It’s the practice of taking very small doses of powerful substances (usually psychedelic in nature) to experience creativity bumps and perspective shifts without having to endure the negative-productivity side effects.
Recently, microdosing has become popularized as the new hack for entrepreneurs, creatives, and silicon valley tech geeks to level-up their problem solving abilities as well as work-life fulfillment.
But no matter how promising the latest microdosing research becomes or how wide the number of high-visibility practitioners grows to include, there’s an important catch to acknowledge.
Not only do these substances require sophisticated knowledge and care to accurately microdose, many are also listed as Schedule 1 Substances. As such, they are prohibited in the most punitive legal sense across much of the world.
So what if there was another form of microdosing that didn’t have any risk of health or legal consequences?
What if you didn’t have to worry about getting hauled off to a state-sponsored dungeon for trying to maximize your innovative and productive potential?
Well, something like this does exist and I’m actually experimenting with it right now...but it’s probably not what you think.
Meditation – done in daily microdoses.
Read on to learn more.
Access Your Subconscious as Frequently as Possible
If you ever study famous innovators, it becomes clear that they all have ways to let their subconscious minds do the heavy lifting for them.
Such renowned geniuses would of course actively think about tough problems, but then relied on some form of passive ritual to let it all incubate in their subconscious mind. That's because its at the supercomputing level of the subconscious mind where groundbreaking insights bubble up.
For Einstein, he took breaks to play the violin and practice combinatory play.
For Beethoven, Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin and many others, it was vigorous walking.
For Ray Dalio, the self-made founder behind the world's largest investment fund, it's twice daily Transcendental Meditation.
Altered states – whether achieved through psychedelic substances, vigorous exercise or meditation – seem to be very good at allowing our powerful, but bashful subconscious minds to come out and play.
If you're interested in learning more about flow state, I recommend reading Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal's book "Stealing Fire" to understand all the modern day methods and approaches to harnessing flow.
In Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal’s groundbreaking book “Stealing Fire” on harnessing powerful flow states, they cite neurological research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that the conscious mind can only handle up to 120-bits of mental processing.
As a yard-stick, listening to a single person speak requires about 60 bits of your 120-bit bandwidth.
The point is that your conscious mind can only process a very limited bandwidth of data where the subconscious mind can handle exponentially more. That’s why altered states of consciousness often overflow with moments of revelation, innovative ideas and epic shifts in perspective.
That’s also why CEOs and tech nerds across silicon valley are relying more heavily on meditation and substance-based microdosing to access these powerful flow states more frequently. It seems to give them and their employees a competitive advantage without experiencing any of the low-productivity, full-trip side effects.
So what if you’re not a titan of Silicon Valley and don’t have the influence to get easy and risk free access to microdoses of LSD or psilocybin on the regular?
How can Average Joes and Plain Janes get the altered state, creative edge without all the risk?
Try giving what I like to call Poor Man’s Microdosing a try.
The concept is stupid simple...you just take small, but frequent doses of your favorite type of meditation each day (usually 1-5 minutes in duration).
Through my own experimentation, I've found that these small meditation sessions work best when paired with a 10 to 20 minute morning meditation session (done shortly after waking up) and another 10 to 20 minute evening meditation session (done before dinner or right before bed).
I've discovered that the addition of these very short mindfulness breaks throughout each day boosts both my creativity and productivity.
These small meditation breaks help bring me back to the present and keep my focus on the most important task at hand...a constant mental re-centering if you will.
One of the most surprising observations I’ve found microdosing meditation is actually a boost in mental focus throughout a day of high mental effort.
The way I’ve measured this is by simple, subjective observation and comparison of my mental focus during each long morning and evening meditation session.
All the Benefits of Meditation –Boosted
Another reason I think doing more frequent meditation – regardless of the session duration – is because each mindfulness break acts like a mini weightlifting rep for the mind.
Here’s what I mean…
Research suggests that even a modest amount of meditation can lead to positive, physiological changes within your brain.
Data shows that after even a few weeks of mindfulness meditation, a measurable reduction in the size of your Amygdala (the emotional fight or flight center of your brain) occurs. The same study also shows a thickening of the prefrontal cortex (the logic, reasoning, and executive function center of your brain).
Other studies have shown that your brain's grey matter increases through mindfulness meditation.
Essentially, meditation trains our minds to become less reactive and emotional when making tough decisions or solving hard problems.
The idea of short, but frequent meditation “reps” on top of your normal practice attempts to boost this physiological brain change to try and access your subconscious supercomputing more frequently.
If microdosing meditation is something you’d like to try for yourself, here’s how to get started...
First, don't overload yourself with too much, too soon. Make sure you already have an established, once-a-day meditation practice in place. This daily session only needs to be about 10 to 20 minutes long.
Once you've nailed 10 minutes a day for 30 days, then add microdosing to your practice.
You can use a guided meditation app called Headspace if you're new to meditation. I’ve been using it for a over 3 years now and think it's great for both total newbies and veteran meditators alike.
