Learning to better understand my innerself
We live in a world where everybody has an opinion on everything and everyone. People judge and criticize others so much. Ooooh how much I wish I didn’t give a fuck… But I do so much. Sometimes a little too much. I value other people’s opinions and vision, I don’t necessarily think that’s so bad. But it isn’t good when it cuts me off from what I really want and influences the things that I do. I know there are a lot of other people who are struggling with the same problem. Different opinions can be confusing and they can mean that you don’t listen to yourself anymore. That’s why I want and need to get in touch with and listen to myself more. I want to learn and grow, to better understand myself.
What is a gut feeling?
People often give me the advice: ‘Just trust your gut!’ But what is that gut feeling actually? I did some research and learned some cool things that I think can help me and be interesting for a lot of people. That’s why I decided to write about it this month 🙂
Our gut is there to protect us
The gut of a human body contains around 200.000.000 neurons in the intestine wall. That didn’t mean anything to me until I found out that that’s around the same amount of neurons a dog or a cat has in their brain. These animals are pretty smart, so… so is our gut. They also say our gut is our second brain. But if we go way back in time, back to the beginning of our evolution, our brains were actually way, way smaller and the gut was our premiere brain. We had our intestines and enteric nervous system that only focussed on surviving and digesting. This was our ‘gut instinct’ and its ultimate purpose was to protect us. Through evolution we developed our brain to better feed and protect ourselves. Our brain evolved so now we can think about other things than digesting and surviving, but the gut instinct stays our most ancient sense. With evolution thinking became more the role for the upper brain and digesting more for the other brain, our gut. Both brains are connected and in constant conversation with each other.
Anxiety cuts off your gut instinct
The enteric nervous system can affect how you feel by sending signals to the brain that you’re not always aware of, and they can change the way our brain perceives the world. Our ability to think happily, think well, or to resist depression and anxiety can be very influenced by the messages the gut sends to the brain. Our emotions can influence our gut, but our gut can also influence our emotions. So when you experience a sudden feeling of dread, nausea, goosebumps, or maybe a strong urge to do something, it’s probably your gut trying to tell you or warn you about something. However we can easily be fooled by our mind, especially when it comes to our ‘gut instinct’. Because besides the gut feeling, we also feel our emotions within our bodies and we can mix up those feelings. Especially when we have to make big decisions or feel pressured by others. We get so obsessed with making the right choice, we become overwhelmed with thoughts and get anxious. Fear might pop up straight after you had an intuitive insight and then you’re not sure anymore whether you experience your gut feeling or anxiety. Anxiety cuts you off from your gut instincts.
Meditation a way to focus on your needs
I know this happens often to me too. I know that I have to slow down sometimes and take more time to make the best decision for myself. Mindfulness and meditation can help to become more aware of your thoughts and body sensations. And the more aware you get with yourself, the easier it will get to know the difference between gut feeling and anxiety. I have been meditating on a couple of things I’ve been doubting about, and it really led me to make decisions I feel confident about. When I suggested to some people to try meditating, they laughed a bit about it and said it’s nothing for them. I hope by reading this it’s something that they understand more now and may as a result try. Connecting with yourself, with your body and your primal instinct can be really helpful and such an enrichment for yourself.
Microbiota influences our behaviour too
Besides the millions of neurons, the gut is also home to hundreds of billions of bacteria, our microbiota. There are a hundred times more bacteria in our gut than cells in our whole body. We are actually more bacteria than we are human with more bacterial DNA than human DNA (The Gut: our second brain, 2013). Scientists have been doing research on the influence of microbiota on our behavior. It shows that the brain has an influence on our intestinal activities and the gut, as I discovered, has an influence on our mood, cognition, and mental health.
It all has to do with the composition of our microbiota. They are even doing research to see if there is a link between our microbiota and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Influencing your microbiota can help with stress
Our microbiota influence how we behave, who we are, how we respond to certain situations and can therefore be considered our third brain. The composition of our microbiota is influenced by everything we consume and we’re exposed to. That’s why who we are, is linked to our history and our environment. I find this very interesting because by understanding this I hope I can influence the composition of my microbiota with probiotics for example. Hopefully, that will help me reduce some stress and anxiety I’m experiencing. I hope that with every little step I take to be healthier mentally and physically, I will get closer and closer to cure myself of my health problems.
I’m going to try this now and to me, it’s something new. I’m really curious about how it will make me feel. Besides that, I will keep trying to listen to myself more, not hurry my decisions but listen to my primal instincts and trust my gut.
by Louka, October 2020
Read more about Louka & her incredible journey with (n)ever-ending periods – all told with incredible honesty and bravery.
Start with her first guest post of Mondays with Louka.