I started my journey to recovery when I was 25 years old. Before that, substance abuse, mental health imbalances, and the SAD (Standard American Diet) was all I knew. The influences I had growing up rippled into my career and lifestyle. My college experience as a hospitality and tourism student landed for me many jobs in the industry. This meant a decade of the ‘work hard, play harder’ routine.
I am so grateful to be free of many unhealthy addictions I adopted at a young age – alcohol, cigarettes, porn, consumerism, scrolling… I feel like the suffering which led me to each of these addictions has been re-patterned to serve me in dynamic ways. Today, I truly honor my body for its healing abilities and my inner knowing for rising to the occasion. It’s liberating to be claiming my power back and with a lot of help from mama nature while discovering my flow state.
I know what its like to have family who didn’t believe in me, who project negativity and fear in times when I was working hard at my personal healing and recovery. I know what its like to want to please everyone and to hold the weight of shame, guilt and resentment. As a person with an addictive personality, I will admit it is common to misuse a substance, or engage in behaviors with seemingly rewarding effects, even when there is positive influence and support.
Addictive behaviors involve brain pathways of reward, reinforcement and the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is important to know that brain pathways are changeable. Think of your brain like an overgrown meadow you’re born with; as a child your family members create many pathways in the meadow. As you get older some paths grow over while others become trails. The trails you rely on most often become roads and even highways. Any time a road is unused, nature will take it over, and any time you can choose to forge, you create a new path of your own. The problem is we forget that we have a choice. A bigger problem is giving our power away because we feel like it takes less of our energy.
What I dive into with you today is about our relationship with addictions, research to support an understanding for a body mind connection and how we can use psychedelics to assist us to a Flow State.
The complexities of addiction
Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease manifested by obsessive and compulsive behavior with harmful consequence. Addictive behaviors are often accompanied by mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, or other pre-existing problems. All addictions have the capacity to induce a victim mindset and feelings of failure, shame, and guilt.
People with severe addiction have distorted thinking, behavior and body functioning. These changes in the brain’s wiring are what cause intense cravings and make it harder to stop. Many substances cause harmful changes in how the brain functions and these changes can last long after the immediate effects of the substance. For twofold examples, the dopamine hit associated with glucose–fructose will release intense pleasure and cause inflammation. Coffee will release energy and cause nervousness. Smoking creates a sense of peace and causes problems of the immune system. Alcohol boosts our confidence and causes mental health issues…
Common causes of addiction include: development of drug tolerance, genetics, mindset, habits, environment, adverse childhood experiences, and as we discussed, mental health imbalances. The good news is, everything has an opposite. The opposite of big is small, the opposite of fear is excitement, the opposite of yes is no, and the opposite of addiction is flow. Flow is a psychological construct, a state of optimal experience characterized by intensive concentration and a feeling sense of expertise.
Gratifying a flow response
The characteristics of flow fractal that of addictive behavior. The nine characteristics of flow are: balance between challenges and skills, clear and activated goals, immediate feedback, intense concentration, merging of action and awareness, self-perception, a sense of control, time preservation, and experiencing a sense of reward.
Accessing flow reduces psychological problems associated with different states of mind like stress, anxiety, boredom, etc. Turning your addiction into flow can help you to switch your mind from stress to bliss, while also avoiding negative-reward consequences. Reward is important in the beginning of an addiction cycle, which exacerbates this cycle to begin, but the response to an addiction-reward is reduced as the disorder continues. However, as we begin turning addiction into flow states, the rewards become greater with positivity and excitement with every challenge outcome.
The general idea most recovery specialists suggest is to ride out the wave of intense desire to our addiction, but if you have never taken a surfing lesson you will likely feel more defeated with each wave. How well you ride matters. If you go into it like an addict—craving more flow, you’re not going to be able to recover enough to actually get the flow you desire. It’s critical to know how to navigate the tide and how to deal with emotions and thoughts as they arrive. Sustainable recovery requires emotional control and the ability to delay gratification. It’s not easy at first.
An example of relevance is the link between our desire for instant gratification and the Internet’s ability to deliver. We enter a hypnotic state within the first 7 seconds of looking at a screen; we swipe our phones open over 100x a day and binge tv shows for countless hours… We are ADDICTED to hypnotising ourselves and while biology says this is too fundamental to recover from, with proper guidance & mindfulness tools anyone can use their addiction as drive to enter a healthy flow state.
