The Connection Between Psychedelics and Pro-Environmental Behavior

Psychedelics can increase people’s connection to nature, which is relevant to the ecological crisis and our actions towards sustainability.
nature and psychedelics
Author: Sam Woolfe
By Sam Woolfe
April 21, 2023

Psychedelics have long been connected to environmentalism, given the common experience of interconnectedness and ecological themes that manifest in the psychedelic state [1,2]. In an interview in 1984, Albert Hofmann – the Swiss chemist who first discovered LSD – said: “Through my LSD experience and my new picture of reality, I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature, and of the animal and plant kingdom.” And psychedelic researchers Stanley Krippner and David Luke have argued that “the consumption of psychedelic substances leads to an increased concern for nature and ecological issues.” This connection led American psychologist Ralph Metzner – as well as several others – to claim that the use of psychedelics helped to inspire the modern ecology movement of the 1960s.

Now there is growing research that is shedding light on this link between psychedelic use and a pro-environmental outlook and concomitant behavior. Indeed, what modern psychedelic research is revealing is that psychedelics can encourage ecologically-minded attitudes and actions through enduring increases in a trait known as nature relatedness.

What is Nature Relatedness?

In an entry in the Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research, Elizabeth K. Nisbet and John M. Zelenski offer the following definition of nature relatedness:

“Nature relatedness refers to the subjective sense of connection people have with the natural environment (similar terms are connectedness with nature or inclusion of nature in self). This sense of relatedness encompasses emotions, cognitions (e.g., beliefs, attitudes, knowledge), as well as the experiences people have in nature. Nature relatedness is a relatively stable individual difference but may fluctuate momentarily, for example, with exposure to the natural environment, and may be influenced by environmental education.”

psychedelics and nature awareness

During a psychedelic experience, an individual may feel a magnification of this sense of connection to nature. Matthias Forstmann, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University’s Mind and Development Lab, said:

“Psychedelics cause the boundaries between self and nature to crumble. As a consequence, you ascribe human-like traits and emotions to nature. And as a consequence of that, you feel empathy for nature. This could have beneficial effects for both the individual as well as for the environment.”

Psychedelics Lead to Enduring Increases in Nature Relatedness

A 2019 study, with authors including researchers Hannes Kettner and Sam Gandy, found through an online questionnaire study [3]:

“The frequency of lifetime psychedelic use was positively correlated with nature relatedness at baseline. Nature relatedness was significantly increased 2 weeks, 4 weeks and 2 years after the psychedelic experience. This increase was positively correlated with concomitant increases in psychological well-being and was dependent on the extent of ego-dissolution and the perceived influence of natural surroundings during the acute psychedelic state.”

Participants in the study agreed more strongly with statements like “My ideal vacation spot would be a remote, wilderness area”, “My relationship to nature is an important part of who I am”, and “I feel very connected to all living things and the earth” post-psychedelic use.

It should be stressed, however, that there are some limitations to this study. This was an observational study, so it lacked an experimental control group and did not verify drug dos, purity, and the natural settings that participants had access to. Moreover, the recruitment criterion of an intention to use a psychedelic may have led to a bias toward psychedelic use, which is associated with greater openness to experience (a personality trait that is strongly correlated with connectedness to nature) [4,5]. In addition, the study sample was predominantly made up of highly educated males, which affects the generalizability of the findings.

Also, using psychedelics, like psilocybin, certainly isn’t necessary for increasing how connected you feel to nature. As Gandy notes:

“The direct sensorial experience of nature is sufficient for this, so nature-based activities and time spent in nature, in addition to nature-based mindfulness practices such as forest walking and Japanese forest bathing (or Shinrin-Yoku) are great ways of increasing our connection to nature, while yielding a range of additional benefits from nature immersion.”

Nature Relatedness Predicts Pro-Environmental Behavior 

Nisbet and Zilenski underscore that “[t]he more connected people are [to nature], the more they are likely to be concerned about and protect the environment.” Indeed, there are multiple studies now backing up this link. For example, Otto and Pensini (2017) showed that the more children visited nature-based environmental educational institutions, the more likely they were to engage in pro-environmental behavior , which was mediated by increases in environmental knowledge and nature relatedness. The researchers also found that nature-relatedness explained a high percentage of variations in pro-environmental behavior, while environmental knowledge explained a low percentage of this variance [6].

Pro-environmental behavior, also known as green-, sustainable-, environmentally-, or eco-friendly behavior, includes behavior s that aim to protect the environment. These actions may include responsibly engaging with the outdoors, recycling household waste, purchasing sustainable products (e.g. local food, green cleaning products), conserving water or energy, altering transport habits (e.g. walking, cycling, or using public transport instead of driving; or taking the train instead of flying when going on holiday), buying an electric vehicle, having one fewer child, and eliminating or cutting down on the consumption of meat and other animal products.

psychedelics promote pro-environmental behavior

Other researchers have discovered a positive association between nature connection and pro-environmental behavior s. In fact, the former is considered to be a strong predictor of the latter [7]. This has led researchers in one paper published in Frontiers in Psychology to state [8]: “Nature relatedness and environmental concern, especially biospheric concern [concern for the biosphere: the parts of the Earth where life exists], are important prerequisites for pro-environmental behavior.”

Therefore, by increasing nature relatedness, psychedelics can help encourage pro-environmental behavior, making them relevant in the face of the current ecological crisis. Research from Forstmann et al. has confirmed that lifetime experience with classic psychedelics predicts pro-environmental behavior  through increases in nature relatedness [9]. And a 2022 study from Forstmann and Christina Sagioglou additionally found that psychedelic use predicts objective knowledge about climate change via increases in connectedness to nature, which, as we have seen, is another factor that predicts pro-environmental behavior  [10].

