Service of Listening to Your Gut

October 16th, 2017

Categories: Instinct, Listen, Listen to your Gut

I believe in listening to my gut. When I don’t I’m sorry almost 9.9 times out of 10. It doesn’t always speak to me however, which might be the subject of a different post.

Elizabeth Bernstein’s Wall Street Journal article dug into the subject. In “Does Your Gut Always Steer You Right? Weighing a big decision? Here’s what experts say about when to go with your gut or your rational brain—or some combination of both,” one expert warned about the pitfalls of asking too many people for advice. After a while “stop and be quiet so you can hear your own gut,” she wrote.

Your instinct is affected by mood extremes: Best not make decisions during periods of great stress and anger, happiness or being totally relaxed–all of which might distort your decision. When on a high, I’ve accepted invitations that I’ve later regretted–though Bernstein had far more earthshaking decisions in mind in her article.

What you eat, wrote Bernstein, can harm “the gut’s connection to the brain.” Avoid refined foods, chemicals, and eating too much too fast. On the other hand vegetables and fermented foods “promote healthy bacteria,” and consequently, mental clarity. I can’t attest to this.

“Using unconscious and conscious thought to make a decision is often best.” Make a list of pros and cons and set it aside. Sometimes, she wrote, the answer will be staring back at you.

If not, “do something that absorbs your conscious mind.” Hike, run, walk on the beach, play a musical instrument but don’t watch TV. Author of “The Mind-Gut Connection,” Emeran Mayer, said “Go into yourself without distractions from the outside, and your unconscious will keep working on the problem.” Mayer is also a gastroenterologist and neuroscientist.

I’ve found that the right answers/decisions come to me in the middle of the night, when water beats on my head in a shower, on my walk to and from work or while riding the subway.

Has your gut stood by you? Have there been times it’s led you astray and have you figured out why? When you’ve ignored it, have you paid the price?

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10 Responses to “Service of Listening to Your Gut”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    I believe in the cautions about nutritional consumption, health and gut instincts, but I can’t promise to always observe their suggested guidelines.

    That set aside, I try to follow the essence of Bernstein’s sage advice. Above all I try to avoid making decisions during periods of great stress and anger. Others caution me about making them when very happy, and I certainly have accepted invitations out of simplistic enthusiasm that I have later regretted.

    I try to be more circumspect or analytical. The most important practical advice in this post is that of weighing pros and cons in list form and letting the list sit rather than acting on first impulse. I suppose the conclusions reached after this cautionary behavior generally do mean following one’s gut.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I will try to pay attention to the diet side of Bernstein’s reporting reinforced by your experience. I’ve not associated diet with decision-making.

    I’m a list person–as in “to do” and “to buy”–but not so much “to make decisions.” My gut often takes over before I get to the list stage as in, “No, don’t buy that because you don’t need it now,” for which I need no list, just self-restraint.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    It’s a good question fraught with too few answers. Put simply, I just don’t know!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Nor do I, really. In some areas I don’t hesitate–I know the right thing for me to do–or not do–and there’s no silly sallying. It’s when I see positives and negatives of all approaches that tossing darts at the “right” answer almost seems the best solution.

    I’m planning a post for Thursday that I know even less about [unless it comes to me in the next few days!] Somehow I think you’ll have one answer or guess.

  5. Jennifer Powell Said:

    Jennifer wrote on Facebook: I am ALWAYS disappointed in myself when my gut tells me to do something but I dont follow up on it. Didn’t know that food can help in the decision making process too!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Precisely. I wonder if for whatever reason–such as a tough life they want to forget–some people have a sleeping gut that never speaks to them. That’s worse than not listening!

  7. HB Said:

    For several reasons and many years, I have heavily relied upon my intuition, or, as you put it, my “gut,” when making decisions. This has generally, but not always, worked out well for me.

    However, I realize that doing this can lead to problems and that one must not be compulsive.

    It is a mistake for whatever reason, emotional or cultural, internal or external, or just plain laziness, to make spontaneous decisions without being sure to consider all readily available facts and options before acting. While some decisions must be made in a hurry, almost all can really wait for another hour, day or more. Some, of course, are even better when not made at all. We also forget that decision making is usually a far more complicated business than we realize.

    Recently, I suffered the consequences of such sloppiness in how I executed instructions that I had received and intuitively distrusted. The messenger who gave them to me was charming, sincere and well-meaning, but English was not her first language. My intuition warned me that her message could be garbled.

    I did listen to my instincts and took precautions in executing the relayed instructions, but I was foolishly lazy in how I went about taking them. Therefore, unfortunately, when the message did turn out to be garbled, my caution was also for naught. I had done the opposite of what the true intent of the original message had been.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    When your gut speaks, best to listen or suffer the consequences. Yours is one more example of what happens when you don’t! And the outcome doesn’t get any better even if you have a good reason for not following your instinct.

    A new business idea: Hearing aids for incommunicative guts.

  9. Patty Raddock Said:

    Patty wrote on Facebook: Trump always relies on his diseased gut, and look where we are now!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    His gut is rogue to begin with and he’s not a good example as he doesn’t take the time to investigate or to give his gut a chance to chime in before opening, as Jackie Gleason used to shriek on “The Honeymooners,” his “BIG MOUTH!”

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