Can you trust a gut feeling?

People who go with a “gut” feeling might be thought of as impulsive, but the two behaviours are different.  Impulsive behaviour is usually without much thought, whereas the gut feeling behaviour comes from a knowing place deep down in the body.  The body gives us messages and many times it is good to trust this feeling.  It may be thought of as an instinctual reaction.

How does the gut feeling work in practice?

  • Usually we think we make logical decisions, but actually they are a mix of logic, emotions and maybe the gut feeling.
  • The gut feeling is a subconscious body feeling, where we may have a physical feeling that things are not right for us, for example we get “butterflies” in the stomach. The butterflies influence our decision-making.
  • Poker players have been known to “sense” where risky cards are which allows them to make different choices in a game. Their anxiety has been measured by sweat on their hands.
  • Sometimes the intuitive response presents as persistent thoughts, suspicious or doubtful feelings, or anxiety. These often hold us back from making a significant move, or decision. We don’t know why, but we know we don’t want to make that decision.

There’s some science to back this!

  • In 2009 scientists reported that they had found a “second brain” in the digestive tract made from some “brain nerves”. It makes sense that there should be instant communication between the brain and other vital organs in the body, such as the heart, to enable the body to rapidly respond to any threat.  A Professor Prinz* who was involved in the research thought that this network of nerves in the stomach could be involved in unconscious decisions which later the brain makes known to us as conscious decisions.

Ways to tune into your intuition

  • Creating some space in your life, away from the usual clutter of action and thoughts enables you to quietly tune into your subconscious, especially if you meditate.
  • Thinking about your problems before going to bed may allow your brain to work on them while you sleep. Notice I said thinking, not worrying!  Sometimes your dreams may give you the answer to your problem in the morning, and intuitively you know it is right.
  • Writing in a journal can often reveal things that bother you that have not surfaced to your conscious level, and suddenly in your own writings you notice blocks have been removed from a problem and you can see how to move forward.

Our brains contain so much more information than we can know

  • Every minute of every day our brain is recording minute events and interactions and storing them for future reference. When presented with a “puzzle” it uses this information to solve it.  Sometimes it can be wrong, and therefore intuition cannot be guaranteed in every situation.
  • If we can be present in the moment a lot of the time, we can notice more about people, how they relate, and how we relate to them. Standing back and observing instead of reacting to everything can be very revealing.
  • Some people are just good at conceptualising a problem, and just come up with the answer without having to sit down and work it out.
  • People who are very analytical sift information through a logical filter and are usually good at making an accurate decision because they have all their neural pathways set up ready for action.

We can hesitate to share our “gut” feeling

  • Sometimes we are wary of stating our gut feeling in case others think we are illogical or silly. But it may be a good idea to do so, just so you hear yourself vocalising the feeling and you can assess your own reaction to it, and also others may have had the same gut feeling, and will agree with you.

Tuning in to our intuition rather than ignoring it can often save you from inconvenience, for example you get a gut feeling that you should check to see whether you left the iron on.  Your brain has recorded that you have!  Going back to check is inconvenient, but you’re glad that you did when you find that you left the iron on!

Using your powers of mindful observation and your intuition may confirm in your mind that a certain person is not the one you really want to be associating with, whereas you hadn’t noticed that before.

We all have the ability to recognize and use our intuition, and need to tune into it more often as a powerful tool of the mind and body.


*Research: Professor Wolfgang Prinz, Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich, Germany.