According to new research, a single trip from magic mushrooms is enough for people to experience long-term increases in mindfulness and openness.
Mindfulness has long been used in Buddhist practice, and is currently gaining currency as a mental practice to better contain mental health issues and cope with life in general. Although criticized by some scientists as a lofty idea that difficult to measure objectively, self-reported usage of the mental practice appears to benefit people both physically and mentally.
For the study, researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital Rigshospitalet in Denmark recruited 10 volunteers to take a single dose of psilocybin (0.2-0.3mg per kg of body weight). With none of the participants having had previous experience with psychedelic drugs, prior to taking the drug and afterwards, each participant was also asked to complete questionnaires that assessed their personality traits and levels of mindfulness to understand how their experiences would affect them.
In the end, 8 out of the 10 subjects experienced a “complete mystical experience”, with feelings of “ineffability” and “transcendence of time and space”. Given a questionnaire a week following their trips, the researchers were able to record significant increases in both mindfulness and openness among these individuals, personality traits largely associated with openness to new experiences, creativity and curiosity. A follow-up survey conducted three months later found that these increases were sustained in the longer term too.
Also as a part of the study, the researchers used PET brain scans to measure the changes in activity in each person’s brain after taking the drug. In particular, they noticed a significant change in the serotonin receptor (5-HT2AR) binding a week after the drug was taken. In particular, they noted that such a change in 5-HT2AR binding after a week was negatively associated with changes in mindfulness three months later down the line.
Although interesting results, as the study had a small sample size, its findings are not necessarily conclusive. Also, as the data was collected on a self-reported basis, it is possible that the results are based on subjective biases- stemming from different definitions of “mindfulness” and ability to record one’s own behavior.