In the last two articles of our cannabis for newbies series, we got into the nitty gritty of cannabis tolerance and how to manage it, whether you want to maintain a low tolerance—or a high one. Now, we shift gears to talk about mindful awareness. This powerful practice, which has a wide range of health and well-being benefits, can also be used to help improve your cannabis experience. Could mindfulness be the key to finding your best cannabis options?
What Is Mindfulness?
A popular buzzword these days, mindfulness is also a powerful practice. To be mindful is to maintain a present, moment-to-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions. The practice also involves taking an open, loving attitude towards everything you’re experiencing.
While our instincts are to distract ourselves from pain, pushing negative experiences away, mindful practices encourage us to pull those experiences closer and turn our full attention towards them. When we stop fighting these sensations and embrace them, they often lose their hold on us, diminishing in intensity or vanishing altogether.
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation practices, but over the last few decades, scientists and medical professionals have begun to study its usefulness in modern medicine. Now, studies showing the many benefits of mindfulness are pouring in. The regular use of mindfulness practices has been shown to:
- Reduce chronic pain
- Boost the immune system
- Decrease stress and depression
- Improve memory and attention skills
- Improve your abilities as a spouse/partner and as a parent
Mindfulness to Better Understand Cannabis’s Effects on You
Mindfulness can also be invaluable in understanding and refining your personal cannabis use. It can help you get more in touch with your physical sensations; this can be the key to finding products that are particularly suited to you.
Cannabis’s active ingredients can offer a wide range of potential medical and recreational effects. When you take into account the many different strains, chemical components and various methods of taking cannabis, it’s clear that cannabis is a extremely complex plant.
To add to that complexity, people can react quite differently to the various cannabis options. A strain that makes one person feel energized and relaxed may make another individual feel anxious and lethargic. Research shows that 87% of cannabis consumers ultimately choose only one to three cannabis products that they use regularly. If you’re just getting started, a crucial step is to find out which products, strains or methods of using cannabis work best for you.
By paying more attention to the subtle signs that your body is giving you, you’ll be better able to distinguish what cannabis options are working—and which are making things worse.
Noticing the Warning Signs When Trying a New Marijuana Strain
To give an example, I recently tried a strain of cannabis I’d never used before. At first, the strain gave me some energy and a little bit of a euphoric sensation. But after a few minutes I began to notice a few warning signs. My jaw felt clenched. My heart rate was accelerating. I could feel a slight bit of tension in my forehead.
For me, these are all signs of increased anxiety, which I can easily get from marijuana strains that are too energetic for me. As soon as I noticed these effects, I stopped using that strain and haven’t had more since.
In the past, I may not have noticed these effects from the cannabis. I may have noticed the energy and the euphoria that came with the first few inhalations, and then thought I needed more when the anxiety started to hit.
Or more likely, I wouldn’t have thought about it either way, because I wasn’t paying attention. I would've continued to use the cannabis strain until the really uncomfortable side effects had truly set in. Then, intense headache, anxiety and muscle tension would overwhelm me. When it was too late, I would’ve realized my mistake.
But with regular mindfulness practices, my ability to notice these signs has increased. Now, it’s very rare that I get unwanted effects from cannabis. When I notice early signs, I can switch to something else and avoid a negative experience. I can also take notice of the strains that work especially well for me.
Harnessing the Power of Your Own Awareness
Mindfulness practices can help bring about a greater understanding of:
- How cannabis is affecting you
- What cannabis product is working best
- How different types of cannabis interact with your individual needs and biochemistry
In fact, one of the most important and overlooked factors in cannabis use is your own awareness. To get the right effects, you need to know what to ask for. To know what to ask for, you need to know how you feel, both to begin with and after you’ve used cannabis. This requires a lot of self-awareness.
This is a crucial step in the process of finding the best cannabis strains and methods for you. By harnessing the power of mindful awareness, you can better hone in on the cannabis options that work best, and tackle each step in your cannabis journey with grace and ease.
Cultivating Your Own Mindful Practice
If you’d like to cultivate your own mindfulness practice, you can do so in a number of ways. You can:
- Start a sitting meditation practice.
- Go to a course on mindfulness-based stress reduction.
- Take up a mindful physical practice such as yoga.
What’s key is taking regular opportunities to immerse yourself fully in the sensations of the present moment.
In the next installment of our Cannabis for Newbies guide, we’ll share some mindfulness exercises that include cannabis. You can use these any time to increase your mindful awareness as well as improve your cannabis experience.
Photo credit: Mikita Karasiou
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