The Importance of Trusting Your Gut Instinct

While some people think following their gut instinct is silly or illogical, others are guided by their gut daily. The feeling—which typically strikes as a pang-like sensation in the gut and carries undeniably strong vibes about a situation—may have its share of naysayers. However, the idea of going with your gut is backed by science, and plenty of people can vouch for its benefits.

The gut-mind connection

According to experts at the American Psychological Association, there’s a direct link between your brain activity and the microbiome (or bacteria) in your gut. These researchers have pointed to studies involving tests on rodents; when Who made changes in their gut bacteria, changes in brain chemistry were also observed, including fluctuations in emotion, pain perception and how the rodents responded to stress. Several experts call the gut—which has its independent nervous system—our “second brain.”

Emeran Mayer, MD, the director of the Center for Neurobiology of Stress at the University of California, says that the gut plays “a critical role for mental states,” and its ability to interact with the brain helps keep people away from potentially dangerous situations.

Likewise, researchers have noted that this process also works the other way; what your brain thinks can influence gut bacteria, as is the case when a person experiences high levels of stress and, in turn, develop knots in their stomach.

The gut-mind connection is a strong one. There’s something to be said for listening to your inner voice, so never dismiss its importance.

Trusting your gut to escape dangerous situations

Paying attention to your gut instinct can be as simple as meeting someone’s gaze and trusting that instant feeling that the person is up to no good. You may not be able to pinpoint their exact intent, but you can’t shake the thought that something bad might happen. The other individual doesn’t have to say anything or reach out physically; the feeling that sweeps over you renders you leery. If this happens, go with your gut and remove yourself from the situation. Walk to another section of the store, or leave it altogether. Change your seat on the subway, or get off a stop sooner.

Don’t fight the urge for fear you might look strange (who’s going to know what stop you were getting off at anyway?) or because you might be late to an appointment. It’s better to experience a slight inconvenience when a more threatening situation could have occurred. It’s even more important to listen to your gut alone or in an unfamiliar environment.

Obtaining success by listening to your inner voice

If family members or friends suggest, you forego a career or personal dream, but your gut has always told you otherwise, go for it! If you’re trying to decide how much attention to pay to a gut feeling about your life path, consider whether it continually tells you something in the face of resistance around you. If your gut instinct is strong and you’re always experiencing positive emotions when you think of your goals, consider taking steps to fulfill those aims.

The very successful Oprah Winfrey is a believer in trusting your gut instincts, saying that going against them can throw our lives off track either momentarily or for a long while. For her entire life, she’s embraced her inner voice. She explains that she only experienced setbacks when she chose to ignore that guiding instinct.

A path towards happiness

While certain situations drive life’s ebbs and flows (such as unforeseen problems or sudden challenges), your gut instinct will always remain, helping you to navigate. That inner voice isn’t always a dramatic nudging that has to do with avoiding dangerous circumstances or becoming a rising workplace star—gut instincts can be more subtle, yet just as crucial to happiness. Smaller life decisions, such as making a purchase or befriending someone, can also drive your emotional satisfaction. If getting together with a new friend “feels right” and puts a smile on your face instead of zapping your energy, make it part of a routine.

From career changes and wanting to leave a party before you even knock on the door to simply choosing to jog on a different route or shop in a new store, several aspects of life allow you to experience the gut-mind balance firsthand. In these moments, the two work together to help you do what’s best for you. Whether you listen to those gut instincts or not is entirely your call, but if you do, chances are you’ll be on your way to more happiness and success than ever before.

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