How To Mess With Your Brain Without Drugs
If I'm being honest here, the easiest way to really mess with your brain is drugs—lots of drugs. However, it's also 2015, and the number of studies saying you shouldn't take oodles of ecstasy and bath salts outweighs the zero-ish studies saying both those illicit substances are good for you.
So, what's a curious party to do when they want to expand their mind and see funny colors without jeopardizing their health? Well, there's a whole subsection of the Internet devoted to finding ways to get you feeling kooky without the risk of putting even one mysterious tablet in your butt.
The Ganzfeld experiment
What you need: One ping pong ball, white noise, a red lightbulb
How it works: A person tapes ping pong balls over their eyes and dons a pair of headphones playing white noise. After thirty minutes, sensory deprivation sets in and forces the brain to generate random images. Almost everyone has reported seeing hallucinations akin to vivid dreams—though that still doesn't change the fact you have ping pong balls taped over your eyeballs.
What you need: A hula hoop
How it works: Know those kids at Coachella who wear eagle feathers, cover themselves in neon paint, and spend hours hula hooping around to the sweet sounds of Neon Indian? Turns out those weirdos are on to something—when the body produces geometric patterns repeatedly, the brain releases adrenaline and an endorphin rush that can send “hoopers” into a temporary euphoric altered state. Hoop on, hippies.
What you need: Headphones
How it works: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) tricks the brain, via soothing role-playing audio clips, into relaxing, and causes a pleasurable tingling sensation that spreads throughout the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body. The audio clips in the ASMR community range from the sounds of haircuts, massages, and Bob Ross.
What you need: Nothin’ but a yoga mat
How it works: Kundalini Yoga is known as “the yoga of awareness” and is used to release a kind of primal energy called “Kundalini” that reportedly causes a “serene high” through rapid, rhythmic, and continuous breathing.
What you need: An isolation tank
How it works: The isolation tank works in the same way as the Ganzfeld Experiment. By providing a quiet environment devoid of outside noise where subjects float in salt water at skin temperature, sensory deprivation takes hold and causes a Theta rhythm in the brain which causes enhanced creativity and relaxation.
What you need: Headphones
How it works: Binaural beats are, in fact, not the new subsidiary company under Dr. Dre, but rather auditory processing artifacts that cause "frequency following response,” meaning different frequencies can cause relaxation and a release of dopamine. While the science behind binaural beats isn't sound, some have reported feeling a euphoric high while listening to the files.
Clary Sage bath
What you need: Okay, so this one technically requires an outside substance: Clary Sage oil
How it works: Clary Sage is a herbaceous perennial in the genus Salvia that's used as an essential oil and supposedly relieves anxiety, tension, insomnia, and PMS symptoms (laaaaaaaadies?!). Taking a bath in the stuff produces an intense calm akin to sinking “into the world's most comfortable chair.”
The reviews on Amazon are promising: “I put a few drops on my wrists and it does the trick. My husband thinks it smells like Fruit Loops. I think he's a fruit loop."
What you need: A comfortable bed, and complete faith that Freddy Krueger is not real
How it works: Lucid dreaming is the ability to gain control of your dream and acknowledge that you’re asleep. When you gain control, you can do or feel whatever you want—e.g. sex dreams.
It's (apparently) relatively simple to accomplish:
Step 1: Set up dream recall. Force yourself to remember your dreams upon awakening—writing them down in a journal helps.
Step 2: Focus your intent. When falling asleep, concentrate on setting up a scenario you can recognize as a dream.
Step 3: See yourself becoming lucid. Repeatedly force yourself to have the same dream until you're able to recognize you're dreaming. For example, Jennifer Lawrence rides into a room on a velociraptor.
Step 4: Go nuts. Seriously, have that threesome with Jennifer Lawrence and the velociraptor you've been aching for.