Cannabis can be a great accompaniment for any kind of meditation, as really all that involves is presence. Cannabis can also support meditation with its relaxing, euphoric effects that put you in the mood for introspection. These two wellness champions make a great team and have both been linked with treating depression, anxiety and promoting a positive mood. They also work together to reduce physical pain and inflammation.
A huge number of people deal with chronic anxiety, either in the form of generalized anxiety or social anxiety disorder, or both. There are certainly effective treatments out there, but this week, a couple of studies have been in the news. One study, from Washington State University, looks at the role pot may play: More specifically, it tries to quantify the ratio of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) that’s most effective for stress, anxiety, and depression. The other, from Michigan Technological University, finds that a single session of mindfulness meditation has a significant effect on the anxiety of people with mild-moderate anxiety. But there’s an important caveat that’s worth pointing out.
There’s a world of difference between getting stoned and working with cannabis in an intentional way. When we are just getting stoned, we are using the plant without care or intention — perhaps even using it to try and escape ourselves. To use cannabis with intention is the opposite. We choose to bring greater consciousness and awareness through communing with the herb. We allow her to amplify our subconscious mind and suppressed emotions so that we can learn more about ourselves, embrace them and integrate them.
Why meditation matters
Negative thinking, or even overthinking, is a bad habit like any other. Just as one can get caught up in a cycle of biting nails or procrastination, it is also possible to develop patterns of thinking that are unhealthy. These states of mind can create heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression that have very real negative effects on not just mental, but also physical, health.
For the negative thinker, the best way to diminish those perceptions is by stopping undesirable trains of thought the moment you realize you’re having them, and replacing those thoughts with mindfulness and peaceful stillness. But how do we get to that place of stillness? It can be rather difficult to relax the mind, especially in today’s hyper-stimulating world.
Cannabis, however, is a wonderful vehicle to mentally get you where you need to go—our brains are full of cannabinoid receptors in areas of the brain related to behavior, thought, and mood. When cannabinoids in cannabis interact with these receptors, they produce euphoric, relaxing effects.
Meditation can seem intimidating at first, but it’s simple and doesn’t require anything special. You’ll need a quiet location with minimal distractions where you can get into a comfortable posture. The goal is to relax your mind and let go of thoughts as they arise. Don’t judge the thoughts or try to push them away; just notice them and then let them go, returning to the present moment.
Meditation is easier when you choose something to focus your attention on. It can be a word, phrase, object, or your breath. When you find your mind wandering, bring your attention back to that focus. Try to go into the practice with an attitude of openness and be willing to let go of thoughts without judging them or yourself.
And that’s it! Pretty simple, right? There are countless ways to meditate, so find a method that works for you.
How to pair deep breathing and cannabis
Deep breathing is the cornerstone of meditation. By controlling our breath, we can control not only our thoughts, but even the strongest and most volatile of emotions. It is the simplest way to gain control of a runaway mind. Inhale an uplifting strain to capitalize on those meditative feelings of euphoria—we recommend the bright sativa Chocolope for its elating effects and ability to crush anxiety.
Step one: Sit in a comfortable position of your choosing with your chest upright and back straight. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders. Allow the tension to melt out of your body.
Step two: Observe your breath in this relaxed state. Then, take a long, deep breath in through the nose, filling up your whole abdomen and chest with air.
Step three: Once you have inhaled fully, pause at the top for just a beat or two and then very slowly begin to exhale fully out. Pause here for another couple beats (these pauses should always be comfortable and never strained). Then, inhale again and repeat this pattern.
Final step: As you breathe, allow your thoughts to focus solely on your breath and gradually allow your mind to clear. Simply exist in this space breathing mindfully and relax as all else melts away.
For many, the ritual of smoking cannabis can add to the overall experience. Others find that an edible can provide an all over body sensation conductive to meditating. Often a hybrid 1:1 strain can provide that sweet spot were one can be in a state of relaxation but remain alert enough to savor the meditative experience without going to sleep. Continue to experiment with different strains and delivery methods until find the right combination that works for one’s individual meditative experience.
But meditation has a strong body of evidence behind it, perhaps stronger than marijuana’s. Earlier research has illustrated its effectiveness in treating anxiety, rumination, and, importantly, chronic depression. A multitude of studies has also illustrated its effects on the structure and function of the brain, especially in regions that govern rumination, “me-centered” thoughts, and anxiety. The fact that it’s helped treat depression, and prevent relapse, in so many studies may be the clincher, since, according to the new marijuana study, at least, long-term relief from depression isn’t a benefit that pot can claim. For people who have both anxiety and depression, this may make the difference.
So when it comes to anxiety alone, legal issues aside, both medical marijuana and meditation may be effective. But for people with depression alongside their anxiety, meditation may be the way to go, as its effects are much better understood. Not only does it not worsen depression, it may actually improve it.