Everything You Need to Know About "Set and Setting"

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There are three keys to getting high: rotation, location, location. Whether you’re unwinding with a joint after a long work week, or joining old friends for a mushroom-fueled vision quest in Sedona, putting thought into where you are physically and mentally will help you get the most out of every giggly minute.

We’ve all had a night ruined by an edible that sent us into a paranoia spiral, or found ourselves at a party where we wish we could hit an “eject” button to be sent home (and take the cheese plate with us).

It’s all about keeping your sessions uplifting, soothing, and constructive. It’s about avoiding getting so high you get low. Lucky for you, we have some tips on reaching the right mindset (and setting) before you reach for the bong.

Smoke mindfully

Using cannabis costs time and money, so make the most of this investment in yourself by identifying what you’re hoping to get out of the session before you get started. Think of it as meal-prepping, for your mind. Doing this will help you situate your space or scout out a location to go to accordingly.

Are you stuck on a creative problem that you want answers to? Do you need to calm your nerves? Are you entertaining friends? Layering an intention into your trip is even more important if you’re using a hallucinogen. What questions do you want answered for yourself? Why are you here? Soon, you may be wondering “Who is that tree talking to?” so it’s best to have the bigger questions squared away ahead of time.

Get your snack on

Life is too short for bad snacks, and this is especially true when the effect of cannabis is heightening your brain’s capacity to taste and smell. It’s no secret that eating high is very fun, and having the right stuff to nosh on sets the tone for the entire experience. Cannabis can have the effect of shutting off the receptors in your mouth responsible for creating saliva, so stave off cotton mouth with bowls of moisture-rich fruits and veggies: think watermelon, apples, grapes, cucumber, celery.

Try throwing in some spicy salsas and flavored hummuses. These will keep the pallet engaged and encourage guests to get into a curious mind set. Plant based snacks have the added bonus of being light enough to consume en masse without the dreaded bloat and lethargy that can follow after an epic run with heavier snacks. Whoever labeled that bag of potato chips “share size” was not using cannabis at the time.

And listen: cannabis is best enjoyed sans alcohol. This prevents unwanted side effects and allows you to enjoy its effects with some clarity. In addition to having snacks at the ready, have a pitcher of flat ice water filled up. Throw in some strawberries or fresh herbs, and voila, your living room is basically the Four Seasons. Canned seltzers are also useful to have around, particularly for people who are normally beer drinkers and used to having something in their hand to sip on.

Hygge before you get high

When it comes to having a pleasant session, few considerations are as important as comfort. The more relaxed you are, the more your mind will be free to expand and wander. If you’re planning on smoking at home, get your place as snuggly as possible—especially if it’s cold out, and your body and spirit are craving the warm fuzzies.

Take a cue from the Danish, who have made chilling out part of their national identity by popularizing a lifestyle trend called hygge, which is essentially extreme coziness. Think twinkly lights, super soft throw blankets, and plenty of candles and incense. Dress to destress, too. Coco Chanel said “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” In this case, before you stay home, look in your sweater drawer and put one thing on—preferably that holy, oversized hoodie that makes you (and only you) happy.

Head for the hills (or somewhere outside)

Whether you’re looking to self reflect or go adventuring with friends, nature is an ideal place to use cannabis or psychedelics. It’s just a fact. With your senses heightened, you’ll be able to fully slow down and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors. This is especially true if you’re taking mushrooms, which will likely make you feel intensely connected to nature and repulsed by unnatural light, large crowds, and other trappings of “advanced” society.

The key to enjoying yourself outside is to consider safety above all. Don’t drive to your destination—take a ride share or public transportation. Make sure you know at all times where you are, as well. If you’re hiking or headed to a remote beach or desert area, download an app like AllTrails, which allows you to track your location. Once you’ve gotten settled and are ready to get altered, put your phone away, and let your mind slow as you take in the color of the sky, the sound of running water, the smell of the trees and soil.

Time of day is an important consideration to make any time you intend to consume a substance like cannabis. What time it is will determine the “flavor” of your trip. Looking for a more introspective experience? Go for nighttime, especially on an evening where the moon is big and will provide plenty of light. During the day, the colors will be more vibrant, and the sun will inspire a more active, uplifting energy. If you’re smoking during the day, though, be mindful of what you have to do later. Consider having a little green tea or coffee to keep you awake. “I slept through my alarm” is not an acceptable excuse for being late to an event that starts at 6pm.

Surround yourself with good art

Cannabis may indeed be a gateway—to making and appreciating art. Using cannabis has been shown to increase your ability to connect unrelated ideas and thus allow you to be more creative. Situate yourself in a place that has thought-provoking visual art, whether that’s a museum, or your own living room in front of a print or painting you’re attracted to.

Whether you’re alone or smoking with friends, coffee table books are fun to have to thumb through. Think big, glossy photography books, or something quirky like Happy Little Accidents, the book of quotes from painter Bob Ross, which is chock full of mind snacks like “This is your world. You’re the creator. Find freedom on this canvas. Believe, that you can do it, ‘Cuz you can do it. You can do it.”

Like time of day, music will “paint” your experience, so play something that inspires and relaxes you. When in doubt, you can always turn to cannabis-friendly artists like Kacey Musgraves, whose song “High Time,” is essentially the aural version of sparking a joint: “It's high time/To slow my roll/Let the grass just grow and lean way back/It’s a fine time/To let it all go/I’ve been too low, so it's high time.”

Now that you’re all set, it’s high time. Happy smoking!

Tess is a Los Angeles based writer and nationally touring comedian. She is regularly published in Vice, The Guardian, Vox, MTV News, Jezebel, and LA Weekly.