Need to stimulate your imagination?
All of us feel the call sometimes. Maybe you’re an artist or musician or writer who’s stuck on a daunting project. Or maybe you’re just bored in quarantine and in need of a creative outlet!
Regardless, the plant kingdom can help. The use of cannabis and magic mushrooms have both been correlated with radically enhanced creativity and — literally — a more flexible, adaptable brain.
- Cannabis for Creativity
- Magic Mushrooms for Creativity
- What Is Consciousness?
- Exploring the Need for Breakthrough
- How to Boost Your Creativity Naturally
Cannabis for Creativity
Cannabis has been loved for its consciousness-boosting effects for ages. The Ancient Scythians used it in important rituals; the Ancient Hebrews used its creative side to catalyze their communion with God.
Fast forward to the 1900s, when North America had just banned pretty much all forms of cannabis in a misguided attempt to make communities safer. Cannabis use continued, but it had to go underground. There the plant found and unlikely ally: jazz players.
Or maybe not so unlikely, depending on how you look at it. Jazz musicians came to love cannabis because it helped them conceptualize new sounds and new styles of music. And, unlike alcohol, a cannabis-filled “jazz cigarette” or two didn’t impair the musicians’ motor function mid-music session.
And just because cannabis was illegal didn’t mean popular musicians didn’t sing about it! (Note in the lyrics below that a ‘viper’ referred to someone who partook, likely because of the hissing sound associated with smoking a joint.)
“I’m the king of everything
Got to get high before I sing
Sky is high, everybody’s high
If you’re a viper…”
– Fats Waller, Viper’s Drag, 1934
Jazz great Louis Armstrong enjoyed cannabis, too. “First place it’s a thousand times better than whiskey […] it makes you feel good, man,” Armstrong explains in his autobiography. Cannabis’s creativity-boosting effects continue to be enjoyed by musicians and artists today.
Magic Mushrooms for Creativity
Though mushrooms work differently and feel differently than cannabis, they too are an ally for people seeking extra creativity.
Famed ethnobotanist Terrence McKenna described magic mushrooms as substances that help us “expand consciousness, see things in different ways, [and] unleash creativity…” We think he was definitely onto something, though he passed away before being able to witness the recent wave of psychedelics research taking our world by storm.
What research, you might ask? A 2018 study found that those who microdose psychedelics, including magic mushrooms, scored higher in the areas of wisdom, open-mindedness, and creativity than those who do not. “Microdosers came up with more useful, unusual and unique uses for [every day] objects,” reported the study’s authors.
Microdosers also had more functional attitudes towards life. In this case that just means they were less likely to fear judgment from others and more likely to remain non-judgemental themselves…a win-win!
A 2019 study identified similar patterns. It found that a single dose of psilocybin could improve creative thinking abilities. Even more impressively, this boost wasn’t just transient; it stuck around up to 7 days!
Study authors speculated that this increased creativity might explain why psilocybin is also helpful for those with anxiety or depression. “Enhancements in flexible, creative thinking could allow individuals to break out of their old [depressed] patterns of thought,” explained lead author Natasha Mason.
And most people familiar with psilocybin’s effects don’t need a new study to teach them what to do, believe it or not. Wired Magazine reported back in 2016 that silicon valley workers were gravitating to psychedelics already. 28-year-old publicist ‘Lily’ takes mushroom capsules to “think more creatively and stay focused”; research chemist ‘Joesph’ says the effects of mushrooms on his mind are “like tuning a guitar.”
What Is Consciousness?
All this good news leads to a tough question, however: what exactly are we measuring here? If mushrooms produce a shift, should it be viewed as a shift in consciousness — and if so, what is consciousness in the first place? (Perhaps a microdose or two is needed to really understand the depth of such questions.)
Psychologists and psychoanalysts have struggled with defining consciousness for centuries. Some have likened it to an unbroken stream; others, like Freud, have divided it up into subsections that correlate with different things and different stages of life. Carl Jung liked to view ultimate consciousness, or God, as an enormous being that peered out through each individual person as if through a lens.
Fascinating stuff, right? But even more modern theories of consciousness have so many shadowy elements that it’s clear we have a long way to go.
Exploring the Need for Breakthrough
Whatever consciousness is, it’s clear that upward changes in our levels of consciousness are advantageous — perhaps even necessary, if we want to truly thrive in life. When one gets ‘stuck in a rut,’ maybe what they’re really experiencing is being stuck in an old level of consciousness. And that’s exactly when the need for neuroplasticity, or flexible thinking, becomes most apparent.
Professor Bob Melamede describes this ever-important adaptation as being intricately related to one’s endocannabinoid levels. “People who are deficient in cannabinoids are not open-minded, which means they can’t adapt to the changing future. So what they tend to do is look backward […] because they don’t have the [biochemical] machinery to adapt to it [the future].”
Could the same be said of those who are deficient in the biochemicals mushrooms help regulate? Perhaps.
Maybe the very best way to apply creativity and inspiration to the future is to first apply it to your own mind?
How to Boost Your Creativity Naturally
Good news: mushrooms and MMJ aren’t the only creativity-boosters out there. There are lots of other ways to boost your creativity, too: exercise, healthy eating, using adaptogens, et cetera.
All in all, living a creative life goes hand in hand with living a healthy lifestyle. If you’re ready to thrive, a multifaceted approach is probably the most sustainable way.