In 2018, Michael Pollan published a book that made waves — How to Change Your Mind explored Pollan’s personal experiences with psychedelics, including LSD and psilocybin.
Most people hear about people dropping acid or taking shrooms and think it’s just for fun, but Pollan proposes that altering your brain’s chemistry through these measures could actually have profound, deeply therapeutic altercations; effects so great that they might just change your entire life.
Fast-forward to 2022, and Pollan is now the presenter of a Netflix docuseries that bears the same name as his book. How to Change Your Mind offers a deep dive into psychedelic therapy and the transformative power of drugs like LSD, mescaline, MDMA, and psilocybin.
How to Change Your Mind: Why You Need to Watch It
Pollan’s exploration of psychedelics as a therapeutic tool isn’t revolutionary, but it does come at the perfect time. States throughout the United States are beginning to decriminalize magic mushrooms, and there are ongoing petitions to decriminalize other psychedelics as well.
How to Change Your Mind isn’t exactly counterculture; it’s more of an alternative view to existing beliefs around psychedelics, including the negative idea that they destroy someone’s mind rather than enhance it.
The docuseries is broken down into four episodes, each one dedicated to a different psychedelic substance:
Episode 1 – LSD: The premiere of the documentary explores the most controversial psychedelic there is: LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). Since it arrived on the scene in the early 80s, LSD has been the premiere cause for such widespread bans of all psychedelics.
Pollan’s goal in this episode isn’t to tell people that drugs can’t have negative side-effects. Instead, he’s showing how LSD can be used in responsible, powerful ways, all backed by science and interviews with researchers and psychedelic experts.
Episode 2 – Psilocybin: There are several themes explored throughout the second episode of How to Change Your Mind, including microdosing, psilocybin therapy, the legality of psilocybin, and ego death.
Ego death is what happens when people experience a full trip and lose any connection to their self-identity. Instead, their minds open, and they experience the deepest, most intense connection to the universe they’ve ever encountered.
Not everyone is looking to go that far down the rabbit hole, though, which is fine. That’s why there’s also plenty of discussion around microdosing and science-backed research to support it.
Episode 3 – MDA: Ecstasy is America’s party drug of choice, and it’s also been a centerpiece in the ongoing war on drugs. MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) might be widely used recreationally, but it also has powerful potential to heal people through MDMA-assisted therapy.
MDMA is one of the psychedelic drugs being explored as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Interviews include discussions with the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Rick Doblin, and Alex Shulgin, the doctor responsible for introducing MDMA to psychologists in the 70s.
Episode 4 – Mescaline: The final episode centers around mescaline, a lesser-known psychedelic (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine). Similar to LSD and psilocybin, this psychedelic stems from a variety of cacti and is administered by indigenous American people.
The docuseries’ finale episode looks deep into peyote (the cactus mescaline comes from) and peyote ceremonies. It also touches upon the “Decriminalize Nature” movement.
Watching How to Change Your Mind is an eye-opening, insightful, and science-driven exploration for anyone who wants to know more about psychedelics. If you’ve heard about the benefits but never really looked into them yourself, this is the series you want to watch to familiarize yourself with the most common drugs being used to heal and enlighten people.
How Psychedelics Effect Your Brain
Psychedelics do more than just alter your brain chemistry. They open new neural pathways by increasing the number of synapses in your brain circuitry. More synapses mean more nerves firing, which leads to greater sensations and new experiences.
Psilocybin in particular activates serotonin receptors in the prefrontal cortex. This region of your brain controls functions like attention, impulse control, and, most notably, cognitive flexibility. In psychology, cognitive flexibility refers to a person’s ability to adapt to new things.
Openness to New Experiences
People who experience persistent low mood or struggle with chronic mental health problems can demonstrate reduced cognitive flexibility. This is why it becomes too easy to get stuck in the same unhelpful loops, no matter how badly you want out of them.
Cognitive flexibility reflects a person’s readiness and willingness to adapt to change in their lives, including switching between different mental states and selecting behavioral responses.
A research article from 2017 titled “Demystifying cognitive flexibility: Implications for clinical and developmental neuroscience”, explains how cognitive flexibility influences a person’s ability to adjust to changes in their environment.
People with greater cognitive flexibility demonstrate higher resilience, including a more adaptive response to negative life events and stress. People struggling with ongoing depression, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychological conditions often have impaired or lower cognitive flexibility. It’s not their fault — but it does make it harder for them to change, even when they’re given opportunities to do so.
Microdosing psilocybin has been shown to increase cognitive and neural flexibility among patients with major depressive disorder. A 2021 study of 24 participants found that psilocybin increased their cognitive flexibility as much as 4 weeks post-treatment.
Ongoing research will hopefully help us understand how much microdosing can affect brain function after the one-month mark.
By increasing your brain’s ability to form new connections, you can also open the door for greater change in your life. It doesn’t have to happen all at once, like some people describe in full-on trips. Instead, you can microdose at your own pace, and incorporate psilocybin into other types of therapy that help you gradually become more receptive and resilient.
By attaching to serotonin receptors, psilocybin and other psychedelics increase the production of serotonin in the body. Although it’s often known as the “happiness hormone”, serotonin is really a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help nerve cells communicate across synapses.
Serotonin in particular is linked to mood stability, cognition, sleep regulation, learning, memory, and motivation. When you do something you like, your body produces dopamine and serotonin. Both of them reinforce the idea that a particular activity is “good” and you should do it again.
While the chemical imbalance theory of depression has been largely debunked, there’s still plenty of evidence that links a higher volume of serotonin with a better mood. That’s why people have been turning to psychedelics instead of SSRIs (antidepressants)
Is Microdosing Safe?
