‘that’ snake (ouroboros)

Gratitude and psilocybin are a bit like that snake-that-eats-its-own-tail. We feel grateful for the transcendentally trippy effects that shrooms give us, and in turn, the psilocybin itself actually increases our feelings of gratitude. Round and round it goes! Good vibes merging into good vibes. And this isn’t just speculatory. 

“I was overwhelmed with gratitude”

In 2022, a study called Psilocybin-Induced Mystical-Type Experiences are Related to Persisting Positive Effects: A Quantitative and Qualitative Report was published by Frontiers in Pharmacology. It found that participants who were administered psilocybin and had ‘mystical-type’ experiences reported long-lasting positive psychological effects. These included enhanced ‘universal connectedness’, ‘experience of beauty’ and feelings of ‘familial love’. 

One female participant, when asked about her experience, said;

“The feeling of joy and love was the energy in the universe, completely intense and multiplied by 100… I felt immensely privileged to be part of this universe / community, to be able to feel those feelings in such a pure form, to have such deep emotions in my body—and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this world. That everything simply is. And with that I was overtaken by a desire to protect it all, to show the world how beautiful it is and to take care of it.”

Sound familiar? Same, female participant, same. 

The participants were also asked to draw their experiences. This was the above participant’s drawing, illustrating her journey..

Report 3, female, CME, MEQ total 3.9 via National Library of Medicine

If that’s ⬆️ not the physical manifestation of gratitude, we don’t know what is. 

Is Gratitude the Key to Happiness?

So, why are we harping on about gratitude so much? Well, gratitude has long been touted as the secret key to happiness. The fields of both psychology and neuroscience have begun to seriously explore how gratitude can affect our brains. Studies have found that gratitude can;

  • Boost the feel-good chemicals in our brains
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Regulate our stress-response
  • Enhance social bonding
  • Actually train our brains to recognize and gravitate towards positivity

5 Reasons Why Our Brains Are Grateful for Gratitude

via deepdreamgenerator
  1. It reduces stress hormones: When we focus on positive emotions and express gratitude our brains may reduce the production of stress hormones such as cortisol. This can help to calm down our nervous system, which reduces anxiety and promotes a sense of wellbeing overall.
  2. It stimulates neurotransmitter production: Gratitude boosts the production of dopamine and serotonin, AKA the feel-good chemicals. And this isn’t just a momentary phenomenon. Expressing gratitude regularly could lead to long-term improvements in our mood and quality of life. 
  3. It strengthens neural pathways: Each time you express gratitude you may be reinforcing neural pathways associated with positive emotions. Over time these pathways are enhanced and strengthened, making it easier for you to access positive emotions. 
  4. It improves important brain functions: Studies that use fMRI scans have suggested that gratitude can activate numerous critical areas of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision making, empathy, and emotional regulation. 
  5. It restructures cognition: Gratitude can stimulate the restructuring of our cognitive processes. This can happen by encouraging a shift in our mindset from negative to positive thinking, by focusing on the good elements of our lives. By practicing gratitude you can actually train and restructure your brain to be more receptive to positivity. 

Other Benefits of Gratitude

Not convinced? Here are some other things that a gratitude practice can do for you:

Boost your mood

Practicing gratitude regularly may have long lasting positive effects on mental health. When we express gratitude we tend to have higher levels of happiness, which can improve mood, and potentially benefit those suffering with depressive symptoms. 

Help with stress management

    Sure, we all experience stress, but by shifting the focus to the good in your life, and not letting these moments be the be-all-end-all, we can bring both temporary and long-term relief to the psychological and physiological impacts of stress. 

    Improve self-esteem and social confidence

    Practicing gratitude can lead to an increased sense of self-worth. This is because you are encouraged to notice the good things in life, and to recognise that you deserve them. You. Deserve. Nice. Things! This makes us less likely to compare ourselves to others, and thus make our friendships more equal and positive. We also start to recognise our worth within a community, helping us to contribute further. 

    Strengthen resilience

    When we acknowledge what we are thankful for, we become more resilient in the face of adversity. A gratitude practice can help us to find the silver lining when something challenging occurs. 

    every cloud has a silver lining…. via Wikimedia Commons

    Promotes focus and mental clarity

    When we focus on the positives we become less distracted by the nagging doubts, insecurities, and catastrophizing that muddles our concentration. When we are feeling good, we are less likely to make impulsive decisions.  

    Support heart health and immune system functioning 

    Evidence is emerging that gratitude can improve our heart health. Studies suggest that gratitude can help to decrease blood pressure, the risk of heart disease, and more. This could be due to a reduction in stress, and better lifestyle choices, that those practicing gratitude experience. Positive emotions are also said to strengthen the immune system. 

    Improves sleep quality

    Ever kept awake by negative thoughts running through your head? Us too. But studies have shown that those who practice gratitude report better sleep quality. This includes improved sleep duration, and less time taken to fall asleep, as well as overall quality. Quieting those late-night anxieties can lead to an overall calming effect, which is greatly conducive to sleep. 

    Photo by Aleksandar Cvetanovic on Unsplash

    The 3 Types of Gratitude

    There are 3 linked, but distinct, types of gratitude. (Our tip is to plan 3 shroom trips, spaced a month or so apart, and each time focus on a different type of gratitude!) 🍄🍄🍄

    Gratitude for people: think of the family, friends, colleagues, classmates, acquaintances, or even strangers, who have been a positive force in your life. 

    Gratitude for experiences: consider the experiences you’ve had. These can range from significant life events, such as falling in love, or graduating. They could also be simple pleasures, like swimming in the sea, or being cozy inside on a rainy day. 

    Gratitude for things: think of all the material possessions, and conveniences, that you appreciate and make your life more comfortable. Maybe they are thoughtful gifts you have received, or items you have worked hard for. 

    We are grateful for songs that remind us about the 3 types of gratitude… via Youtube

    How We Can Practice Gratitude 

    Practicing gratitude has a positive effect on all areas of our lives. This extends to psychedelic experiences. The confidence and resilience that comes with practicing gratitude means we are able to explore the psychedelic cosmiverse with a solid base, helping us to penetrate deeper than ever before. Additionally, as we discussed above, shroom experiences actually boost feelings of gratitude. This means that your psilocybin trip also contributes, and opens you further, to all the positive aspects of gratitude that we have explored in this article. 

    The Four As of Gratitude

    When starting a gratitude practice, the ‘four As of gratitude’ certainly come in handy. By starting with these, one at a time, you can start to incorporate them into your life. Maybe it feels silly, or cringey, at first. Maybe it feels just right. Either way, you might just be thankful you did…

    Appreciation: the act of actively recognising and valuing the positive aspects of your life — from people, to experiences, to material things. 

    Acknowledgement: the act of consciously acknowledging the good things and feeling thankful for them.

    Admiration: the act of admiring the qualities, kindness, skills, or achievements of yourself and others. 

    Affection: the act of showing love and warmth towards the people and things that have positive effects in your life. 

    It’s rare that something that feels good, is actually good for you. Gratitude is one of those things. 

    So why not go forth and enjoy the positive vibes?