Decision-making: head, heart or gut? 
Meditation and gut health for peace and good decision-making

In the East there has been a longstanding awareness of two parts of our brain – the ‘Thinking Mind’ and the ‘Observing Mind’.  The Thinking Mind really does have a mind of its own and unfortunately it doesn’t always have our best interests at heart.  In fact, it chatters incessantly and sometimes convinces us to believe horrible untruths (particularly about ourselves!) It can caste seeds of doubt, catastrophise and put the fear of god into us.  The Observing Mind, on the other hand, is always consistent, impartial and knows the perfect response to every situation.  We simply have to know how to find and tap into its wisdom!   And this is where a regular meditation practice comes in. 

When I first started working for myself someone gave me the advice that meditation would keep me sane.  At the time I thought it was because meditation would help me relax and stay calm.  Of course it does that as well, but the main benefit is being able to quieten the Thinking Mind enough to be able to access this Observing Self.  I cannot tell you the number of times an answer to a problem has simply ‘dropped’ (seemingly from above) after a meditation session. 

But it doesn’t end there! New research has uncovered a second brain in the gut and a third brain in our heart. 

New research has uncovered a second brain in the gut and a third brain in our heart. 

So when we talk about making decisions based on gut reactions or because the heart tells us to there is certainly truth to it!  So now we potentially have 4 brains all telling us different things… so who to listen to??

The answer is as you would expect; a combination.  With the benefit of time I will put a question out to the universe when I meditate and then allow myself to become receptive to the answers.  This simply means being open and observant – the answers can appear in a multitude of subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  Next I check in with my heart’s desire.  This usually shows up as the first reaction – the key is then ignoring the chatter of the Thinking Mind (that will inevitably challenge your heart and play out the worst case scenario in your head).  

I then tune in to my ‘gut feeling’ to get a read.  If it doesn’t come easily perhaps tell yourself you’ve made a decision and see how that feels in your body.  This can take some practice and obviously the more in tune you are with your body the better this becomes (so how then I hear you ask?  Through any techniques that help you to connect with your body such as yoga and tai chi).  

Try this exercise – lie down and become aware of the sensations in your body.  Notice the feeling of the breath moving through you, any muscle tension, predominant emotions, areas of constriction etc.  Then think about your problem and again notice all the sensations in your body.  Notice any differences?  You may notice a sensation in your tummy or chest – follow it and explore it – How big is it?  What shape?  Colour? Texture?  Allow the space to become larger to house this sensation.  Does it change again?   What happens when you breathe into and around it?    Answering these questions will give you some insights into your answer.  Try it again with an alternate solution.   You’ll be amazed how your answer will manifest itself in the body.

So the short answer to the question is a combination of 3 of the 4 ‘brains’.  Unfortunately, the one that I try not to listen to (the Thinking Mind) is the one that is the most dominant, but through consistent mindfulness practices such as meditation and the technique describes above, we can start to ‘quieten’ these thoughts to make way for the other brains to work their magic!

 

From a nutrition perspective, we want to make choices that nourish our bodies. Our minds may tell us that we ‘want’ something even if our bodies know that it’s not good for us.   

Our minds may tell us that we ‘want’ something even if our bodies know that it’s not good for us. 

When our stomachs are empty, our stomachs are far more likely to tell us to eat something that is not necessarily good for it, simply to fill the void.  Our hearts may desire certain foods because we know from experience that they make us feel good (even if that’s just a short-term sugar high!)  So again, the best solution is to check in the Observing Mind – distance yourself from want and think instead about what the body needs.   Then at least, no matter what choice you’ve made, it’s been a well-considered decision.   

Want to know more?  Here are a few of my favourite resources;

 

For more information, or to set up a nutritional consultation contact Nikki Wood here.

 

 

 

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