Microdosing is taking the smallest effective amount of a substance. When it comes to psilocybin, that’s anything between 50 to 250mg. Unlike recreational doses, microdosing isn’t designed to cause psychoactive effects.
In doses under 1g, there are generally no visual hallucinations or other effects. People only experience brain-boosting benefits like a better mood, greater focus, and elevated creativity.
Our microdosing guide gives you the easiest breakdown of how much psilocybin you should try, and the best way to take it for the maximum benefit.
But here’s the thing — microdosing still doesn’t come with zero risks. Although it is safe for most people, it is not recommended for anyone who has a family history or diagnoses of psychosis, schizophrenia, or psychotic symptoms from another mental health disorder.
You should also avoid microdosing without a doctor’s approval if you’re on any prescription medications. Your wellbeing matters to us, and we only want you to try shrooms under the safest circumstances.
If you do go ahead and microdose, here are some potential psilocybin side effects you should be aware of:
- Upset stomach/diarrhea
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased anxiety/paranoia
- Mild to moderate hallucinations (auditory and/or visual)
Although most people won’t have any negative side effects, we encourage you to follow science-backed research and make the most educated choice for your health and wellness.
The Benefits of Psilocybin
Now, onto the perks. Shrooms aren’t just a fad, and they’re not reserved for the hippies of the 60s and 70s. While we do love the flower child vibe, the truth is that shrooms are now used by a wide range of people.
There are CEOs who take magic mushrooms. There are parents who take psilocybin. Plenty of people microdose and don’t do it because they’re looking for a high. They want to enjoy life to the fullest, and shrooms help them do that with the greatest clarity and enriched headspace.
Some benefits of microdosing we’ve both researched and experienced are:
- Improved mood throughout the day
- Greater motivation and productivity
- More empathy and kindness toward others
- An enhanced feeling of connection
- Lower depression and anxiety symptoms
- More creative-thinking and artistic output
As of 2019, the observed vs. believed effects of microdosing psychedelics differ. In other words, although people are saying they feel a lot better in most cases, science still hasn’t fully documented enough results to give substances the total green light.
What does this mean for you? It’s a personal choice to microdose or trip, and the benefits vary for every person. However, there is a lot of great research and helpful resources that can guide you toward the right call for your health.
Ask yourself why you want to try shrooms. You may be turning to them as a plant medicine alternative to pharmaceutical antidepressants. If that’s the case, you should bring this up with your psychiatrist and primary care physician.
The easiest way to get the best results is to make sure you know your whys for trying shrooms, and that you include the appropriate members of your care team to avoid any potential risks.
Microdosing vs. Tripping
Now that we’ve covered microdosing, let’s talk about what most people think of when they hear “magic mushrooms.” Although we specialize in microdoses, we also offer higher doses that can provide a full psilocybin trip.
- Is done several days apart for a set period of time
- Uses a low amount to avoid any hallucinations
- Is designed with daily functionality in mind, so you aren’t tripping while you go about your life
- Is better for people looking to give their mood, attention, or creativity a natural boost
- Can include intense feelings of calm, relaxation, and disconnection from your ego
- Includes perceptual distortions and hallucinations, like shifting colors, shapes, or even seeing yourself in entirely different environments
- Seeing or hearing sounds and colors, a phenomenon called synesthesia
- In higher doses, you may have a sense of being unreal or detached from the world or your identity; some people experience a connection with a higher power.
There are also bad trips, which are terrifying and can even put someone in jeopardy. This is why we never recommend tripping alone. You should always do so under the guidance of a “trip sitter,” someone who has experience with shrooms and can help you navigate your psychedelic experience.
How to Safely Go on a Full Psilocybin Trip
First things first, you need to get the right shrooms from a reputable source. We now offer Superdoses of shrooms that are loaded with 500mg of Golden Teacher mushrooms. You can enjoy one for a light trip, or take four for a total of 2 grams.
Set the Vibe
To fully enjoy your trip, you should first create a comfortable environment. Setting and intention are everything when it comes to getting the best out of any psychedelic experience.
Comfort is key, to make sure you’re somewhere you feel safe and completely relaxed. Make a chill playlist with your favorite tracks, lay down with some cozy pillows, and dim the lights. The right vibe will make all the difference in how you feel during and after your trip.
Choose Your Intention
Intention alters perception, which deeply influences how your brain will manifest your psychedelic experience. What are you hoping to get out of this moment? Do you want greater peace, more clarity, or even potentially connection to a higher state of being?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but make sure you are fully committed to your intention. Write it down, and repeat it several times as you take your dose. Deep breaths can work wonders here, too. Lay back, close your eyes, and state your intention (internally or out loud).
Fully Submit to the Experience
Resistance breeds confusion and discomfort, and there is no need for either of those during this time. Your trip is really a personal journey and opportunity for you to experience new things. You may find that with your ego slightly dimmed, you can accept truths you’ve been avoiding, or ask questions with answers you’re normally afraid of.
You can also just sit back and let the good vibes wash over you, allowing different sensations, thoughts, and realizations to gently come and go as they please.
Submitting to the experience is all about trusting your mind, body, and soul to do what comes naturally. You don’t have to be in charge to be in control, and it is an extremely cathartic experience to let your mind freely navigate its own path.
If you’ve been hitting a lot of roadblocks in yourself lately, a psilocybin trip can help you finally see easier ways around barriers you thought you had to surmount.
I’m definitely going to watch this. Thanks for the reco!