The Science and Art of Intuition
This week on the blog and on The Mindful Mama Birth Podcast, I’m going to share with you five warning signs that you’re going against your intuition. So why is this important to talk about? It’s come to my attention recently that there are often signs that we have in our bodies that tell us that something is not quite right. This might be with a situation, a person, a place, a problem, or anything like that. Sometimes we’re getting these signs, and we’re resisting them.
Or maybe we’re passing them off as something else. Or blaming it on a new medical condition or something. We’re ignoring it. And we’re just not totally connecting with the idea that these are actually signs of our inner knowing and our inner wisdom. My goal in this blog post is to offer you some ideas of ways that your body might be responding to a scenario where your intuition is trying to speak to you.
I think it’s really important to develop an awareness about this. Because ultimately, we talk all the time about, following your own compass, following your intuition, going with your gut, and making choices from the heart. But intuition is not always easy. It’s not always obvious. It’s not something that a lot of us can easily tap into, if we’re not accustomed to doing so.
How do we define intuition? What is it anyway?
According to one source, intuition can be defined as the influence of non conscious emotional information from the body or the brain, such as an instinctual feeling or a sensation that you get.
A lot of people will also define intuition as something like a sixth sense. Have you heard that term before? It’s a set of physiological feelings that they get, or that they receive when they’re in a situation where they have to make a decision.
So it might be a feeling you get about being in a certain place, or a situation that you’re in or a person that you’re around or a problem.
If you are faced with having to make a decision, you can ask yourself, “How does this feel to me, what’s my gut feeling about this?”
And, sometimes people describe it as a voice they get in their head that guides them. Other people talk about it, as if it’s their gut feeling or their gut reaction. And a lot of times, it’s hard to even describe where that comes from. You just know it. It’s your instant, primal reaction to something. That’s your intuition speaking to you.
Signs That Your Intuition is Speaking
Firstly, let’s discuss warning signs that you might experience that are signs that your intuition and your inner voice is speaking to you through your mind body connection. As a birth educator and a doula, I tell people to tap into their intuition all the time. But how do you do that if you haven’t been doing that before in your life, or you don’t know exactly what that means, or what it could look like when you are getting signs?
Intuition is Hard to Measure
This is because it’s the realm of the mind body connection. It’s a strange meeting of psychology, spirituality and science. The idea of intuition is ancient and primal. But until recently, scientists have struggled to gauge and quantify how it exists. Scientists want to put things to numbers. They want to measure it, quantify it, track it, trace it, and study it. But, it’s hard to study the mind body connection.
Feelings cannot always be visualized, added, or put into numbers. In that context, it makes perfect sense that intuition is very hard to prove and study according to how science typically studies things.
So how do scientists study intuition?
How do they figure out what it is, how it works, and how it affects the body? In one study, scientists created a scenario where a group of people were shown a set of flashing dots. They had to watch the dots and determine which way these dots were moving. So, they were asked to make a decision about whether the dots were moving to the right or the left. They were flashing quickly in front of them. This was a quick reaction type of task. They flashed these rapid speed images mixed into the flashing dots that were supposed to elicit positive or negative responses.
For example, they’d flash in a picture of a puppy, or a gun or a snake, and other images that have common accepted responses. And what they found is that people were able to identify the correct answers more often when they were absorbing positive subliminal messages. They also responded more quickly and reported feeling more confident in their choices when they were responding from a positive place.
For example, imagine the flashing dots in front of you. And suddenly, a puppy flashes and the people saw that image as something positive. They were getting a positive message, they were able to quickly and confidently make a decision. In this study, scientists suggest that intuition works in the same way. Intuition provides your brain with sensations of these subliminal messages that help support your decision making process.
Intuition is Able to Be Honed and Improved
Also, scientists noted that participants improved their ability to use their intuition in this image experiment over time. They got better the more they practiced. This suggests that intuition isn’t something you either have or you don’t, and that your intuition can be honed to help you make the best choice. Honing your intuition is actually evidence based. Scientists were able to prove that the more you practice getting in touch with your intuition, the better you get at making choices based on it.
You can improve your ability to tap into your intuition and your inner knowing to help you make heart-centered choices in pregnancy, birth and parenting.
So let’s flex those intuition muscles and take a look at some physical signs of your intuition.
5 Warning Signs That You’re Going Against Your Intuition
1 – Flutters, Butterflies, or a “Gut” Reaction
Firstly, one surprising warning sign that might be telling you that you’re going against your intuition, or that you’re getting these signs about something, are the feelings of what people call butterflies in your gut. Some people say it feels like flutters, butterflies, or some kind of sensation in their gut. So what is your gut? It’s your digestive system. Some people say it’s the core of their abdomen, their stomach, the pit in the bottom of your stomach feeling.
The Enteric Nervous System
Interestingly, you have an entire nervous system living in your gut called the enteric nervous system. It has its own set of neurotransmitters. So, when you’re doing something that is activating your intuition and just doesn’t feel right, it activates these neurotransmitters to send you signals. It’s pretty cool, right?
Neurotransmitters are essentially chemical messengers that, in this case, run from your gut to your brain and can produce that certain feeling in your stomach. When a situation just doesn’t feel right, it activates the enteric nervous system.
