How to Test Your Gut

Posted by: Center for Growth Therapists

Are you feeling less sure of the decisions you make? Anxious that everything you touch is crumbling? If you have been feeling like you need help navigating your decision making and re-centering your gut instinct, this tip is for you.

 These series of mini gut testing experiments can be done by taking a particular time of the day every day, one whole day, or a full week if you are especially brave. Brace yourself as this is a risk and will create some anxiety as you try new things. 

 Another option is to try testing your gut  out in the context of one relationship or one specific area of your life at a time. Some people like experimenting with food or lifestyle activities for fun first as a way to test the gut with immediate gratification and little consequence to maximize gaining a pleasure seeking life right away. Others shoot for the area they are struggling with the most such as sex or money which tend to be more sensitive and engrained patterns to overcome. Some find they have the same approach to making decisions across all areas of their life, while others differ topic to topic. This will tell you a lot of information about yourself and your ability to follow your instinct.

Everyone is different as to how much change they are willing to try out and how it fits for them. Practice trusting your gut by picking the method that first seemed right for you.

 

Mini gut testing experiment 1: Check your Habits with Opposite Day

  • Do everything opposite from what you would normally do 

This level of change will cause others in your life to be confused. It may even cause their anxiety to go up. This is when gut testing gets fun! If you are in relationships that are fragile, it may be beneficial to let people know that you are trying something new in your life, that you hope they understand, and you will let them know what you gain along the way. By asking for their support and assistance in your journey, they can help you by being prominent characters, coauthors, and/or editors of the new story you are creating. 

As you challenge yourself to do everything different than you normally would, check the reactions you get and how you feel during the process. You will definitely feel discomfort as you attempt new things but try to be more specific and detailed into the discomfort you feel and where those feelings are coming from. Expect the anxiety of change and listen to your body as you make changes happen. The responses that others have to you when it goes against their expectations of you will give you a lot of feedback on how other’s view you.

 

Fun gut testing examples: 

  • Take a new route or means of traveling to work
  • If you normally pack a lunch, go out to eat
  • If you frequent the same place and order the same thing, go there and ask the server to pick out a different menu item for you
  • If you normally wait for your partner to initiate sex, grab them and start making out
  • Shower after you eat breakfast
  • Have tea instead of coffee
  • Eat away from your desk with coworkers 
  • Do the thing you usually avoid because it makes your anxiety too high

Mini gut testing experiment 2: Un-censor Yourself

Take a journal with you and right down every first thought that pops into your head when asked a question. Take it further and practice saying it aloud to yourself or a trusted companion. Even more of a risk is to not censor yourself and ask for these initial ideas that come to your mind right away. Next predict the reaction that might occur if you follow your initial thought.

 

From both mini-experiments reflect on the following questions: 

  • Note other people’s reactions
  • Positive rewards
  • Consequences suffered
  • Ask yourself what made you feel like your true self?
  • What was too big of a stretch and out of your comfort zone?

 

Along with the questions from the start of when you learned to stop trusting yourself.

  • How did you feel?
  • What was your level of anxiety on a scale from 1-10?
  • What happened?
  • What were the consequences?
  • What is the story you tell yourself about what went wrong?
  • What did you need at the time?
  • Who was there for you after your experiments?

  

After you complete 1 or both gut testing experiments, you are on your way to create a story where you trust yourself.

Some find journaling the answers to be very helpful to pinpoint exactly what happened before, during, and after so you can test which attempts made felt successful in following your gut and what differences came about the mini gut testing experiments.

Continuing to try on change in the form of mini-experiments can help you gain a sense of where you are at and where you would like to be. Taking the big leap to trust your instinct after losing touch with it is too big of a risk for most people and it makes sense that you may want to try things out before committing to a new story where you listen to your gut first. After all, the distrust you developed from failed attempts of listening to your gut had a purpose of protecting you from pain in the past and maybe it is no longer serving you in the way it could. It’s possible this goes a little deeper for you and you have a lot of troubling memories where you learned to not trust yourself. Sometimes the anxiety of making change exacerbates genuine anxiety disorders. Seek guidance for unpacking the narrative of not trusting your gut instinct here, or you may benefit from the help of a therapist.