The potential synergistic effects between psychedelic administration and nature contact for the improvement of mental health
Sam Gandy, Matthias Forstmann, Robin Lester Carhart-Harris, Christopher Timmermann, David Luke and Rosalind Watts
Health Psychology Open, 2020, 1–21
Doi : 10.1177/2055102920978123
Therapeutic psychedelic administration and contact with nature have been associated with the same psychological mechanisms : decreased rumination and negative affect, enhanced psychological connectedness and mindfulness related capacities, and heightened states of awe and transcendent experiences, all processes linked to improvements in mental health amongst clinical and healthy populations. Nature-based settings can have inherently psychologically soothing properties which may complement all stages of psychedelic therapy (mainly preparation and integration) whilst potentiating increases in nature relatedness, with associated psychological benefits. Maximising enhancement of nature relatedness through therapeutic psychedelic administration may constitute an independent and complementary pathway towards improvements in mental health that can be elicited by psychedelics.
Keywords : drug effects, health promotion, health psychology, well-being, psychedelics
Nature relatedness has been associated with a broad range of benefits to psychological health and well-being. It is a measurable, trait-like construct of one’s self-identification with nature, defined as a sense of ‘oneness with the natural world’ (Mayer and Frantz, 2004) or a ‘sustained awareness of the interrelatedness between one’s self and the rest of nature’ (Zylstra et al., 2014). It is a stable state of consciousness, that is experiential, emotional and highly personal, rather than rational or deliberation-based (Lumber et al., 2017; Nisbet et al., 2009; Nisbet and Zelenski, 2013; Richardson and Sheffield, 2017; Wright and Matthews, 2015; Zylstra et al., 2014). Nature relatedness is considered to be a basic psychological human need (Baxter and Pelletier, 2019), associated with mental well-being and also with increased contact with nature (Fretwell and Greig, 2019; Lin et al., 2014; Mayer and Frantz, 2004; Nisbet et al., 2009, 2011; Nisbet and Zelenski, 2013; Tam, 2013; Van Gordon et al., 2018; Wolsko and Lindberg, 2013; Wright and Matthews, 2015). Contact with nature is associated with an extraordinarily broad range of benefits to physical and mental health and well-being (for reviews see Frumkin et al., 2017; Twohig-Bennett and Jones, 2018). Nature relatedness (sometimes referred to as nature connectedness in the literature) is distinct from nature contact, yielding independent and additive benefits, although the two have a positively reinforcing relationship.
Research suggests that experiences with classical or serotonergic psychedelic compounds (acting as agonists at the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor) (Carhart-Harris et al., 2014; Glennon et al., 1984; Nichols, 2016) can foster sustained increases in nature relatedness (Forstmann and Sagioglou, 2017; Kettner et al., 2019; Lyons and Carhart-Harris, 2018) and appreciation for and contact with nature (Doblin, 1991;
Luke, 2017; Kangaslampi et al., 2020; Noorani et al., 2018; Studerus et al., 2011; Watts et al., 2017). Furthermore, access to nature-based settings during psychedelic sessions predicts positive changes in nature relatedness (Kettner et al., 2019). An increase in nature relatedness likely occurs through a number of different mechanisms, such as through increased mindfulness-related capacities, connectedness, openness to experience and eliciting strong emotional states (for a review see Aday et al., 2020). That psychedelics such as psilocybin are capable of eliciting sustained increases in nature relatedness even when administered in clinical settings lacking in nature (Lyons and Carhart-Harris, 2018) is a noteworthy finding.