“You will never follow your own inner voice until you clear up the doubts in your mind.” ― Roy T. Bennett
Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten a bad feeling about something but did it anyway, only to discover later that you were right all along.
That phenomenon is called going against your intuition, or gut feeling. Intuition is essentially an emotion or physical sensation that arises regarding a person, situation, or decision, without the need for conscious thought or reasoning. And ignoring or quelling it happens more often than most of us would care to admit.
For much of my adolescence and early adulthood, I felt genuinely disconnected from my body, my feelings, and my intuition. I’ll get deeper into that another time, but the point is, it took many years before I was able to finally listen to my gut and trust my innermost voice. However, that doesn’t have to be you.
There’s a good reason professionals urge you to “follow your intuition,” “trust your gut,” “ward off bad vibes,” or “protect your aura.”
According to Susanna Halonen, MAPP, “Your intuition is encoded in your brain like ‘a web of fact and feeling.’" The interconnectedness between your mind, body, and spirit are so strong, that she even believes listening to your own intuition is “more powerful than taking advice from someone else.”
Maybe you're still struggling with hearing what your intuition has to say, or how to choose between your instincts, your head, and your heart. While some of it does indeed come from first-hand wisdom, becoming more in tune with your intuition can be learned and improved at every phase of your life, and I have a few tips to help you get there.
1. Take a Step Back
When presented with a big or difficult decision--be it in love, business, friendship, or family--sometimes the best thing you can do is wait to provide an answer. Whether you choose to journal, meditate, or practice some other form of mindfulness, it’s better to delay the answer and evaluate your feelings internally than to answer erroneously under pressure.
You may find that five or ten minutes is all you need to answer confidently, including the fact that you now have time to re-evaluate your initial thoughts and feelings more deeply.
Maybe you already made a decision, but after deeper introspection realize it wasn’t the correct route. The best thing to do is be honest with yourself and the other party involved. Sometimes it’s as life-changing as choosing not to get married after you already sent the invites, or as benign as agreeing to have coffee with a friend only to realize you need a little down time instead.
2. Look for Intuitive Flashes
Intuitive flashes are more obvious for some individuals than they are for others, but these sudden displays of truth stemming from your intuition, described by psychiatrist Judith Orloff as “‘Ah-ha!’ moments,” work most readily when you’re making important or quick decisions on the spot.
Whether it’s an uneasy feeling you get from a stranger who struck up a conversation with you in the parking garage, or an empathetic feeling toward a friend, spouse, or family member during a disagreement, it’s important to pay attention to these hints to protect yourself, as well as the people you love and the relationships you value.
3. Revisit Your Values
Does what you are about to embark on align with who you are as a person? If the person you are dating does not share key core values with you, if the decision you are about to make presents an ethical or moral dilemma, or if the situation you are in makes you feel uneasy because it goes against who you are, then it’s probably not right.
Conversely, if the decision, situation, and/or person makes you feel emotionally happy, bright, calm, free, and/or hopeful, it probably means you are taking a step in the right direction.
4. Evaluate Your First Thoughts
If a decision doesn’t seem clear once all of the options have been presented to me, I take a moment to mentally re-evaluate the scenario, recalling what I initially thought and felt about each choice.
This is great when you are already practicing mindfulness, because it makes recounting the situation easier. The trick is to avoid clouding your mind with later judgement and only focus on those very early, initial thoughts and feelings.
5. Evaluate Your Physical Feelings
You intuition is capable of sending you physical signals. Sometimes they’re subtle and easy to miss, whereas other times they come across loud and clear.
It reminds me of the relationship I had during my sophomore year of college. I was a 19-year-old college student dating a man considerably older (and more anxious) than me. He was filling an emotional void I didn’t know I had at the time.
Our relationship moved quickly, and before I knew it, we were living together. The problem, however, was that my stomach was in knots daily from the stress and anxiety that transferred to me from his unstable energy. When I finally left for the last time, I felt free and hopeful for the future.
Do you feel more confident in trusting YOUR intuition after reading this article? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!