Microdosing: Set and Setting
Maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks
If we glance at the most important revolutions in history, we see at once that the greatest number of these originated in the periodical revolutions on the human mind.
– Alexander Von Humboldt
In our quick-fix culture, there’s a common misconception that microdosing is a magic pill. It’s becoming clear, however, that psychedelic experiences are all about the container—our mindsets, environments, and the process of change itself. This is what ‘set and setting are all about’.
Third Wave’s Microdosing Course is a science-based, step-by-step process for elevating your body, mind and spirit, by harnessing the key pillars of microdosing including information, intention, and integration. Managing your mental mindset and setting up the correct container, are one part of knowing how to maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks of this transformational tool.
Get ‘set’ and go: mental mindset
Psychedelics are amplifiers that work on your current mindset. That’s why it’s important to carefully consider the mental attitude and state that you bring to your session, including thoughts, moods, and expectations, which will all influence the outcome of the experience.
If you’re turning to psychedelics to assist with ‘undesirable’ states of mind, this may mean letting go of expectations, and riding the waves without resistance. As well as reminding yourself that the effects are temporary, and that every experience brings with it, its own insights and lessons in the long-run.
Psychedelics have been shown to help people find a greater sense of meaning and purpose in their lives, as well as increasing adaptability and openness to new experiences. Here are some of the best ways to help you manage your mental mindset:
It may seem like an oxymoron, but ‘active relaxation’ is something we should all practice more often. If you’ve ever woken up during the night, heart pounding and short of breath, it’s a sign that your autonomic nervous system may be affected by chronic stress.
The autonomic nervous system includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic system. While the sympathetic system is stimulated in the stress response and leads to a ‘fight or flight’ activation of hormones such as adrenaline, the parasympathetic system is involved in ‘rest and digest’, allowing energy to be re-diverted to healing, building tissues, and eliminating waste.
Finding ways to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system more often, through yoga or meditation for instance, is a way to readdress the imbalance. Practices that bring music, movement, breath, meditation, and the act of ‘permission to take time out’ together can help us self-regulate and self-manage stress long term, using just the mind, body, and mother nature.
Meditation & flow state
Integrating practices and habits, such as meditation, into your daily or weekly schedule synergizes with the effects of microdosing. Neurofeedback is a means of training your brain to enter into more relaxed states at will. Just as you would go to a gym for your physical fitness, training your mind to relax works it just like a muscle.
Mindset, breaking and building habits, resilience, and self-awareness are all associated with the flow state and enhanced neuroplasticity, which can be facilitated by the correct application and integration of microdosing techniques.
Our brains produce brain waves, which in normal waking consciousness are in the beta state, and can shift to a more relaxed alpha state, or meditative theta state. Studies show that psychedelic use may help brains shift into the alpha state, which is also seen in the transition to ‘flow state’—when you are fully absorbed in the task at hand and performing at your best.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings over the duration of your course can help you reflect on the microdosing experience. The process of writing itself allows for a stream of consciousness to be released and encourages you to enter into flow state. While intermittently going back and reflecting on past entries can bring new insights, allowing you to pick up on any subtle changes in habits and thought patterns over time.
Talking yourself through emotional challenges via journaling is a great way of re-framing your mindset. For example, stress in and of itself, is not all bad. It can be useful to us and is often necessary when it comes to motivation and achieving flow state. But it’s our response to stress that we must become aware of, with a belief in the notion of stress being a ‘bad thing’, often being worse than the stress itself.
Coaching and integration
Community and social support networks have been shown to be particularly important in integrating psychedelic experiences. With higher doses, there is a natural propensity to want to try to intellectualize or rationalize the experience, which is often not possible. Simply being heard and having the experience validated in this sense, can be deeply healing. As is listening to the experiences of others, and being able to draw parallels.
Coaching draws on nurturing mindset; training in something so fundamental has the ability to reach out and touch all other aspects of our lives. We wouldn’t expect an athlete to compete without professional coaching, and the same could be applied to the business and career arena, or even our relationships, in terms of improving mental fitness.
‘Setting’ It Straight: Nurture + Environment
We are creatures of our environment, and studies increasingly show that the mind-body connection does not represent separate psychological and physical processes. Instead, it’s a highly complex interaction between mind (consciousness), genetics, environment, and the types of substance being used. Here are some ways to create an optimal setting for your microdosing experience:
Head for nature
When you first start microdosing, you might find yourself stressed by external events beyond your control. Ideally, you’ll want to cultivate the ability to respond to stress with self-compassion and awareness. One good way to do that is by spending time in nature, where you can limit distractions and get used to the sensation of microdosing and its effects on you.
