Gratitude Increases After Ayahuasca Experience, Study Shows

Researchers examined gratitude, appreciation of nature, and mystical experiences at an ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica.

Individuals in a survey reported greater gratitude, nature relatedness, and nature appreciation after embarking on an ayahuasca retreat experience. 

The active chemical in ayahuasca is DMT (dimethyltryptamine) and it also contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) that play a role. The survey respondents rated effects on several scales to determine which effects were most prominent.

PsyPost reported Tuesday that 65 participants were observed who attended a well-known ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica frequented by Americans. The study, “Effects of Ayahuasca on Gratitude and Relationships with Nature: A Prospective, Naturalistic Study,” was published recently in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. The study was led by Jacob S. Aday and a team of researchers associated with Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Aday was assisted by Emily K. Bolesch, Alan Kooi Davis, Sarah E. Domoff, Kyle Scherr, Josh D. Woolley, and Christopher C Davoli.

Sixty-five participants attended the Soltara Healing Center in Puntarenas Province, Gigante, Costa Rica. Soltara is an all-inclusive ayahuasca retreat center where attendees pay to participate in ayahuasca ceremonies with indigenous Shipibo curanderos (plant healers) from Peru. It’s attracted celebrities such as former New York Jet and commentator Aaron Rodgers. As compensation for their participation, study authors entered participants in a drawing to potentially win $100.

The participants stayed at the Soltara center for 5-12 nights and participated in 2-7 ayahuasca ceremonies during their stay. Participants received an email with the study survey, and in it, they completed assessments of gratitude using an Appreciation Scale, relatedness to nature using a Nature Relatedness Scale, and the appreciation of nature using an Appreciation of Nature Scale.

The second survey contained the same three assessments from the first one, plus more related to their ayahuasca experiences: mystical experiences during the ceremonies using an Mystical Experience Questionnaire, awe using an Awe Experience Scale, and ego dissolution using an Ego Dissolution Inventory.

Researchers observed that gratitude increased significantly after the retreat. Nature relatedness and appreciation of nature were also more pronounced after the retreat. These increases were more pronounced in participants who reported stronger mystical experiences.

“Here, participants completed validated surveys related to gratitude, nature relatedness, and nature appreciation one-week before, one-week after, and one-month after attending an ayahuasca retreat center,” the study reads. “Compared to baseline, there was a significant increase in gratitude, nature relatedness, and nature appreciation at the one-week and one-month follow-ups. Ratings of mystical-type experiences and awe, but not ego dissolution, during participants’ ayahuasca sessions were weakly-to-moderately correlated with these increases.”

Researchers were also able to learn several more things about the impact of an ayahuasca experience.

“The number of ayahuasca ceremonies attended at the retreat was not related to change in outcomes, underscoring the importance of the quality rather than the quantity of the experiences in post-acute change,” the study continues. “Lastly, participant age was negatively related to the occurrence of mystical-type experiences and awe, supporting literature indicating blunted psychedelic effects with increased age. In the context of study limitations, the results suggest that mystical-type experiences and awe occasioned by ayahuasca may be linked to prosocial changes in gratitude and relationships with nature that may be beneficial to mental health.”

Interestingly, the strength of ego dissolution experiences and the number of ayahuasca ceremonies attended were not associated with significant changes in the level of gratitude, appreciation of nature, and nature relatedness.

Other Effects of Ayahuasca

Many other potential uses for ayahuasca in therapy are being explored. A study published earlier this year, for instance, found that ayahuasca may help individuals become less narcissistic.

The findings, published in April 2023 in the Journal of Personality Disorders and based on a three-month evaluation of more than 300 adults, suggested that after “ceremonial use of ayahuasca, self-reported changes in narcissism were observed,” although the researchers did urge some caution.

“However, effect size changes were small, results were somewhat mixed across convergent measures, and no significant changes were observed by informants. The present study provides modest and qualified support for adaptive change in narcissistic antagonism up to 3 months following ceremony experiences, suggesting some potential for treatment efficacy. However, meaningful changes in narcissism were not observed. More research would be needed to adequately evaluate the relevance of psychedelic-assisted therapy for narcissistic traits, particularly studies examining individuals with higher antagonism and involving antagonism-focused therapeutic approaches,” the researchers wrote.

Another study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in February explored how ayahuasca (shortened to AYA for the use in this study) and DMT interacts with serotonin receptors in the part of the brain that regulates fear.

In that study, ayahuasca was found to affect serotonin receptors in the infralimbic cortex of the brain, where fear is regulated.

With a better understanding of how ayahuasca impacts gratitude and a connectedness with nature, we can better understand how it could be applied in psychedelic-assisted therapy.

1 comment
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts