When you walk into a room or situation and you have a physical reaction, that “gut feeling,” pay attention! With a bit of conscious work and practice you can learn to understand the whisperings of your gut, and use this phenomenon to your advantage.
Instinct vs. intuition
An instinct is an unlearned behavior or reaction to stimuli, usually geared toward survival. Much like animals in the wild, we are all born with our natural instincts intact – but we can learn, or be taught, to override these instincts. Intuition is different from instinct – it is more of an emotional response, the ability to feel or know something without logic or reasoning. Personally, I believe that when we get that stirring in our abdomen, it is a combination of one part instinct, and one part intuition. Either way, our gut is talking to us, and it may have something very telling to say.
I’ve got a hunch…
We are taught to use our heads, tap into the resources of our brains, and utilize logic and reasoning to weave our way through life. It makes sense… the more facts we have, the better the decisions we can make – based on what is tangible and provable. Most of us logically know that playing the lottery is statistically stacked against us. The odds of winning big are rather small, but we’ve all heard the stories of someone who just “had a feeling,” bought a ticket, and won – simply because they followed their gut.
Most of us will have at least one relationship in our life that began simply because we met someone who gave us “butterflies” in our stomachs. Likewise, many of us avoid potentially bad situations because of a “sinking feeling” that caused us to take a different course of action from what we originally set out to do. While these examples of actions and reactions may not be logical at the time, they usually prove to be beneficial.
A cold knot of fear
Every one of us has experienced the physical manifestation of fear in our gut, the sense of danger lurking in our midst. Getting called into the boss’s office for reasons unknown, the response to the ring of a phone when a loved one is hospitalized, footsteps behind us in an empty parking garage… all of these things are likely to set off a physical or gut reaction as a response. There are also those days that we just wake up with that uneasy feeling twirling in our abdomens, and spend the entire day trying to figure out what is – or could be – wrong.
Sometimes this feeling is validated, and other times we write it off as an overreaction. If you really take the time to think about it, that uneasy feeling probably served its purpose, though. I’m willing to bet you did something differently because of it, even if that something was as minor as paying closer attention to the details of your day. “Nothing” may have come of the feeling, simply because you averted the danger because of it. Sometimes, you’ll just never know for sure.
Understand the whispers of your gut
We all do things and make decisions simply because they “feel” right. That doesn’t mean we always made the “correct” choice, but it can hinge on your personal definitions of what is correct.
When your gut is talking to you, try to listen to what it is saying. Look at what caused the feeling, or what caused you to notice it. Is your gut having a reaction based on past experiences or memories? Does the feeling in your gut change or fluctuate with your thought processes? Can you logically understand and apply a reason for the feeling? Have you had this particular feeling before? How did it help or hinder you? Did you get the message it was sending, or did you misinterpret it?
The mind and body are more connected than most of us realize or understand, but they work together to try to guide us. When you have a gut feeling, check the rest of your body while you are thinking about it. Are your muscles tense or relaxed? Are you breathing deep and easily? Is your pulse racing, or slow and steady? Paying attention to the subtleties of body, mind and gut working together can help you interpret what you are feeling – and you can learn to use those sensations as guides to a better life.
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