Areas of quiet solitude or natural beauty provide the perfect backdrop for psychedelic use. Similarly, you may wish to trial it in a relaxed social setting with friends. There are many anecdotal reports of microdosing psilocybin being helpful in situations of social anxiety, as it can help you to get out of your head, by feeling more present and at ease.
‘Sound’ theory: binaural beats
As well as having an influence on your mindset, music and lighting also have more direct impacts on our states. The wave/particle atoms that comprise our being vibrate at a frequency that we term ‘resonance’. All waveforms produce sound, even if it is out of the reach of what we can audibly detect.
Things that are dense or solid have lower frequencies than those that are liquid or soft, so bones and teeth have a lower frequency than organs and tissues. Our emotions and thoughts, on the other hand, vibrate at an even higher frequency than our physical body. This has been scientifically measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG).
Practices like overtone chanting, mantra, icaros, gongs, drumming, prayers, and crystal bowls have been used for thousands of years and today’s science is starting to understand how and why this benefits health. For example, it’s believed that one of the benefits of chanting is that the vibration stimulates the vagus nerve, which is involved in parasympathetic nervous system activation and active relaxation.
Work by scientists such as Candace Pert has looked into the impact that sound can have on our autonomic, immune, and endocrine systems, as well as the neuropeptides in our brain. Typically when we think of music, we think only of the emotional or psychological effect on our thoughts and feelings. However, it also affects our nervous system at different levels of awareness (psychoacoustics). At the mundane level, we hear sounds around us without giving them much consideration. However, they can also cause our brain waves to slow down or speed up.
In the 70s, biophysicist Gerald Oster showed that when a tone is played in one ear and a slightly different tone is played in the other, the brain creates a third internal tone called a binaural beat. The theory is that this syncs the waves in both hemispheres—entrainment shifts our brainwave state by changing the rhythm and frequency of the brainwave patterns.
This is why during a sound healing session, the normal waking (beta) state can shift to relaxed (alpha) state, or meditative (theta) state. Some people experience a type of conscious sleep, where they are self-aware not in the physical sense, but in a more general sense. This can bring up some interesting mental images from the subconscious and was a favorite trick of artists like Salvador Dali—who would balance a spoon that would drop just as he was drifting off, and try to recall the images evoked before jolting awake.
Others may fall into a deep (delta) sleep where they are not aware of the physical body or mental images. Healing and reprogramming is optimal in the theta and delta state, where it is impossible to be stressed or agitated and one is highly suggestible. You can also download ‘binaural beats’ which are designed to help put your brainwaves into these states, reproducing the effects of meditation.
‘Lighting’ the way: LEDs
Cells communicate through their own language of chemical signals. Different compounds such as hormones and neurotransmitters act like commands and phrases, giving cells information about the surrounding environment or creating a cascade of chain reactions.
Also known as biophoton communication, cells can talk using light frequencies, and although still poorly understood, a growing body of evidence suggests that the molecular machinery of life both emits and absorbs photons.
In keeping with the theme of heading for nature, natural lighting is usually preferable for mood and mindset over the harsh glare of an artificially lit office cubicle. However, some people also like to use certain LED devices, which are designed to act on similar principles to those applied in binaural beats.
The idea is that LEDs flicker at specific frequencies to entrain the user’s brain waves into a range of trance states. Training to actively relax in this way is also akin to neurofeedback and works the brain like a muscle.
While ‘set and setting’ are two key pillars of microdosing, they are by no means comprehensive. Microdosing is arguably part science and part art form, and Third Wave’s microdosing course is one of the most scientifically rigorous, comprehensive, and supportive guides available online (if we do say so ourselves).
Whether you have some background knowledge or are a complete novice, this course provides everything you need to know about integrating microdosing into your life, to optimize for personal and professional transformation.
One of the most unique benefits is access to the exclusive members-only online community, where many great relationships, collaborations, and experiences have been fostered. It also provides the personalization needed to make a good experience great, as you’ll be able to pose questions to a team of experts, as well as other experienced community members.
To learn more, check out our new and improved Microdosing Course.