Gut Feelings: What Are They?
Have you ever had a gut feeling? Many people use the terms "gut feeling" and "intuition" interchangeably, but they mean different things. So, where do these feelings come from? And can you trust them? In this post, we'll explore the science behind gut feelings, how to identify them, and what they might be trying to tell you. Read on to learn more.
What Is a Gut Feeling?
Sometimes you instinctively know if something is right or wrong. This feeling seems to arise from some deep part of us; that’s why people call it a gut feeling.1
Gut feeling usually involves physical sensations in response to an external stimulus. For example, when you see something scary and feel a pit in your stomach. 1
Intuition involves a process in which the brain recognizes decision-making patterns based on one’s knowledge and past experiences. 1
Where Do Gut Feelings Come From?
Feelings don't originate in the gut but in the brain, so the expression “gut feelings” may not be so accurate.2 Many people use it anyway to refer to the connection between the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. 2
This connection works both ways; thoughts and feelings can affect gut health, and GI distress can cause mental health problems.2
Therefore, gut feelings result from bidirectional nerve pathways communicating emotions to the gut. 3 Also, bacteria living in the gut communicate with the brain via signaling molecules in the blood.2
How Can You Tell When You Have a Gut Feeling?
Have you felt unease, knowing that something was wrong? Or did you get an adrenaline rush knowing you were making the right decision? Gut feelings are often associated with physical sensations that can be either positive or negative.4
The following signs may indicate you’re having a gut feeling:4
- Having a flash of clarity
- Feeling your body tense
- Having goosebumps
- Feeling butterflies in your stomach
- Having a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach
- Hands sweating
- Repeating thoughts
- Feelings of peace, safety, or happiness
What is Your Gut Trying To Tell You?
According to a therapist, the first step is identifying whether the feeling is expansive or contractive.5
Expansive feelings are light, powerful, and exciting. It's the feeling you get when you can't wait to start something. This means you should go ahead.5
Contractive feelings are tight and heavy. You may feel your jaw clench. If so, your intuition might be telling you it's a no.5
Can You Trust Your Gut?
Our gut instincts can be right sometimes. They are usually more reliable in some areas, for example, to help us avoid dangerous situations or identify when someone is lying.1
However, we must not trust them blindly. Intuition is based on our past experiences. We can be projecting our emotions, which can ultimately affect our decisions.
For example, when you meet someone new, and you project all your hopes and dreams, believing that person is “the one”.
Analyzing the situation from a logical perspective can be helpful in this kind of situation.
Gut feelings arise from the connection between our brain and gut. While they can be helpful in decision-making, it's essential to approach them with caution and not rely on them blindly.
By paying attention to the physical sensations associated with gut feelings and analyzing the situation logically, we can better understand what our intuition is trying to tell us and make informed decisions.
- Psychology Today. Available: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/intuition. Access: 03/04/2023.
- Holzer, P. (2022). Gut Signals and Gut Feelings: Science at the Interface of Data and Beliefs. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 16. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9296981/. Access: 03/04/2023.
- How your brain and emotions control your gut. Loyola Medicine. Available: https://www.loyolamedicine.org/about-us/blog/how-your-brain-and-emotions-control-your-gut. Access: 03/04/2023.
- Gut Feelings Are Real, but Should You Really ‘Trust Your Gut’? Healthline. Available: https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/trust-your-gut. Access: 03/04/2023.
- A Therapist Explains Exactly What It Feels Like to Listen to Your Gut. Inc. Available: https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/how-to-listen-to-your-gut.html. Access: 03/04/2023.