Mindfulness to flow
There is growing evidence that mindfulness can counter act the dopamine flood from addictive behaviors. Mindfulness trains people to pay attention to desires without reacting to them. Mindfulness also encourages people to notice why they feel pulled to indulge. Meditation is one mindfulness tool that quiets the neural space involved in rumination, a deep thought about something, which can lead to a loop of obsession. There is so much power in being mindful.
The cycle we want to be most mindful of is: cue, routine, and reward. When we understand the cue and routine, we can hack the reward. The reward comes from the nucleus accumbens, located in the forebrain, one in each side of our cerebral hemispheres. It releases dopamine, the brain’s principal reward drug. This reinforcement locks habits into place, including self-care patterning. This cycle is how we enter flow.
The seven flow conditions are:
- Knowing what to do
- Knowing how to do it
- Knowing how well you are doing it
- Knowing where to go or self-navigating
- Perceiving your challenges
- Perceiving your skills
- Steadying freedom from distractions
Some of the challenges to staying in flow include the same states that lead us to our addiction – apathy, boredom, and anxiety. Flow states require three conditions:
- One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and tracked progress.
- The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback.
- One must have confidence in one’s ability to complete the task at hand.
Flow is known to produce intense feelings of enjoyment; it’s a healthy way to experience a life that is enjoyable and enhances happiness in the long run. People who have experienced flow, express the following feelings as being in a sense of ‘Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated. A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality. Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
Knowing that the activity is doable – that our skills are adequate to the task. A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego. Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by the minute. Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.’ Flow has been linked to persistence and achievement in activities, while also helping to lower anxiety during various activities and helping raise self-esteem.
Integrating psychedlics for cognition
The truth is, psychedelics work like Nootropics (noh-ə-TROP-iks). They are smart and natural cognitive enhancers. They improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation in healthy individuals. These naturally sourced substances seem to unlock the brain’s ability to remodel itself through Neuroplasticity, meaning they rewire the brain. Working in tandem with a coach or other health professional may further support new growth and connections.
We also know that psychedelics decrease blood flow to the “default mode network” (DMN), an area of the brain that is activated when the mind is wandering and has no commitment. In Napoleon Hill’s book, “Outwitting the Devil”, he refers to this wandering as the “Drifter”. When taken with intention, psychedelics allow us the ability to think beyond our limited set of beliefs programmed within the DMN, and find NEW solutions. As psychedelics decrease DMN activation, users expand their ability to connect seemingly unconnected pieces of information and create revolutionary new solutions. These changes enhance lateral thinking and creativity, both of which are critical for problem-solving and analytical thinking.
User and scientific trial research shows most psychedelics mimic the effects of serotonin (the mood regulator) and 5-HT2A receptors (HT for hydroxyl-tryptamine, which is serotonin) in the prefrontal cortex. This enables the transmission of signals between nerve cells and plays a role in learning and memory.
When considering the use of psychedelics, your state of your mind and environment are important. In order to prepare for a safe experience, you must consider appropriate dosage, setting, integration and support. I must also add that taking multiple doses or combining with other substances is NOT recommended. Without proper support you may want to pack away your psychedelic experience in the basement of your subconscious where it can come back up unexpectedly. Integration is most important.
Exploring new treatments for processing emotions
Let’s place a strong focus on the integration of indigenous psychedelic medicines for mental health so you can further explore your research with these plants and fungi that are proven to be helping people turn their addictive behaviors into these healthy flow states we just spoke of.
For those new to the research, psychedelics prove effective at treating mental health illness, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and addiction. Serotonergic neurotransmission, an assistant to processing of emotional stimuli, opens one up to experience life fully. Neurogenesis, the biological process for forming new neurons, molds one’s personality. This has an important impact on one’s value systems.
These value systems include our cognitive flexibility and behaviours. These natural flora and fungi may just be our saving grace when it comes to self-regulation and recovery. Further, psychedelic reports show us a boost in psychosocial wellbeing, cognitive enhancement, creative enhancement, reduced depression and anxiety, enhanced self-insight, mindfulness, improved mood and attitude toward life, improved habits and health behaviors, also improved social interactions and interpersonal connections.
