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Don't Ignore Your Gut Feelings

It’s easy to pass off intuition as mere luck or coincidence, but there is real science behind those gut feelings. Once you understand the situations where they’re most likely to occur, and what exactly is happening in your subconscious, the better you’ll be able to harness their power and be more intuitive.

Inside our digestive system lies what scientists call our “second brain”—the enteric nervous system (ENS)—which is lined with over 100 million nerve cells. Though scientists don’t believe the ENS is capable of thought, it does communicate with our main brain, and may have a bigger impact on our physical and emotional health than we realize. It stands to reason that those flutters, warning of us danger or pushing us towards an opportunity, are far from supernatural. The power of the second brain, combined with our intuitive right brain, which is always subconsciously reading our surroundings, is what creates this sixth sense. When our right brain senses even a slight irregularity in our environment, it produces dopamine which is what gives us that intuitive twinge.

How do we know whether that twinge is alerting us to something good or bad? “Symptoms” vary for each. In positive situations, you may experience a rush of warmth through your body, easier breathing, keener hearing and/or vision, goosebumps, butterflies, and/or a sense of relaxation in your stomach and shoulders. In negative situations, the feelings may be chills or coldness in your hands or feet as well as tightness in your stomach or chest. Fatigue, headache, and upset stomach are also common, as is feeling on edge.

With a better understanding of what these feelings are and why they happen, here are five scenarios where you should always follow your intuition:

“I’m in Danger.” When a person or a situation is potentially dangerous, our body sends out physical warning signals. Early man was more likely to survive if they could quickly determine whether a stranger was a friend or an enemy, and that ancient biological wisdom still lives within us. Our subconscious quickly picks up subtle irregularities in a person’s behavior or our surroundings, so if your body responds negatively, leave an area, cross the street, and/or get help. To hone this kind of intuition, reflect on past situations where you ignored red flags; this helps you feel more confident that they’re real in the future.

“I Don’t Feel Good.” Building on the negative feelings we experience in possibly dangerous situations, our bodies also let us know if there’s something wrong internally. You know your body better than anyone, so if something feels “off,” don’t hesitate to seek help from a healthcare professional.

Our bodies can also clue us in to people/situations that are harmful to our mental health. Pay attention to how your body responds to someone. If you feel drained after spending time with them, or if being with them always leaves you with an upset stomach, they’re likely toxic to you. Staying in toxic relationships can have long-term effects on your mental health, including anxiety and a depression.

“I Should Help.” You have likely found yourself unable to ask for help even when you needed it most; know that others experience that paralysis, too. Just as our subconscious can detect warning signs in another person’s facial expressions or behavior, it can also sense when they’re in need. Lend a hand to someone your gut tells you needs help. A generous spirit is even beneficial to your own health, too.

“I Can Do This!” No matter how experienced we are at something, it’s easy to get in our own way by overthinking. Our logical brain overrides instinct, and before know it, we’re flubbing something we know well. While you need to be fully focused when learning a new skill, doing something you’re an old hand at actually allows us to be on autopilot. The next time you catch yourself overthinking something you’re good at, distract yourself. Singing a favorite song or recounting a positive memory are both easy ways to put your instincts back in the driver’s seat.

 “I Knew It!” When it comes to making big life decisions, the choice that will lead us to lasting happiness should come from our gut, not our brain. In fact, our prefrontal cortex gets overwhelmed by the many factors that influence a big decision, so when we lean into our instincts, they help filter through the noise and point us in the right direction. Stop and briefly imagine yourself in both scenarios. Does one make you happy while the other fills you with dread? These kinds of gut feelings are never forced, and tap into an extrasensory awareness. If you find that you have trouble tuning out the noise, try adding a short meditation practice into your daily routine. Meditation helps make room for those clearer thoughts to prevail.

Adapted from


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