Have Goosebumps? Here’s What Your Body Might Be Trying To Communicate to You

Photo: Getty Images/Lourdes Balduque
Typically, you might notice that you get goosebumps in response to physical triggers, like going outside on a chilly day and getting hit by a cold gust of wind. But that's not the only instance in which you might experience the temporarily raised buttons of skin along your arms, legs, and maybe even back of your neck that accompanies hair standing on end and is also referred to as "gettting chills." Your skin can get bumpy as an emotional or spiritual response, too. And all of these catalysts play into the meaning of goosebumps.

Experts In This Article

Scientifically speaking, goosebumps are a reaction to something changing in your physical or emotional environment. Spiritually, you may also experience the chills of goosebumps for a few different reasons. And no matter the cause at hand, getting familiar with what your goosebumps are and what causes them can help you establish a stronger mind-body connection with yourself.

What even are goosebumps, scientifically speaking?

“Goosebumps are a pretty simple, straightforward phenomenon, in that it's just the activation of muscles that causes our hairs to stand up,” says neuroscientist Alex Korb, PhD, author of The Upward Spiral. “Goosebumps are controlled by something called the sympathetic nervous system, which controls a lot of functions in our body in an automatic way.” Colloquially, you might know this as a stress response or the fight or flight system, Dr. Korb adds.

“Because our emotions—like fear—are part of our survival mechanisms, you can get goosebumps when you're scared." —neuroscientist Alex Korb, PhD

In the example where you're sweater-less in the cold, you might notice that your body automatically raises its hairs, which it does in an attempt to warm up, says Dr. Korb. The same effect might happen, though, as a response to physical triggers that have some sort of emotional component.

For example, let’s say you’re just patting your face. If you were to try this (like, say, right now), you’d probably feel yourself doing that but not get any chills. If, however, someone else puts their hands on you (whether it’s a gentle caress or an unwanted touch), you might experience goosebumps, says Dr. Korb. That's because it makes you feel some type of way, which might result in goosebumps.

According to neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, when our body experiences a sudden shift in emotion, we may also experience goosebumps. This might happen, Dr. Korb adds, because of the role that our feelings play when it comes to triggering the sympathetic nervous system. “The reason we experience emotions is to aid in our survival,” says Dr. Korb. “Being too cold can trigger the sympathetic nervous system to make your hair stand, but because our emotions—like fear—are part of our survival mechanisms, you can get goosebumps when you're scared."

Essentially, your brain utilizes the same pathways for physical and emotional triggers when it tells your body to have goosebumps. Other feelings—like anxiety, arousal, excitement, or a rush of adrenaline—might also lead your hairs to prop themselves up, says Dr. Hafeez.

The spiritual meaning of getting goosebumps

You may have noticed that you also get the chills when it isn’t cold or when you’re not feeling an overwhelming emotion. To help explain that situation is the spiritual meaning of goosebumps, which psychic medium Megan Michaela Firester (aka Mystic Michaela) calls “spirit shivers.”

“People can experience spirit shivers when something ‘resonates’, meaning they hear something that permeates deep into their soul knowledge.” —Megan Michaela Firester, psychic medium

“People can experience spirit shivers when something ‘resonates’, meaning they hear something that permeates deep into their soul knowledge,” says Firester. You might experience goosebumps during readings with a medium, but you can also get them from deep conversations with friends or when you’re realizing something profound for the first time, she adds.

Additionally, you might get goosebumps when you're connecting with your passed ancestors. “It's one of the ways to actually know you are, indeed, channeling information from the loved ones who have crossed over,” says Firester.

Psychic medium and astrologer Rachel Lang adds that goosebumps might also point to validation that you’re exactly where you need to be in that moment. “I’ve heard people say that they’re confirmation bumps,” says Lang. “Usually, it’s a sign of support.”

So, though not necessarily a physiological response of our survival system, understanding the spiritual significance of getting goosebumps can help you be more in tune with your whole self, which can contribute to you feeling less alone in life. “We are whole people,” says Lang. “We are body, mind, and spirit. If we can listen to our body's clues and signals, then we can deepen a sense of spirituality—which means that we really don't feel so alone. Instead, we feel more supported by the spiritual courses in our lives.”

Interpreting what spirit shivers might mean for you, specifically, though will require some introspection.

How to determine what goosebumps might mean for you

“Our body has all these different ways of being the voice of our intuition," says Lang. "We have physical sensations all the time, and they’re the voice of our inner guidance.” The timing of goosebumps is integral to determining their potential meaning. “It all depends on when you feel them,” she adds. Whenever that may be, Firester has a few tips for decoding that message:

“When you experience these chills, immediately think about what is going on around you. There are always context clues,” says Firester. “If you aren’t cold or dealing with something physical in your body, these chills are often accompanied by deep emotional waves within.”

To best surf those waves, Firester suggests slowing down so you can pay close attention to what is trying to be communicated to you. “Your body is a channel for that spirit message,” she adds. “Your emotions, physical symptoms, and overall feelings are all important to take note of when you experience chills.”

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