#22: 🎨 Do Psychedelics Spark Creativity?
While difficult to quantitate in the lab, many credit psychedelics for their discoveries
Introducing, Nina’s Notes with narration by Nina.
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💬 In this note:
🕓 A Daily Routine To Boost Longevity
🎨 Do Psychedelics Spark Creativity?
🕓 A Daily Routine To Boost Longevity
Dr. Mark Hyman is the author of “Young Forever” where he breaks down the science of healthy aging, with tips for habits to extend your healthspan.
Dr. Hyman is chronologically 63 years old, but his biological age is 43 based on markers of cellular health. He believes that simple lifestyle changes can lead to big boosts in longevity, and that good exercise and nutrition are important for not only a long life, but a better quality of life. One of my favorite quotes of his is,
“You’re not just adding years to your life, you’re adding life to your years.”
He believes that it's a common misconception that getting old automatically comes with health problems like achy joints, foggy thinking, and chronic illness.
"People don't realize those problems occur with things that we can change, that are reversible. It's a treatable condition, as opposed to an inevitable decline," Hyman told Insider.
Dr. Hymans’ Routine:
Wake up & 20 min meditation
Morning Coffee & dedicated writing time
30 min strength training with resistance bands
3 minute cold plunge
“A healthy aging shake”
Lunch & Dinner following a paleo/vegan diet
Getting a total of about 180 minutes of daily exercise
How his routine is linked to longevity:
Coffee is linked to lower risk conditions like heart disease and dementia.
Meditation can improve mental health and reduce stress
Strength training helps to build muscles and reduce health risks such as cancer and heart disease.
A cold plunge has been popularized by extreme athlete, Wim Hof, and it may reduce inflammation and improve metabolism. Dr. Hyman does a 3 minute cold plunge, which is a long amount of time. About 1 in 5 people lack a muscle protein called alpha-actinin-3 due to a change in the ACTN3 gene, which makes people more resistant to colder temperatures. If you’re one of these people, perhaps a 3 minute cold plunge is not too painful for you. However for some of us (me included) who hate being cold, just 10 seconds of cold exposure, like a cold rinse after a hot shower, can be beneficial.
The CDC recommends 150 minutes of activity per week and 2 days of muscle strength training. This is an average for the whole population. It is important to note that some people need more exercise than others to maintain a healthy weight and feel fit. For example, Dr. Hyman tries to get 180 minutes of activity each day with hiking and biking. I’m a very active person and I hit 300-500 minutes of activity per week, which leaves me feeling energized with good restful sleep.
Dr. Hyman follows his morning working with a “healthy aging shake” which includes healthy fats from berries, chia seeds and hemp seeds. He also adds 48 grams of whey protein powder to his shake.
Shakes are a powerful and easy way to introduce essential nutrients in your diet. On the Huberman podcast recommended in last week’s newsletter #21, at around minute 28 of the podcast Dr. Sara Gottfried recommends smoothies to adolescents and adults who are lacking vegetables in their diet. She suggests having a smoothie 3-5x a week that includes cauliflower, spinach or other greens and steamed broccoli, which can make huge changes to your nutrition and your gut microbiome.
Dr. Gottfried has one patient who radically changed his life by changing his gut microbiome with smoothies. He was overweight and developed an autoimmune disease. He changed his microbiome, lost a huge amount of weight and reversed his autoimmune disease by having a daily smoothie with 57 fruits and vegetables in it.
Now most of us cannot access (or afford #inflation) that many fruits and vegetables daily or have the time to blend up a collection of 57 of them. Supplements like Athletic Greens, AG1, can be an easy option instead. One serving of AG1 powder contains 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole-food sourced nutrients in one convenient daily serving.
🎨 Do Psychedelics Spark Creativity?
Psychedelics and creativity have been linked in anecdotal evidence from artists, scientists, actors, entertainers and musicians. Many credit the benefits of psychedelic substances for influencing their work.
In the last 7 years, there has been an increasing trend to use macro- and micro-dosing to increase cognition and creativity, particularly in Silicon Valley.
However, the scientific evidence is lacking to demonstrate a quantitative enhancement of creative thinking with psychedelic drugs
In an interview with Natasha Mason, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maastricht, she dives into an experiment she conducted to directly assess the effects of psychedelics on creativity.