Furthermore, Forstmann and Sagioglou underline that previous studies on psychedelics and nature relatedness, which relied on self-report measures, may have been affected by confirmation bias or stereotypical associations. However, they emphasize their “results suggest that the relationship of psychedelics with pro-environmental variables is not due to psychological biases, but manifests in variables as diverse as emotional affinity towards nature as well as knowledge about climate change.”

Mental Health Benefits

Increasing nature relatedness via psychedelics is not just beneficial for the environment (by making people more knowledgeable about climate change, intent on protecting nature, and acting in eco-friendly ways); it also has positive effects on mental health. Nisbet and Zilenski write, “Nature relatedness is associated with greater levels of subjective well-being.” As research has demonstrated, those who are more connected to nature feel greater happiness, higher levels of self-reported self-growth, and lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress [11-13].

Thus, psychedelic-induced increases in nature relatedness also matter from a therapeutic point of view. This led a group of psychedelic researchers – Gandy, Forstmann, Luke, Robin Carhart-Harris, Christopher Timmermann, and Rosalind Watts – to suggest in a 2020 paper that further improvements in mental health can be achieved through the synergy of psychedelic use and nature contact [14]. This is because both psychedelics and nature contact help to decrease rumination and negative affect while enhancing connectedness, mindfulness, awe, and transcendent experiences. And these changes are linked to improvements in mental health (in both clinical and healthy populations). So the authors state:

“Nature-based settings can have inherently psychologically soothing properties which may complement all stages of psychedelic therapy (mainly preparation and integration) whilst potentiating increases in nature relatedness, with associated psychological benefits. Maximising enhancement of nature relatedness through therapeutic psychedelic administration may constitute an independent and complementary pathway towards improvements in mental health that can be elicited by psychedelics.”

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You could use nature for integration in a variety of ways: taking a walk in nature, meditating in nature, listening to birds of water flow, or simply quietly sitting in a natural environment. Gandy also mentioned ‘forest bathing’, which is the conscious practice of being immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest. All of these activities can help to enhance the connection to nature you feel after a psychedelic experience. Furthermore, spending time in nature may help you to process what came up in the journey (since peaceful locations are ideal for reflection), new insights may arise, or you may experience the solidification of insights that came up during the journey (especially if these are ecological in nature).

The ecological crisis and mental health crisis are two deep – and connected – sources of suffering. While psychedelics should not be thought of as panaceas for both, they can potentially play a role in alleviating some of the environmental harm and mental distress that are affecting so many.


  1. Kwonmok K., Knight G., Rucker J.J., & Cleare A.J. (2022). Psychedelics, Mystical Experience, and Therapeutic Efficacy: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13, Article: 917199.
  2. Harms A. (2021). Accidental Environmentalism: Nature and Cultivated Affect in European Neoshamanic Ayahuasca Consumption. Anthropology of Consciousness, 31(1), 55-80.
  3. Kettner H., Gandy S., Haijen E.C.H.M., & Carhart-Harris R.L. (2019). From Egoism to Ecoism: Psychedelics Increase Nature-Relatedness in a State-Mediated and Context-Dependent Manner. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(24), Article: 5147.
  4. MacLean K.A., Johnson M.W., & Griffiths R.R. (2011). Mystical Experiences Occasioned by the Hallucinogen Psilocybin Lead to Increases in the Personality Domain of Openness. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 25(11), 1453-1461.
  5. Lee K., Ashton M.C., Choi J., & Zachariassen K. (2015). Connectedness to Nature and to Humanity: their association and personality correlates. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, Article: 1003.
  6. Otto S. & Pensini P. (2017). Nature-based environmental education of children: Environmental knowledge and connectedness to nature, together, are related to ecological behaviour. Global Environmental Change, 47, 88-94.
  7. Liu Y., Cleary A., Fielding K.S., Murray Z., & Roiko A. (2022). Nature connection, pro-environmental behaviours and wellbeing: Understanding the mediating role of nature contact. Landscape and Urban Planning, 228, Article: 104550.
  8. Dornhoff M., Sothmann J., Fiebelkorn F., & Menzel S. (2019). Nature Relatedness and Environmental Concern of Young People in Ecuador and Germany. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, Article: 453.
  9. Forstmann M. & Sagioglou C. (2017). Lifetime experience with (classic) psychedelics predicts pro-environmental behavior through an increase in nature relatedness. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 31(8), 975-988.
  10. Sagioglous C. & Forstmann M. (2022). Psychedelic use predicts objective knowledge about climate change via increases in nature relatedness. Drug Science, Policy and Law, 8.
  11. Capaldi C.A., Dopko R.L., & Zelenski J.M. (2014). The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, Article: 976.
  12. Pritchard A., Richardson M., Sheffield D., & McEwan K. (2019). The Relationship Between Nature Connectedness and Eudaimonic Well-Being: A Meta-analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies, 21, 1145-1167.
  13. Dean J.H., Shanahan D.F., Bush R., Gaston K.J., Lin B.B., Barber E., Franco L., & Fuller R.A. (2018). Is Nature Relatedness Associated with Better Mental and Physical Health? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(7), Article: 1371
  14. Gandy S., Forstmann M., Carhart-Harris R.L., Timmermann C., Luke D., & Watts R. (2020). The potential synergistic effects between psychedelic administration and nature contact for the improvement of mental health. Health Psychology Open, 7(2).

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Author: Sam Woolfe
Sam Woolfe
Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer, blogger, and journalist based in London. His main areas of interest related to psychedelics include philosophy, psychology, mental health, and risks. You can follow him on Twitter and find more of his work at

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