increased connection to it.
Research has found positive associations between nature connection and ego-dissolution. Losing boundaries between yourself and nature is a defining aspect to dissolution, allowing you to be more in awe of your natural surroundings.
The ability psychedelics have for increasing nature connectivity is fascinating and has important implications at a societal level for facilitating environmental behaviour.
In the midst of an environmental crisis and a mental health pandemic, getting humans to better identify and connect with the natural world is increasingly important.
With this evidence in mind, it is continuously questionable as to why psychedelics have such a widespread ban. Keeping these substances illegal is not in our best interest, given the ability for them to enhance connection to nature and in-turn our wellbeing.