As a psychoactive plant, marijuana has long been used for its recreational as well as medicinal effects. Many long-term stoners say they use cannabis to boost creativity, citing the improved creative flow as one of their favorite aspects of the herb. Since there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence linking cannabis and creativity, leading to the common acceptance of the idea in present cannabis culture.
- Delve into the science and research of the relationship between cannabis and creativity
- Practical applications of cannabis (and cannabinoids) for harnessing your creative potential
- Q&A with Chris Soll about his sativa revelation and the link between cannabis and creativity
Table of contents
Creativity & Dopamine: Inside the Brain
Before we go further, we’ll need a cursory understanding how marijuana behaves in the brain. Marijuana contains cannabinoids (specifically THC) that act on our endocannabinoid system to mediate the production and reception of neurotransmitters. THC in particular stimulates dopamine production, which leads in turn to a better mood, relaxed mindset, and general sense of wellbeing.
The more dopamine the brain releases, the more intense the resulting feelings of euphoria become. This high often leads to increased creativity, improved mood, and reduced stress response. Dopamine, amplified by THC, helps regulate specific brain functions to improve focus, mental clarity, and sensory perception.
Creativity & Divergent Thinking
Creativity, based on research, is associated with the brain’s frontal lobe. When cannabis is consumed, it makes this area of the brain more active due to its ability to increase cerebral blood flow (CBF). The activities of these neurotransmitters spur creative outputs.
The frontal lobe also houses what’s called “creative divergent thinking.” One of the metrics in measuring creativity, it helps in coordinating abstract ideas for creative problem-solving. Divergent thinking is imperative for creativity—which is the ability to yield several solutions to a somewhat broad problem.
Divergent thinking is what makes creative thinkers creative. Examples of such are brainstorming, freewriting, and coming up with outside-the-box solutions.
Cannabis Connects Abstract Ideas
A 2015 study by the University College London, reveals that the psychoactive attributes of marijuana can potentially improve divergent thinking. Cannabis increases the ability to form abstract connections leading to breakthroughs of inspiration and ideation.
However, it should be noted that this is only effective when appropriate doses of cannabis are consumed. As too much of this psychoactive plant may lead to the opposite effect.
Cannabis Improves Episodic Memory Retrieval
The memory of autobiographical events such as times, places, and so forth—which can be stated clearly and in detail, is what is called episodic memory. The recollection of these events is one of the main components of the episodic memory process.
Studies show that cannabis can enhance episodic memory retrieval. This improved retrieval of past events can make a person more creative by drawing upon more inspiration.
Cannabis Improves Pattern Recognition
Another important aspect of creativity is pattern recognition. It allows an individual to conclude any sort of data, whether it be visual, mathematical, or semantic.
Pattern recognition helps find solutions to a problem by noticing related things. It helps the brain curate multiple ideas and filters the most relevant one.
A Psychiatric Research study published in 2010, reveals that marijuana consumers show greater ability to connect seemingly disconnected words. Researchers have also found that cannabis users are more able to connect abstract ideas, see patterns easily, and produce more creative ideas.
How to Use Cannabis to Boost Creativity
While weed has been scientifically demonstrated to enhance creativity, it can also have the opposite effect. In circumstances such as using the wrong strains, overdosing, consuming it with the wrong people or environment—can hamper creative output.
Everyone has their level of tolerance and preference. The cannabinoids in weed may affect people differently. Below are some tips to use cannabis to enhance creativity.
Use Cannabis that contains both THC and CBD
It’s important to choose the right strain for you. You may start by picking strains that contain a mix of THC and CBD. This is because CBD can prevent THC from producing an overpowering effect. This will allow you to become more focused and productive.
Pick the right strain
Different marijuana strains produce different effects. Sativa and sativa-dominant strains give a cerebral high which is more likely to boost creativity. On the other hand, indica and indica-dominant strains have a more relaxing, sedative effect. If engaging in creative work, it’s best to avoid overly sedative strains. Instead, pick strains that will make you more alert, energetic, and clear-headed.
Start with lower doses
When it comes to cannabis and creativity, proper dosage is key. If your goal is to consume weed to boost your creativity, it is always recommended to start with lower doses. Doing so will prevent the possibility of becoming too elevated, or too “high.”
If you’re consuming strains high in THC content and taking it in large doses, chances are, it may make you less creative. This is specifically because if THC content is high it may enhance divergent thinking but may weaken convergent thinking—which is also essential to creativity. What’s more is that studies show that a higher dose of THC (22 mg) had a strong opposite impact while a lower dose of THC (5.5 mg of 19% THC) increases the creative impact on fluency, flexibility, and originality. The research also infers that high doses of cannabis can, in reality, impair divergent thinking. Another reason not to overdose is that too much weed can promote anxiety and restlessness.
Q&A: Chris Soll’s Sativa Revelation
Chris Soll is graphic designer, blogger, business owner, and creative powerhouse with his hand in a variety of unique projects. We linked up with Stoll after stumbling upon his amazing Instagram account. In this exclusive interview, Chris discusses the positive role cannabis has played in his life, and specifically how it has unlocked his creative potential.
Give me a little background; where are you from and where do you live?
I’m originally from Germany, though I’ve spent 20 years living in Sydney, Australia, now. I speak both languages fluently and feel like I’m returning home whenever I fly out to either place.
All it takes is one look at your Instagram to recognize your pension for design and creativity; when did this all start?
