One of the hardest parts about living inside your head is that if you get too comfortable, you start to trust your head more than your gut. People who live with anxiety and depression know this struggle very well, but what makes it such a challenge is how easy it can be to slip into that mode. Without even noticing, you could fall down a negative thought spiral that will disconnect you from the things you’re doing, and you have a different kind of challenge to overcome. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s best to trust my gut over my head, even if the choice doesn’t always work out in my favor.
When I first started dealing with depression and anxiety, I tried my best to talk things out when I could. Since I couldn’t always put a name or label on how I was feeling, we’d talk about things until I got to a place where I knew what I was dealing with. Sometimes, these conversations would end with a reminder that I should ‘trust my gut’ moving forward, and that it’s ‘all going to be okay.’ This is typically sound advice, but without an explanation I felt lost.
One time, I pressed someone on why I should trust my gut. I couldn’t avoid my negative thoughts, and I needed a break from my head. In my mind, ‘trusting my gut’ meant trusting, and believing, the thoughts in my head. I thought that if I trusted my gut, that meant I’d be validating the thoughts in my head – the ones that told me I was worthless and that my life was meaningless. I didn’t want to trust any part of myself, and I did mental gymnastics to make sure I didn’t have to. But at the end of the day, my gut was right.
In doing some research for this post, I came across research about the science behind ‘gut feelings’ – why they exist, how they work and how they’re different from the thoughts in our brain. And while a lot of it was mind-bending science that I didn’t have a total grasp of, there was a bit of it that sounded perfect for this post. Basically, your gut feeling is a large part of what helps each person develop their own sense of intuition. In fact, one post I read said that ‘trusting your intuition is the ultimate act of trusting yourself.’ If you start making decisions based more on intuition than on what might be happening in your head, you can make decisions that are more reflective of your personality and beliefs.
I never thought I’d be able to trust myself as long as I lived inside my head, but I’ve come to a better sense of trust because of my instincts. Instead of obsessing over the vague goal of ‘trusting myself,’ I’m taking these processes one day at a time, trying to trust myself in one decision after another. If I have trouble, I try to work my way through it. I’m not always successful and it’s absolutely a learning process, but I’ve gained a (small) ability to trust my gut. Trusting my gut instead of my brain might not always work out in my favor, but it has helped me feel more like myself – which is a goal worth working toward!