How To Make The Most Of A Psychedelic Experience

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How To Make The Most Of A Psychedelic Experience

Taking a psychedelic drug can be a daunting experience. Anxiety is natural, but we can go into it with confidence too. Learning these 4 principles can help us to let go, and as a result get more out of tripping. Find out what you should consider before embarking on a psychedelic experience.

The psychedelic experience is a world away from everyday life. Beautiful, profound, terrifying, life-changing—it can be all of these things at once.

If done thoughtfully, tripping can be one of the best things we can do for ourselves. If done with no precautions, we can scare ourselves off it forever. There’s a huge amount of bad press surrounding psychedelic drugs and their effects—and indeed, they can cause distressing effects. However, in almost all cases, it is the way in which they are taken that is responsible for any “bad trips”.

Going into a trip with an open and curious mind is the best way to ensure a fulfilling experience. Below, we will examine four principles to help guide you on a pleasant and profound journey.


In its most basic sense, a psychedelic experience is the result of taking a psychedelic substance. However, we can simultaneously be a little more romantic and a little more specific.

The psychedelic experience has been subject to much thought and study. From cognitive scientists, to writers, to philosophers, to shamans, people from all times, places, and backgrounds have been fascinated by the mental worlds we enter under the influence of psychedelic drugs.

No matter which drug you take, a psychedelic experience is defined by a change in conscious experience, with some sort of "opening up"—whether that’s to the outside world or the unconscious remains a topic of debate.

But philosophers, those who use psychedelics for religious reasons, and regular consumers all note a greater "connection" to themselves, the world, and more under the influence of psychedelics. This has, in turn, been verified in numerous scientific studies, which indicate that the brain does in fact become more connected under the influence of psychedelic drugs—but in a completely different way than when in a normal state (Barrett et al., 2020).


What Is A Psychedelic Experience?

Psychedelics are a category of drugs based more on their phenomenological effects than their physical ones. They fall into the broader category of hallucinogens, but can be distinguished by their ability to induce significant changes to consciousness, with the potential for visual and auditory effects. The classical psychedelics (aka classic psychedelics) are considered to be:

Magic mushrooms/truffles




Though the mechanisms by which they work are poorly understood, it is thought that classical psychedelics induce effects primarily by interacting with the brain’s serotonin receptors. In terms of their similarities, they all change our conscious experience and warp perception. But so do all psychoactive drugs—so what's the difference?

Classical psychedelics share similar-enough effects that they can be thought of as a family. Describing their effects, and differentiating them from other drugs, is very difficult. In terms of how the world looks and feels on them, music becomes warmer and sounds better; thoughts become more profound; the natural world becomes more beautiful. And this is just scratching the surface.

But it's not necessarily all good. While, on the whole, the effects of psychedelics are considered rewarding, they can cause distress as well. People can feel as though they’ve lost their sense of self (which is good or bad, depending on what you're prepared for) while tripping, and thought patterns can loop and become incredibly confusing—one might even experience "ego death". Likewise, psychedelics can increase feelings of anxiety in those who aren't adequately prepared.

So, how do you prepare yourself?


No two psychedelic experiences are exactly the same, and we rarely have control over where they take us. What we do have some control over, though, is how we approach them and respond to them. Proper appreciation and preparation for a psychedelic experience can make the difference between a good trip and a bad trip.

It’s not just about avoiding a bad time, but about having the best time possible. Whether you desire pure fun or a deep, contemplative experience, there are some things worth bearing in mind that will help you achieve a worthwhile experience.


You’ve probably come across the phrase "set and setting", which refers to both your internal mindset and the external environment in which you trip. Both are very important, and can be summed up as “intentions”.

Internally, preparing yourself for the fact that you don’t know what is to come, and giving your mind the space to go wherever it likes, will increase the chances of having a good time—or even a profound time. Though it seems slightly counterproductive, it’s almost about setting the intention to just "let go".


What Is Set And Setting?

As mentioned, "set" is basically short for "mindset". It’s well-known that before embarking on a psychedelic adventure, you have to be in the right frame of mind. That’s not to say you have to be in the best mood ever; far from it. Many people use psychedelics to explore their negative or melancholy mindsets. Indeed, many psychedelic studies are researching how these substances can be used specifically for this. Moreover, in some cases, psychedelic therapy is used to guide individuals through serious life events as a form of palliative care.

