You’ve heard the saying “trust your gut” before, but what exactly does it mean? Usually, you’re being told to go with your instinct, to listen to yourself, and go with what feels right. It’s an unusual euphemism. Everyone can think of an example when they had to “go with their gut.”
It may be a creeping suspicion you have that something is going on behind your back, an inkling that you shouldn’t take that road home today, or something bigger such as knowing when to leave a job or move across the country. People “trust their guts” in all sorts of situations.
But where does the saying come from, and does it hold any scientific bearing?
Your Gut Might Be One of the Best Decision Makers There Is
No matter how much we’d like to believe that we consciously make our own decisions, it isn’t true. It’s been scientifically proven that when your brain has to process a decision, it takes several things into account, and it does so without your permission.
The way we’re wired to reach a final decision is based on both logic and emotion, and the emotion our brain relies on is much deeper than a surface-level feeling. Our brains rely on the fight-or-flight instinct that humans have had since the beginning of time, which tells our bodies whether to stick around and see what happens or get out of there ASAP.
Back in pre-historic times, the earliest humans had to make these decisions in a matter of milliseconds before they could consciously process what was happening. It was a survival mechanism that kept them safe from animal attacks and enemies. That decision-making process is still ingrained in us today and can manifest as physical anxiety.
That pit in your stomach that you get walking down a dark street alone at night? That’s your flight instinct telling you it’s not safe to be there. Everyday situations like this rely on our fight-or-flight mechanism time and time again.
How The Feeling Reaches Our Gut
The saying “trust your gut” most likely originated from the anxious, or “bad,” feeling you get in your stomach when you know something is wrong. Anxiety can create many physical symptoms, one of which is the butterflies you feel in your stomach, or even nausea and stomach pain.
This is known as the Brain-Gut Connection, which has been studied for years. Your gut is full of nerves, very similar to your brain, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It has the largest area of nerves in your body other than your brain. Your “gut,” shares many of these connections with the brain directly. That “feeling” you get in your gut is a biological response to external events stimulating your nerves.
It’s common for people who experience long-term chronic stress to have on-going issues with their gut and digestive health. These issues can include constipation, loss of appetite, nausea, peptic ulcers, and more. It turns out your gut is more connected to your brain than you may have thought.
Is Your Gut Always Right?
Unfortunately, no, not always. The fight-or-flight defense system that we have embedded so deeply within our brains isn’t always necessary anymore. We no longer live unsheltered, out in the wild, with the constant threat of being eaten alive. That feeling telling you that road is unsafe may be just that, a feeling. However, you’ll meet plenty of people who swear by gut feelings, and more often than not, they can be correct.
A Note from GR8NESS
We encourage our readers to follow their best instinct. If your gut is telling you that you’re in an unsafe situation, get out. But if your gut is telling you to take that leap of faith and try something new, you might want to do it.