The Vagus Nerve
Another really interesting part of the gut feeling is the vagus nerve. Your vagus nerve is a set of nerves that run from your brain and through your abdomen connecting with the digestive system. Your vagus nerve is the seat of the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is the rest, digest, relaxed state and your sense of calm.
When your intuition is activated, and something just isn’t right, you get that fight or flight response. This is the sympathetic nervous system, and it shuts down your parasympathetic nervous system. So this effectively turns off your vagus nerve and shuts down its ability to respond when you’re in this state of feeling. When you get that feeling of something’s just not right, your vagus nerve can’t function properly to send signals of well being, safety, and happiness to your brain.
This actually connects down to your gut, which changes the sensations you feel such as butterflies.
2 – Digestive Symptoms
Another sign, related to the gut feeling, is other digestive symptoms or feelings such as nausea, a queasy feeling, lack of appetite, or other changes in bowel movements.
We have a really amazing and dynamic microbiome of bacteria that lives in our gut. Scientists have actually determined that the bacteria in our gut also serve to transmit different messages to receptors in our bodies.
When you have a certain feeling, there’s an interaction between your gut bacteria and the cells in your body, and they hold memories. Your body is able to connect positive and negative feelings and reacts with your gut bacteria. When we are feeling signs that something just isn’t right, and our intuition is activated, the bacteria in our gut connect with the idea that something bad might happen, and your digestive system can’t function normally.
Research shows that our gut bacteria can play a major role in our serotonin levels. And when this bacteria changes and responds to a situation, it can cause our serotonin levels to be affected. For example, this can leave us with digestive reactions such as feelings of queasiness, loss of appetite, and other digestive disruptions. When the cells in your gut are activated and reacting to a situation such as making a decision, your gut bacteria are sending signals and interacting with their memories of good and bad feelings. It releases serotonin according to your intuition.
3 – Changes in Your Energy Levels
Thirdly, another warning sign that you are going against your intuition is a change in energy levels. When you are doing something, is it a hell yes or hell no? What is your energy level going into that experience? Are you feeling super energized to be able to do this thing? Are you feeling like it is elevating and inspiring? Or do you feel totally drained, you’re dragging your feet? Is your spirit saying hit the brakes? Are you feeling resistance? That’s a major change in energy levels that can be a sign that you’re going against your gut.
Other aspects of this could also be irrational exhaustion. For example, every time you go to a certain place, once you leave, you are just totally exhausted. Even though you didn’t do something that you would necessarily consider to be exhausting. Other signs include focusing really intensely on something that might seem like a simple and clear problem to solve by an outside person. But your thoughts are focused on it, and you’re questioning it and you’re revisiting it. Things like ruminating thoughts and anxiety about a situation, as if you feel constantly on alert. Maybe you feel like you have to be constantly aware, constantly on, and constantly present.
4 – Heart Rate Changes
A fourth warning sign that you are going against your intuition is increased heart rate. When your body is getting intuitive messages like something isn’t right about a situation, you might notice your heart rate increases. Maybe not necessarily dramatically, but you can feel the tension in your body. And you might also notice related things like you’re breathing more shallow, more rapid breathing. Your breathing is tight up in your chest and in your throat. Sometimes it’s even hard to recognize that this is happening to you until you realize how hard it is to consciously relax.
Your body does this because it’s stuck in fight or flight mode as a warning sign. It’s preparing you in this primal way to be on guard and ready to leap into action. So the messages you are getting about a situation are actually physiologically preparing your body to be ready for a battle and prepped for action.
5 – Elevated Blood Pressure
Lastly, another warning sign that you’re going against your intuition is increased blood pressure. Have you ever noticed that your blood pressure rises in certain situations? Have you ever noticed that certain people can raise your blood pressure? What does that feel like in your body? Notice that sensation. Where are you when it happens? Who is there with you? What are you doing?
As a birth doula, sometimes clients might say things to me like, “My doctor is concerned, my blood pressure is a little bit high.” And one of the questions that I asked them are things like, how do you feel about your care? How is that going? How do you feel when you’re there? Do you feel supported by your doctor? And for a lot of parents with high blood pressure, the answer is usually no. They have a ton of anxiety about their care, they’re not comfortable, they don’t feel supported. And they are going into their appointments prepared for battle.
When our vagus nerve shuts down, and we’re in that fight or flight state, it can increase your blood pressure. And it probably will, because it’s telling your blood vessels to constrict with stress related fight or flight responses. Research actually shows that strategies such as mindful slow breathing, meditation, prayer, or anything that activates and puts you into a relaxed state activates your vagus nerve and is proven to lower blood pressure.
So are you wondering what to do next with this information?
How can you learn to tap into your intuition, relax your nervous system, and listen to your own voice?
Now that you can recognize the signs, it’s time to connect with that inner wisdom. Maybe you’re seeing the signs that your intuition is calling you. I’d love to walk you through the next step in my course called the Blissful Birth Mini-Course. In this course, you’ll learn the exact same strategies I use to connect with my intuition and flex those muscles through relaxation, ritual, and radical love. This course is offered at only $7. But it’s easily worth $47. Some people spend $7 on a fancy cup of coffee, but your intuition is a skill for life. Check it out!
Want to connect with me and talk some more about this? Join my Facebook group called Follow Your Own Compass! Be the first to find new resources, inspiration, and exclusive offers.