Objectives: Previous research suggests that creativity, in the arts in particular, is associated with altered states of consciousness (ASCs) (Holt, 2007). To further understanding of the phenomenology of this, the current study used the experience sampling method to explore the occurrence of ASCs in the daily lives of artists, and their relationship with art-making and creative ideation.
Design & Methods: The experience of artists was repeatedly sampled over seven days, through an experience sampling questionnaire that signalled participants, at random intervals, to describe their mood, cognition, altered state of consciousness (radical alterations in awareness of body, perception, time and meaning) and recent creative cognition and behaviour (drawing on Pekala’s  Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory). Participants also completed wellbeing measures including the Orientations to Happiness Questionnaire (Peterson & Seligman, 2005). Multi-level modelling was used to analyse this nested data, with 2495 sampled experiences (level one – ‘the experiential level’) nested within 41 artists (level two – ‘the person level’).
Results: Recent art-making was significantly associated with experiential shifts: improvement in hedonic tone; vivid internal imagery (visual and auditory); altered state of consciousness and the flow state. Moments of inspiration and ‘thinking about creative projects’ were also significantly associated with these experiential dimensions, in addition to improved self-esteem. Further, the frequency of art-making across the week was associated with eudemonic happiness (having a meaningful life). Cross-level interactions, between experiential and person-level variables, suggested that those high in eudemonic happiness were more likely to experience an altered state of consciousness during art-making.
Conclusions: The current study suggests that at the experiential level, different stages of the artistic creative process (inspiration, structured cognition and ‘making’) are associated with altered states of consciousness. Further, the study provides important empirical support for the role of the flow state and altered states of consciousness as a route to wellbeing through art-making, particularly through creating or developing a sense of meaning.