The importance of intuition in physical and emotional wellbeing

Some call it a gut feeling – others call it intuition.

What is intuition, and what is its role in our physical and emotional wellbeing

Intuition is not simply a gut feeling but is now recognized by science as “knowing that emerges out of self-organizing holistic associations” [1]. It is more than hunches and is described as “the direct personal perception of some truth independent of any logical reasoning process. Intuitive knowledge is often nonverbal” [2]. 

Other scientists describe intuition as knowing when something is going to happen. As a result, intuition helps us to focus our resources and improve our behavior to prepare us for an expected event or outcome. 

Intuition is rooted in science and is believed to help the body translate our thoughts and unconscious information into gut instinct. For example, our instincts contain essential information that could help us rapidly process the environment and the outside world. Once these communication channels are harnessed, individuals can make more centered decisions. 

In addition, intuition is the ability to bridge the non-conscious and conscious parts of the brain or mind. It is also the ability to know even without analytic reasoning. 

How is intuition used to promote physical and emotional wellbeing? 

As individuals and members of society, we are highly cerebral – we analyze and think. The brain is perceived as the boss of the body, with the rest of the body parts as followers of the brain.

Scientists and physicians rely on evidence-based medicine, randomized controlled trials, analysis and facts to make decisions. However, a medical doctor, Jennifer Shaer observed that “all of those things are amazing and hugely valuable, but we are missing critical information when we rely exclusively on the brain.” 

The importance of intuition in physical and emotional well-being

The term ‘gut feeling’ has a scientific basis. Strong evidence [3] has shown a connection between the brain and the gut. The gut-brain axis involves two-way communication between the enteric (gut) nervous and central (brain) nervous systems. This bidirectional relationship links the cognitive and emotional centers of the brain with intestinal functions. 

To illustrate, the gut-brain connection can link stomach problems to anxiety and vice versa. Do certain situations or experiences give you a nauseous feeling? Did you ever have a ‘gut-wrenching’ experience? Or have you ever felt ‘butterflies’ inside your stomach?

All these expressions are present for a reason. The gastrointestinal tract is recognized to be responsive and highly sensitive to emotion.

For example, joy, sadness, anxiety, anger – all these feelings can trigger responses from the gut. These responses can include nausea, vomiting or stomach upset. 

The signals from the enteric system to the brain explain the gut instinct or sensation of gut instinct. Current research suggests that in addition to the gut, the heart also contributes to processes like decision-making. Together, the gut, heart and brain are thought to be involved in decision-making. 

However, the main question is, ‘are we listening?’ 

Jennifer Shaer observes that “for the most part, I would say the answer is “no.” We tend to push away our inner knowing and do what our brain tells us we “should” do. How can we tune in and know if our brain is running the show without input?

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Check in with yourself. You might want to listen more deeply if you feel unfulfilled, anxious, or stressed or have a general feeling of constricted or tense.” 

It is essential to recognize that feelings and emotions are feedback for your brain. Some examples of emotions or feelings sent to the brain include the feeling of tightness in the chest or a knot in the stomach.

Other examples include feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, dreading, or having a nagging headache all day. However, most people treat these feelings or symptoms with food and social media.

Many binge eat or turn to social media to ‘forget’ or drive away these feelings. Most of these inputs don’t matter. Shaer reasoned, “we create a state of chronic stress in our body with all the hormonal cascades that can wreak havoc on our health when left unchecked.” 

To maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, it is best to rely on the heart, the gut and the brain. The heart acts as the inner compass of the individual. This means that it knows what you want and your inner desires.

Listen to your heart – and your gut

The heart can be your compass or GPS and answers the “why?”. Your heart can set your purpose, which can help you achieve physical and emotional wellbeing.

Despite being rational, the brain can’t make you aware of your purpose in life. When your heart sets your destination, your rational brain can lay out your actions to reach your goal. 

Shaer explains that when you make a wrong decision or veer away from your heart’s purpose, your gut will remind you to return to the correct path. It will provide input to get you to where you should be heading.

However, it needs you to listen to the messages sent by the gut. These messages can include uneasiness, a queasy stomach, or a sense of exhaustion and unrest. 

Feelings of being unfulfilled can be traced back to one’s failure to listen to the heart and only rely on the mind to make decisions in life. So, let your heart and gut guide your mind to accomplish what matters most to you. Remember, the brain is only a part of a beautiful orchestra aimed to make you feel fulfilled and live a life of purpose. 

Your physical and emotional health and well-being will thank you for listening to your heart and gut. 

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What is emotional and physical wellbeing? 

Emotional wellbeing is closely interlinked with your physical health. An article that was published in the British Medical Journal [4] recognized that emotional distress increases susceptibility to poor health and physical illness. For example, the stress in the workplace due to lack of control and stress due to an impending exam in school or stress from life events can increase susceptibility to viral infections. 

The importance of intuition in physical and emotional well-being

Animal model studies have shown that emotional distress can affect the immune system response, leading to physical illness. In another hypothesis, emotional distress can lead to poor eating habits and social behaviors.

For instance, distressed people are more likely to consume high amounts of fatty or junk foods, smoke and drink. All these behaviors can lead to long-term illnesses. These observations provide additional evidence that physical diseases might result from emotional distress. 

Meanwhile, authors of the same article in the British Medical Journal cited several epidemiological studies that showed how emotional and social support prevent illness, protect against premature mortality and aid recovery. 

Key message

Intuition is an inner gut feeling or compass that helps you get where you want to be. These feelings, along with the desires of your heart, act as your GPS and compass that would help you live a more fulfilling life.

Failure to listen to your heart’s desires and inner gut feelings often leads to emotional distress, which can lead to physical illness. While the mind is critical in making decisions, the heart and the gut always remind you where your happiness is. Listen to your intuition – and let your mind follow where your heart leads. 


Photograph: adamov_d/Envato
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.