This episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast welcomes Dr. Sam Gandy to discuss the symbiotic relationship between psychedelic experiences and connection with nature. Dr. Gandy holds a PhD in ecological science from the University of Aberdeen and has conducted field research across the globe. He currently works as a research assistant at the Synthesis Institute and as a senior science writer at Wavepaths. He is also a collaborator with the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London and was previously a scientific assistant to the director of the Beckley Foundation.
In this conversation, Dr. Gandy shares insights from his research into psychedelics and nature relatedness with special emphasis on his 2020 publication “The Potential Synergistic Effects between Psychedelic Administration and Nature Contact for the Improvement of Mental Health” (linked below). Dr. Gandy discusses the numerous overlaps between the experience of nature relatedness—the personal sense of being connected with the natural world—and the experiences induced by psychedelic substances. These overlaps cover a range of domains and all work to promote wellbeing. For example, Dr. Gandy reports that neuroticism decreases both as a result of positive psychedelic experiences and from spending quality time in nature. As high neuroticism can correlate with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, interventions that can impact this trait have significant therapeutic potential.
In addition to specific overlaps between the psychedelic experience and nature relatedness, Dr. Gandy also discusses how psychedelics and psilocybin in particular seem to increase a sense of nature relatedness. Considering these overlapping benefits and the symbiotic relationship between psychedelics and nature relatedness, Dr. Gandy provides some speculations for how nature can be more intentionally integrated into psychedelic therapies and ceremonies to maximize the therapeutic benefits of both. He mentions that even something as small as decorating a clinical setting with artwork depicting nature can have positive impacts for patients undergoing psychedelic psychotherapy in the space.
In this episode:
Eudaimonic vs hedonic well being The neurobiological and psychological overlaps between nature relatedness and the psychedelic experience How both psychedelics and nature relatedness promote mindfulness and experiences of awe Ideas for combining psychedelic therapy and experiences of nature to enhance health benefits
“Nature connectedness is a mediator for some of the benefits to cognition and mood obtained from actually spending time in nature, having contact with nature.” [6:57]
“There was a study published last year by a Finnish research group and one of the most common after effects of psychedelic mystical experiences they found was this sustained, positive shift in peoples’ relationship to nature.” [17:35]
“Psilocybin has this capacity to facilitate this fairly robust, rapid, but most importantly sustained increase in nature relatedness. And the really mysterious and interesting thing is that it can do this even when it's administered in a clinical setting.” [22:47]
“The restorative effect of nature obviously benefits both the person having the therapy and the therapist, and it potentially allows for the outdoor nature-based setting to become part of the therapy itself.” [31:00]
“If you’re going to do any kind of psychedelic nature connection, nature immersion therapy, it’s very important to have a cozy, secure structure that people have got as a safe place.” [35:31]
Dr. Gandy on Twitter
Dr. Gandy’s 2020 article The Potential Synergistic Effects between Psychedelic Administration and Nature Contact for the Improvement of Mental Health
Dr. Gandy’s 2019 article From Egoism to Ecoism: Psychedelics Increase Nature Relatedness in a State-Mediated and Context-Dependent Manner