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Psychedelics and Creativity

Psychedelics and Creativity

Psychedelics and Creativity – Anecdotal reports have long suggested that psychedelics help promote creativity. In fact, many famous actors, artists, and musicians credit psychedelics for their impact on the creative process. (Need proof? Listen to the difference between the Beatles albums “Meet the Beatles” and “Revolver.”)

Though research is minimal regarding psychedelics and creativity, current studies closely match preliminary findings. For example, research repeatedly shows that psychedelics commonly make consumers experience novel or unusual thought patterns. They also promote more advanced feelings of insight and may make consumers assign meaning to previously neutral stimuli. These combined trends may help explain why psychedelics and creativity are so closely linked, but how so?

Today, we’ll discuss how psychedelics affect creativity, and how one might use them to tap into their creative juices.

How Do Psychedelics Affect Creativity?

The creative process involves dynamically engaging in two different forms of thought: divergent thinking (DT) and convergent thinking (CT). Essentially, DT refers to the process of developing new and innovative ideas, whereas CT refers to idea evaluation and effectiveness. Notably, our thought patterns switch between these two ways of thinking when we create new things and ideas.

Interestingly, research shows that psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin impair both CT and some aspects of DT. This may help explain why creativity seems heightened under the influence of psychedelic substances.

According to this Nature article, those under the influence of psychedelics generate fewer new ideas and associations (DT) compared to placebo. However, the ideas they do generate tend to be more insightful and of higher quality. What’s more, this trend continued up to seven days after psilocybin administration, suggesting sustained creative inspiration long after the psychedelic effects subside.

The article also explains how convergent, or highly analytical thinking, decreases during psychedelic experiences. Specifically, the authors state that “psychedelics acutely increase the potential for spontaneous creative thought (DT), while decreasing the potential for deliberate creative cognition (CT).” This is in line with previous studies which suggest that psychedelics reduce logical, more conventional thinking processes. 

Theory suggests that psychedelics tend to dull logical thought processes and heighten spontaneous thinking. Consequently, consumers may develop more “out of the box” thinking and concepts. Essentially, when the internal critic is silenced, an artist’s true creativity can blossom.

Psychedelics and Creativity in the Brain

Another factor contributing to psychedelics and creativity relates to the way they affect the hippocampus. Notably, the hippocampus retrieves bits of information from the cortex then pieces them together in the form of memory.

As discussed in an earlier article, psychedelics affect this pathway by increasing signaling to the cortex (inputting new information) and slowing signaling from the cortex (memory recollection). Unfortunately, past knowledge about a problem can actually hinder the problem-solving process by constraining thoughts to what is already known. However, by dulling communication between the cortex and the hippocampus (with psychedelics, for example), spontaneous thought becomes more standard.

Finding Creative Inspiration Through Psychedelics

Though high psychedelic doses can certainly inspire vivid thoughts and images, they are not conducive to regular creative processes. However, microdoses, or very small psychedelic doses, may also promote creativity without causing the user to feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed. Though an ideal microdose varies by person and substance, an average microdose size is about five to ten percent of an average dose.

Those who wish to tap into their creativity with psychedelics carefully plan their setting as well as their dose. They might choose to set up shop in a comfortable, low-traffic area with special music to help set the mood. They should also gather all supplies that may be important during the creative process, including paints, canvases, paper, pencils, musical instruments, or anything else that could provide inspiration. Once everything is ready and everyone is comfortable, the mini vacay can start.

Those who microdose psychedelics should begin to feel their effects within a few minutes (for sublingual ingestion) up to an hour or two for swallowed substances. Though the specific effects will vary, users often report feeling “well-rested and energetic” after microdosing LDS and psilocybin, and often claim reduced depressive symptoms, as well.

Once the effects begin to set in, the easiest way to find creative inspiration through psychedelics is to simply lean into it. There’s no need to force it, simply relax and wait for inspiration to come knocking. Music, images, and natural settings are particularly beneficial for promoting creativity, especially under the influence of psychedelics.

Closing Thoughts About Psychedelics and Creativity

Psychedelics and creativity go hand-in-hand. The tendency of psychedelics to alter perception and creative thought processes may spark creative inspiration. Those who wish to tap into their creative juices may be able to do so more efficiently with the aid of certain psychoactive substances.

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