Think Twice: Brain and Gut Power
By: Dawn Z. Montefusco | November 1, 2013
If you think the best way to make choices is to think your way through them, think again. You have two sources of brain-power: one in your head, the other in your stomach. Got a stomach ache? Butterflies? Let’s talk, or rather, let’s feel.
Knowing Before We Know
Most of us have experienced the sense of knowing things before we know them, even if we can’t explain how. Maybe you hesitated at a stop sign and missed getting hit by speeding car. Perhaps you decide on a whim to get your hair done at a salon across town and run into your long lost best friend (who is not on Facebook). Is this magic, or a deeper insight? Science says yes, it’s highly possible it’s a deeper insight.
How can you learn to tap into this knowledge more often? Some theories suggest you can actually feel approaching events because of your stomach’s dopamine neurons. Our stomachs are a dark mystery to most of us, but research has revealed the surprising ways in which our gut exerts power over our thoughts, moods, feelings, and decision-making capabilities. Bottom line: knowing how to use gut feelings can give us great insight into how to live a more pleasurable life.
According to many researchers, intuition is far more concrete than it seems. In 1995 Michael D. Gerson discovered our second brain: the stomach. Gerson, a distinguished doctor and professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, explains that the “enteric nervous system” the gut-brain, consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, a.k.a alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to the anus. It’s our second brain, which contains some 100 million neurons, more than the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.
What does this mean in ordinary terms? It means the same cells that are in your brain are in the lining of your stomach. You get solid information from your stomach. For instance when you experience "butterflies in your stomach," this is the stomach brain talking to the brain in your head. As you get nervous or fearful, blood gets diverted from your gut to your muscles, and this is the stomach's way of protesting. It wants you to listen.
There is proof that our feelings should never be ignored. In Gerd Gigerenzer's book, Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, he explains that, “A gut feeling is a judgment that is fast and comes quickly into a person’s consciousness, affecting the body and the feelings throughout the body. The person doesn’t know why they have this feeling.”
Gigerenzer posits that if the person is tuned in, this gut reaction is strong enough to make an individual act on it. However, what a gut instinct is not is a calculation. You do not fully know where it comes from. In most situations, people observe body cues when they feel this gut-information, yet most ignore it as valid.
The Challenge of Modern Society
“The jitters of dopamine help keep track of reality, alerting us to those subtle patterns that we can’t consciously detect.” - Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide.
Judith Orloff, PhD, a Los Angeles based intuitive psychiatrist and author of Second Sight, suggests that it’s a matter of “combining the linear mind and intuition.” It’s about striking the right balance between gut instinct and rational thinking. She says once you’ve noticed an intuitive hit, “You can engage your rational mind to weigh your choices and decide how best to act on them.”
Get Rid of The Pro and Con Stuff
The challenge is that modern society doesn’t see gut feelings as rational. Normally we make a list of all the pros and cons about situations and then we make a decision after weighing out everything. That is the classical rational approach. In many situations, it demands too much information. Plus, it’s slow. However, when a person taps into sensation, and uses their body to help give them information, it’s usually more accurate. As Gigerenzer's states, “When a person relies on their gut feelings and uses the instinctual rule of thumb to 'go with your first best feeling and ignore everything elses, it can permit them to outperform the most complex calculations.”
3 Gut Feelings To Pay Attention To
1 . “Something is wrong.” – The body is a powerful intuitive communicator. The first warning sign that something is wrong is when the body goes a little off. You feel anxious or jittery. If you have a gut feeling, perhaps you think that something is toxic, or something feels wrong. It’s important to just feel it without trying to figure it out. If you’re around someone and your energy goes down, that’s an intuition not to ignore. Maybe you feel the urgent feeling to leave a situation. It’s best not to question it and just find a way out. Even suddenly being tired or sick can mean that you’re in the presence of an energy-draining person or circumstance; it can be the body’s way of communicating. Remember, the stomach and the intestines house the enteric nervous system, and this system is rarely wrong.
2. “I want to help.” - While gut instincts might allow us to avoid danger, we have an equally powerful capacity to sense when someone needs help, or that we have compassion that is undoubtedly true. Sympathy is one of humanity’s most basic instincts. Evolution has made us quick to read body language, moods and faces. Emotional signals are hard to ignore. This sympathy instinct nudges us to take in subtle gestures that can make a big difference in someone’s day. We don’t have to think about it; we feel when someone needs support.
3. “This is it!” - Why is it that when we are sure of the right thing we don’t question it? This choice can be oddly easy. When someone is buying a car, or picking out clothes, or falls in love, this is usually a no-brainer. This is where the body knows more than the mind, sending us numerous signals in the gut that make us feel comfortable and relaxed.
Nia White Belt Training: The Art of Sensation
Nia White Belt training, The Art of Sensation, is designed as a living system to allow you to know things instantly and to connect to the gut, the body and all of sensation. Nia respects the natural intelligence of the body and who you are. It’s made to adapt to your own energetic fingerprint composed of a body, mind, and unique spirit. It is through this investigation that you get to know yourself, learn to make better choices and live a fuller and healthier life. As Nia says, “The practice is over, the game has begun.”
Choice-to-choice, moment-to-moment, it’s the game of life defined by each day, by each choice, that guides us all. We are only using half of our potential to figure out choices if we rely only on our mind. We have to feel our way through life, not think it.
This system of combining the body and the mind is vital to the successful operation of your entire life. Nia is key to getting into the body, using it as your leader, and having the body be your guide.
Sign up for the next white belt and watch your world unfold.