I’ve been drawing since I can remember. Most of my school life was spent covering my arms, desks & bags with intricate little patterns. My grades naturally reflected that; and although they weren’t great, I always maintained a solid ‘A+’ in art. This was a very early sign that I’d end up in some kind of creative industry. With the advent of computers, I managed to merge my passion with technology and decided to become a graphic designer. I studied for three years at college, then spent six years working for various big brands in their design departments, before finally going freelance about five years ago. I’ve never looked back.
At what point did you recognize that cannabis played a positive role in your creative abilities?
Well, it took a while. In Australia, cannabis still has quite a bad reputation; many people think it will destroy your life, make you fat & lazy, and all those other silly outdated stereotypes. I had personally tried cannabis about 10 times over roughly 10 years (starting at 16). Every time it had the same effect, I’d laugh, my eyes would get droopy, then I’d get hungry, and soon I’d be asleep. I thought this was all there was to it, so I never gravitated towards it very much, instead sticking to alcohol like everyone else.
It wasn’t until I visited some friends in Germany in 2012 that things changed. At a party someone was passing a joint around, and I had a few drags—expecting the usual response. However, I noticed that 15 minutes after, my eyes were still wide apart, no drowsiness or droopiness. Thinking it was a weak strain, I had more, and soon realized that I was completely high…but without the usual associated lethargy. Asking the guys at the party, they assured me that I must just have been smoking the wrong shit (Indica vs Sativa)…which was news to me. The next morning I woke up, a little dazed, trying to remember the last hours of the night before. Walking to my work desk, I noticed a crossed out “to-do” list of most of my outstanding freelance design jobs. It suddenly came back to me that I had stayed up once I’d come home, still stoned, feeling creatively invigorated. After proofing the work, I was amazed to discover that it was all great, very meticulous, very creative, and completely on point.
Can you tell me a bit more about why it helps your design process?
Sure, after returning to Australia it took me quite a bit of searching to find someone who could supply cannabis sativa, so that I could replicate the effects I experienced in Germany. Since then, it’s been a great tool in my creative belt. Whenever I need to brainstorm ideas or have a design job that takes meticulous attention to detail, this wonder plant helps me temporarily bridge the low level of ADD I feel I now have from all phones, TV’s & social media.
Without it, I’m certain my life would look a lot different right now–probably not as creative, interesting, free and spiritually connected
I used to never contemplate working on projects that would take me longer than a day to finish, but while under the influence of cannabis, I’m more than happy to take my time, slow-flow, and really put in those hours needed to create highly detailed work. It also lifts my mood, which plays a huge role in wanting to stick at a certain project that I might otherwise try to rush through or put off.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in a creative, design, or photography role?
When everyone goes right, go left.
But seriously, I would recommend anyone who makes a living off their ideas or their hand craft to at least give cannabis an open-minded try. But be aware, I didn’t start smoking until I was 27, which is two years after my brain’s frontal lobe completed construction. Because I was already older, I’m finding it easier to control my intake, whereas I feel a lot of younger people tend to overindulge and then burn themselves out. My common practice is to roll a nice joint, in a calm and meditative fashion. It’s a ritual for me, and I have respect for the plant.
I’ve found it’s made me infinitely more interested in subjects I would usually not spend any time exploring
I will then take just 3-5 inhales, before I put the joint back in my little tube and put it aside for at least two hours. Doing this allows me to get into the state, but without going so far to create any mental confusion, which can sometimes happen for a little while when first coming up. I will do this two or three times over a work day, and I tend to only use it two or three days a week, in particular on my content creation and creative thinking days. This allows me to stay clear and focused, using the plant to it’s maximum capacity without any negative/scattered/lethargic side effects. In the future, I’ll be adding a vaporizer into the mix, since I know that inhaling smoke isn’t healthy, even though it’s still a long way away from the damaging effects of commercial tobacco.
Since I began working from home and adding cannabis to my weekly working schedule I’ve found it’s made me infinitely more interested in subjects I would usually not spend any time exploring. As a result of this added interest, in the last four years I’ve practically stopped drinking alcohol, I’ve learned meditation (life upgrade!), I’ve overhauled my diet (which is now giving me the energy levels of a 15 year old), and I’ve stopped watching TV and instead started reading books. The end result; I’ve learned to build a passive income business that makes money while I sleep. I’m not saying one can’t do these things without cannabis. What I am saying is that if I hadn’t been high a couple of times a week over the last few years, I’m certain my life would look a lot different right now—probably not as creative, interesting, free and spiritually connected as it currently is.
What other special projects are you involved in?
Well, I launched a merchandise brand focused on metallic tattoos just over a year ago named iamucollective.
I noticed there was a gap in the market, since I thought I could create better looking designs than what was already out there. I then spent many focused hours creating seven different tattoo collections, of which we’ve sold over 10,000 units in the first year.
This has enabled me to quit working freelance for other people, and I’m now completely focused on my own projects. I also have a travel blog with my partner where we produce content through our travels. On the horizon are more product lines for iamu, a new charity contribution scheme, and some information products to share the things I’ve learned over these last four years of being unusually interested in everything from diet, the mind, online business, philosophy and many other topics. Things are looking very good, and I’m incredibly grateful for the turn my life has taken during the later years of my 20’s.
You have traveled all across the world, what is the one place everyone should visit?
Some of my favorite places on this earth of ours are Fiji (in particular Qamea Island), the Greek Islands (special mention: Crete), and my favorite city Berlin: A place where creativity and individuality is praised. You know what they say, life is a book and those who don’t travel read only the first page.