While addiction and addiction symptom treatments are still dominated by prescriptions for pharmaceutical drugs, this does NOT mean those prescribed have a pharmaceutical deficiency for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac and other SSRIs. These types of drugs boost levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in synapses by blocking its reabsorption by neurons. Despite the fact that these drugs can have destructive and damaging side effects throughout the body and difficult withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, vomiting, brain zaps, and death, doctors are still dealing drugs for quick solutions rather than educating themselves on safer and natural alternatives.
With mood, anxiety, and substance-use disorders being among the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in our population today, and even with the several pharmacological treatments available for treating, these substances are not effective for a significant proportion of patients and are associated with several adverse reactions. Therefore, new treatments must be explored.
Mental Health disorders like addiction, OCD, and ADD are powerful superpowers, and psychedelics give us the wisdom to “use the force for knowledge and defense”. Psychedelics have regained interest because users report beneficial effects on cognitive processes and well-being.
In contrast to pharmaceuticals, and so far as science can tell, psychedelics aren’t considered addictive and they don’t appear to cause organ damage or neurotoxicity. They can however cause adverse experiences, such as increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, headaches, and transient psychological distress, dizziness, blurred vision, weakness and tremors, during the hours they are active. For some people, negative effects persist for days or weeks. There are considerations to be aware of in choosing what we use in and for supporting our body and mind.
Small amounts with big results
Microdosing is the practice of using very small doses (usually between 10 and 20 micrograms (μg) of LSD or 100 milligrams (mg) of psilocybin). These small doses of serotonergic psychedelics utilized with intention, can improve creativity, boost physical energy level, promote emotional balance, increase performance on problem-solving tasks and are used in these micro amounts to treat anxiety, depression and addiction.
A microdose does not cause perceptual-sensory changes such as visual hallucinations and is not strong enough to debilitate the consumer. In research, microdosing is reported to significantly heighten alertness, creativity, and problem-solving—inducing a “flow state” that aids in lateral thinking.
Microdosing causes cortical functions to be more fluid, leading researchers to believe that psychedelics may help certain brain areas work in increasingly flexible and expansive ways. Social media has played a vital role in the growing online visibility of microdosing by providing strategies for optimal results, minimized risks, and shared emotional support.
Supplying nutrition to the body
Before undergoing any psychedelic experience, I encourage you to get your physical health in optimal condition. Include more fermented foods in your diet to support your gut health. While science mainly focuses on the central nervous system including the immune system and the neuroendocrine system, the body’s microbiome is where about 95 percent of the serotonin in your body is produced.
Probiotics, the beneficial microorganisms which populate our digestive tract, are our troops. They help to digest the food we eat, facilitate absorption of nutrients and regulate our mood. Folate and other B-Vitamins are also crucial because they help in the production of dopamine. You can get your folate from a daily intake of lentils and leafy greens.
Lastly, I want to mention magnesium, a key nutrient for nerve and muscle function and regulating the heartbeat. Magnesium deficiency could exacerbate depression and anxiety so ensure you enjoy Epsom salt baths more often and include dark chocolate with its high supply of natural magnesium.
These elemental nutrition tips, along with proper hydration, sleep, and exercise will set your body up to produce all the biochemicals necessary for a sustainable recovery.
The far-out rippling effect
Some of these ideas are “far out” even with the science there is to back it up. Still, as people come out of the psychedelic closet and work more freely with these naturally occurring medicines, there becomes a remembering… How yesterday’s prohibition becomes tomorrow’s stocks…
How the precaution of psychedelics includes the oppression of our own human ability to self-regulate for human optimization… How a temporary disruption of neural hierarchies allows us to surrender control… How we can empower ourselves with our habits to increase the information transfer throughout our multidimensional being… How freeing nature from the grips of control frees our minds… How, when we liberate ourselves, the world around us will follow to liberation – There is a ripple effect!
I hope this article has brought you an inspirational outlook towards awareness of your life habits, greater movement to health and a new addiction to flow.
My professional expertise resides in nutrition, hormone health, energy work, and 17 years working directly with natural foods & medicines such as magic (psilocybin) mushrooms. I received my training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where I learned from world class experts.
You may also find value in teachings from the Mckenna Academy, Dr. Dan Engle, and others within the Sociedelic community where I enjoy contributing to the psychedelic revolution happening now. For a daily dose of positivity connect with me directly on Instagram @ElementalGrowth
Thank you for taking this step in your recovery, I am sending you all much love on your Elemental Growth journey ☺