How do you define creativity?
Scientists view creativity as a dynamic process that requires a shifting between different modes of thought in order to reach an end result. These modes include divergent thinking (DT) which consists of generating novel and original ideas, and convergent thinking (CT), the evaluation of those ideas and choosing which one is best.
Creativity is an essential process for everyday functioning, and the inability to think “outside the box” has been associated with psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
How is creativity measured?
Creativity is difficult to measure, especially when psychedelics produce other effects that may be mistaken for creativity.
In her study, Dr. Mason used the “alternate uses task,” which is the gold standard for assessing divergent thinking. Here they asked people to come up with uses for an everyday object like a brick or a pen, and they have to write down how many different uses they can come up with.
Secondly, they used the “picture concept task,” which assesses both divergent and convergent thinking. Here they showed people three rows of three pictures, and they had to make associations between them. There is always one correct answer, with the number of correctly identified associations across the task serving as a benchmark for more convergent creativity.
Finally, they had a questionnaire asking how creative the study participants felt, not specifically during the tasks but throughout the whole testing day. It consisted of statements like “I had insights into problems,” “I had insights into connections that had previously puzzled me,” or “I had very original thoughts,” which participants rated after the testing day.
The study had 60 participants, 30 of which were given 15mg of psilocybin, which is a moderate dose where participants were still able to perform the requested tasks. The other group received placebo.
The study found that participants performed worse under the influence of psilocybin than under placebo in all tasks. Both divergent and convergent creativity were reduced, yet at the same time participants reported feeling more creative.
Seven days later, participants returned to the lab for a second assessment, and the researchers found a significant increase in the number of new ideas people came up with on the alternate uses task for the psilocybin group. Interestingly, we also found that the more subjective creativity they reported on the acute testing day, the more new ideas they had on the seventh day.
The observed “delay” of creativity is super interesting. A theory I have is inspired by Dr. Matthew Walker’s research and his book, Why We Sleep Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. In which he explains how essential sleep is to the integration of learning and forming new connections in the brain. Perhaps sleep can help explain the '‘after glow’ effect after a psychedelic experience and the importance of integration sessions after psychedelic assisted therapy.
What are some discoveries credited to psychedelics?
Many celebrities and futurists such as Cary Grant, Susan Sarandon, Joe Rogan, Yoko Ono and Elon Musk credit the benefits of psychedelic substances for influencing their work.
Steve Jobs, said “Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life… LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important.”
Two breakthrough biology-related discoveries have links to psychedelics. The DNA double-helix structure was discovered by Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick who admitted to fellow scientists that he enjoyed dabbling in LSD to strengthen his mind and used it during his discovery of DNA.
Nobel Prize-winning chemist Kary Mullis claims his invention of polymerase chain reactions (PCR), one of the most fundamental tools of molecular biology, might never have happened without LSD. As he put it, “I could sit on a DNA molecule and watch the polymers go by. I learnt that partly on psychedelic drugs.”
This may be a stretch, but some even believe the gospel of the Ten Commandments was delivered by Moses while under the influence of psilocybin. According to Jerusalem Hebrew University professor Benny Shanon, magic mushrooms were readily accessible at Mount Sinai and widely used by Israelites during Biblical times.
Alexandra Plesner lists 7 ways that psychedelics impact creative thinking in her article published on NeoLife.
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📚 Book of the Week
Vicious: Villains, Book One by V. E. Schwab
⚡️ Check This Out
The world's largest pilot study on the four-day workweek showed the shortened workweek works. The study, conducted by the New Zealand-based nonprofit, 4 Day Week Global , spanned across 61 UK organizations of various sizes and industries, involving around 2.9k employees from June to December 2022.
The study found consistent benefits across industries where revenue rose by an average of 1.4% and staff turnover dropped by 57%. Of the participating organizations, 92% have decided to continue with shorter weeks.
Participants in the study reported higher job satisfaction, less burnout, improved mental health, and an increase in their abilities at work. Women, in particular, saw greater improvements, and men reported contributing more to their households, including more time caring for their children.
Employees used the extra time for leisure activities, hobbies and housework. Surprisingly they did not use the extra time to take other paid work.