Could consuming psychedelics help society to reconnect with nature? Findings from a study performed by researchers at the Centre for Psychedelic Research and Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London suggest: Yes!
Until just a few centuries ago, the survival of humankind was deeply dependent on our connection with nature. Before widespread industrialization, we possessed generations of knowledge that allowed us to live and prosper utilizing Earth’s bountiful resources. Most people, regardless of profession, had some knowledge of the uses of various plants, the habits of native animals, and the ever-repeating cycle of the seasons.
Then, the Industrial Revolution began, and our dependence on nature started to shift. The development of new technologies, the growth of cities, and the expansion of society meant no longer needing to live in close contact with nature. As time has progressed, we have steadily moved further away from our connection to the Earth, so much so that “nature” is now considered a niche hobby.
Don’t worry, we’re not knocking technology or the Industrial Revolution—we are definitely grateful to not have to live off the land full-time—but having no connection to nature at all has its own consequences.
As people have grown further from our natural roots, our societies have developed a kind of complacency towards the environment, which has most certainly contributed to the global ecological crisis we are now facing. Beyond the environmental impact, many mental health professionals agree that nature relatedness and mental well-being are intrinsically linked.
So, how do we regain that important connection to the planet? The answer could lie in psychedelics.
New Study: Psychedelics and Nature
In their study, now entitled “From Egoism to Ecoism: Psychedelics Increase Nature Relatedness,”researchers from Imperial College London surveyed thousands of individuals to find the right participants. In the end, they were able to recruit more than 500 individuals, each of which had already planned to take some kind of psychedelic in the near future.
To create a result baseline, each of the participants was given a questionnaire to complete one week prior to consuming the psychedelic. To measure the effects over time, participants were given another questionnaire one day after consuming the psychedelic, two weeks after the experience, four weeks after the experience, and finally, two years after the experience.
Fascinatingly, the results showed an obvious positive correlation between lifetime psychedelic use and nature relatedness. In a similar vein, researchers also discovered that an increased feeling of connection to nature showed significant increases in psychological well-being, indicating that psychedelic use over time could aid in ego dissolution, making the individual more open and receptive to positive change and experience:
“With the loss of self-referential boundaries being defining characteristics of ego-dissolution experiences under psychedelics, as well as experiences of awe in nature, it may be that the loss of perceived boundaries between the self and the other may in turn facilitate an expanded perception of self/nature continuity or overlap, reflected by increased feelings of nature relatedness.”—Kettner, Gandy, Haijen, Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London
Why should we even care about nature relatedness and egoism? The reason is this: if we don’t, the environment and our mental health could be at risk. Planetary health is already quickly declining, and in the midst of the ecological crisis, many are struggling to overcome unnecessary anxiety, feelings of depression, states of disconnect from themselves, the world around them, and their peers, and so on.
Based on the evidence presented in this study, psychedelic treatment models could provide a solution to both of these problems, if only more researchers and institutions are willing to try. Psychedelic use could be the missing link between humans and the natural world, and could potentially help to shift public focus towards issues relating to climate change, species endangerment, deforestation, plastic pollution, and the many other ecological crises our planet is being forced to face.