That being said, if you’re new to psychedelics, it’s probably worth tripping only when you’re in a good mood. This will establish the best possible relationship with a given psychedelic. If you’re really feeling like you don’t want to trip, then abstain. Once it comes, you can’t resist the trip, so only take psychedelics if you're prepared to experience their full effects.

Setting is a little more straightforward: it’s nice to trip in a nice environment, with nice people. Whether that’s in a forest or a bedroom, alone or with close mates, is up to you. The key is to choose somewhere that you’ll feel safe, and to be sure you won’t be interrupted by anyone you don’t want to interact with.

How does this play into intention? Creating a positive, chill environment in which to trip actively sets the mood for the rest of the experience.


Similar to intention, you have to be curious about the experience you’re going to have. Because you can’t really know what to expect, it's important to be open to any possibility. It could be pure fun, it could be deep and thoughtful, or it could be uncomfortable. You just don’t know.

Heading into your trip with genuine curiosity and a desire to get the most from it will, first and foremost, allow you to feel more comfortable wherever it takes you, and second, allow you to get the most out of it.


But how do you foster a mindset of curiosity? Think of it like a child seeing something for the very first time. On the whole, no matter how weird something may be, children tend to approach new things with fascination and curiosity. Try to adopt this mindset.

Another way to look at it is to actively not resist. We’ve all done things, be it seeing a film, a band, or something else, and assumed beforehand that it was going to be bad, and as a consequence didn't enjoy it. And we’ve all, in retrospect, realised that had we been a little less resistant and a little more curious, we might have been able to enjoy it more.

Go into a psychedelic experience like this: actively looking for the good bits of it. If you do that, then you will find them.



You may have noticed some similarities between each of these principles. Surrendering to a trip is perhaps the most crucial piece of the puzzle. Setting an intention to let go, and being curious about what happens when you do, is going to create the richest experience.

By surrendering, we allow ourselves to ride the wave of the trip, rather than push it in one direction or another. For those new to tripping, this is where nature becomes really helpful. Going off into the forest or somewhere similar makes it far easier to wander about wherever you feel like going. Indoors, just sitting with your mind, it can be far more difficult to surrender.


The flip side of surrendering is that resistance is hopeless. It is impossible to resist the psychedelic experience. In fact, resistance will just exacerbate the negative feelings you’re trying to avoid. Because, when you think about it, what are you resisting? Your thoughts.

You can’t will the drug to leave your system early, though it will in time. All you can do is try to push your thoughts away, which actually turns all of your focus onto them. Surrendering to them, properly accepting that they’re present, will allow them to wash over you and disperse.

Not only will this abate feelings of negativity, but it will allow your mind to actually interact with them in a beneficial, meaningful way.


Be mindful: the mind is not the only part of you that trips.

Most psychedelics actually cause intense physical sensations too. As well as being enjoyable, they can also help to ground you and keep you connected with the real world, thereby increasing the sense of comfort and safety.

Sit with yourself; listen to your body. When you’re in the heat of psychedelia, it can be easy to get caught up in your mental processes and become detached from your body. Finding a way to draw the mind and body together will help to achieve a sense of completeness.


Physical Things To Do When Tripping

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to bring our minds and bodies together. You needn’t just sit there.

Engage your body!

Anything that involves stimulating your body will make you feel more present in it. You could:

• Go for a walk

• Give or receive a massage

• Have sex (communicate, though!)

• Have a bath/go swimming (be careful)

• Listen to bassy music

• Roll around on the floor (it works)

Also, focusing on the physical aspects of a trip can be a great way to calm down if it’s all getting a bit much. Move about, breathe, feel—all of these things will help to ground you.


Accept the trip and be in it. That’s really all you can do. After all, you’re stuck in it until it’s done with you, so what other choice do you have?

Perhaps the most profound thing we can learn from the psychedelic experience is how to just be. Throw away all the profundities, and what we have left is a deep sense of acceptance. Not only is acceptance the best way to get the most from a trip, but it’s also the most we can get from a trip as well.