The Headspace meditation app is a great tool to learn how to meditate, build a solid foundation and grow your practice.
Headspace offers a 10-day free trial that will help you build a solid mindfulness meditation foundation.
After the 10-day intro, you can either pay a small monthly fee to continue using Headspace (you’ll gain access to their massive library of themed meditation packs) or you can use a free meditation app instead.
Whatever meditation modality you choose, just make sure you can stick with it for 30 days. After that, you can step up your game with daily microdoses.
How To Microdose Your Meditation
The best microdosing schedule I’ve found to boost my focus and achieve more flow is through a 2 hour dosing fequency.
Here's what that looks like...
You can easily set up daily notifications or alarms on your smartphone to remind yourself to take these breaks. Since I have an iPhone, I set up a series of daily notifications spaced 2 hours apart from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM on the Apple “Reminders” app.
iPhone screenshot of my Meditation Break daily reminders on the Apple Reminders app. All sessions are spaced 2 hours apart with a long sessions to start and end the day as well as x6 microdoses spaced evenly in-between.
For me, the day starts and ends with a long meditation session (usually 20 minutes each) with x6 microdose sessions (usually 5 minutes each) spaced out in-between.
When you’re just starting out with microdosing, keep your sessions super short at just 1-minute.
If or when those 1-minute sessions feel too short, you can up the dose to 3-minutes. When that once again feels too short, try bumping the microdoses up to 5 minutes.
If want the micro-sessions to be guided, I use Headspace's “Everyday Headspace” meditation option since they provide a new one-off meditation audio track each day for you that can either be 3, 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes in length.
If you’re already a seasoned meditator, feel free to make these sessions unguided using a simple timer. When I do unguided meditation, I like to use this free Meditation Timer app.
I like to use the free version of the Meditation Timer app on my iPhone whenever I do unguided meditation (usually for my Vipassana meditation sessions).
How To Stick with It
Don’t get frustrated or down on yourself if you miss any of your meditation sessions. Just make sure to take your next dose when your reminder goes off.
In fact, it’s understandable to miss some of your microdoses throughout the day if you're out with friends or get caught up in a productive flow state. In these cases, it's better to continue the task at hand and make up your missed meditation doses in the next session.
The micro-sessions are so short on their own that combining 2 or 3 small doses together into one make-up meditation session is a strategy I often use myself.
But no matter how many sessions you miss, the most important thing is to get as many brief meditation reps in during the day as possible. This will help you stay in the present longer, focus better on your most important task, and bring a new level of creativity to what you’re working on.
Microdosing is a Meditation Mini-Habit
Lastly, I think another awesome benefit to microdosing your meditation is that it turns your practice into a mini-habit.
The mini-habit principle (described in detail within Stephen Guise's books "Mini-Habits" and "How To Be an Imperfectionist") is a way to make taking action on the behaviors you want to instill in yourself super easy.
By implementing super short meditation sessions throughout the day, you're more likely to do them. You're also more likely to complete more total meditation time than if your goal was just to complete one, massive meditation session each day.
Again, the key is not to beat yourself up if you miss a few doses here and there. Just pick up where you left off.
Worry more about completing the rest of your daily meditation reps than feeling bad about what you missed.
Now It’s Your Turn
That’s Mediation Microdosing in a nutshell.
What do you think? Are you ready to give it a try? Have any questions, thoughts or comments about it?
Let me know what your take is on meditation microdosing in the comments below!
I came over here from one your Thrive themes articles, curious about what ModernManimal was all about! 😉
I’ve taken Shane’s productivity course, and the concept of “deep work” was HUGE, but…
I’ve had trouble keeping focused throughout the day…By the early afternoon, all I want to do is sleep! 😮
I’ve taken it easy on myself, and scheduled three 2-hour work blocks throughout the day (I’m a solopreneur and have a LOT of projects! 😉 Don’t we all?)
Your explanation about focus and how the conscious mind basically “zones out” after “120-bits of processing” really makes so much sense! I wondered what was happening with me, even thinking I was just making another way to procrastinate! It’s great to know this “focus” issue or flow state is actually NORMAL!
I do meditate, and I’m definitely going to try the “micro-dosing” approach! Very excited to see if I can replace my “nap time” with a short mediation session in the afternoon instead!
Thanks for the recommendations of things to try, and the app suggestions! 😀
Hi Karen… so cool to see you over here on the (Hu)Manimal Blog!
I’ve definitely found that honoring my break times to give my conscious mind a chance to have a breather really helps produce more productive flow times throughout the day for me. It’s hard to bring your best if you’re not fully rested each night and throughout the day as you’re working… otherwise you just burn on low steam all day which isn’t so powerful for being productive.
I’m very curious to hear how the meditation micro-dosing works for you. Since I wrote this article, I’ve also initiated brief movement break (standup and stretch at a bare minimum) every 1000 seconds and holy moly has that been powerful for keeping my energy and productivity up throughout the day!
Thanks so much for checking out my personal blog and sharing your thoughts on the post with me!