Being social is what makes humans, humans. Think about the people that make you feel comfortable and loved. They are probably the most important people in your life. Our sense of belonging is essential to our happiness. Research on the neuroscience of human social behaviour and interactions correlates clearly to our mental health.
It's so important that Harvard studied it for 80 years and came to the same conclusion: embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier. “Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study.
So where do we get our education on how to have healthy social interactions? We rely on the communities that raise us to create who we are to become and teach us what we need to know. That's why adult behaviours can be traced back to childhood memories. We are rooted in our societies and communities.
If we look at the opposite effect, feeling depressed and lonely, research shows that a sense of social disconnectedness is a key feature of depression, and by improving connectedness between oneself and others we can reduce depressive symptoms.
Isn't it weird that we use a depressant to socialise then? Our most common social drug, alcohol, is in the family of other drugs and medications that are regularly prescribed to reduce symptoms of anxiety, panic, and sleep disorders due to their tranquillizing effects. They slow down brain functioning and neural activity.
However, looking back at some of our oldest social traditions and communities, psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, has a rich history, and it makes sense why. What would happen if we brought it back into our social environments?
Psilocybin and social connectedness
There is so much ongoing research studying psilocybin and what it does to the human brain. It is proving to help cure depression, PTSD, and addictions, while boosting overall happiness, and improving social connectedness in so many people, among other things.
When we look at psilocybin and social connectedness, it gets really interesting, not only because it increases our sense of unity with other people, but psilocybin also improves our relationship with the earth and environment.
There is a substantial body of research literature that highlights a strong association between nature relatedness and psychological health and eudaimonic well-being, that is, subjective experiences linked to living a life of virtue in the pursuit of human excellence. One study reported a positive relationship between nature relatedness and eudaimonic well-being that was nearly four times larger than socioeconomic status (reference).
Another way of studying psilocybin and social connectedness is by analysing social decision-making tasks and how they alter social interactions. One clinical study investigated sociability and how it may be altered following the administration of psilocybin. The study empirically validated that it has specific dose-dependent effects on people’s tendency to incorporate others in their self-construal. Thus, predicting that a greater degree of social connectedness would be associated with a more positive mood after substance use (reference).
In the domain of psychedelic research, it has therefore been theorized over and over that increases in social connectedness may be responsible for the positive effects psilocybin use can have on mental well-being and nature.
If we all felt more connection with one another, perhaps that could cure the rising global depression rates as well as the rising global climate destruction.
Mushrooms are continuing to shape our human existence and experiences. We should allow them in our social rituals to deepen our relationship with ourselves, each other, and the planet.