It goes by various names: gut, instinct, insight, intuition, even a sixth sense, but whichever name you choose, it still holds the same meaning. It’s our ability to act on or sense something without the use of rational process. To break it down, intuition is basically how we tap into our subconscious mind, which is where we store information that we may not remember on a conscious level. Sometimes we can pick up on things without realizing it and it will register as a “feeling” that we can’t quite explain. It can come in different forms for everyone- that inner monologue telling you when someone isn’t being truthful or that sudden spike in alertness when you just know something isn’t right. Unfortunately, a lot of people either don’t have a good connection with their intuition or choose to ignore it due to a fear of being wrong and/or searching for the rational answer. Yet, what many don’t realize is that there is no textbook solution for every situation; and everyone is ingrained with an innate knowledge. Trusting it can help us become more in tune with our bodies, minds, and surroundings.
Developing an ear for your intuition can be difficult at first, and it can seem like its leading us into unfamiliar places. Truth is, sometimes that happens. By exploring your everyday hunches you can sharpen your perceptivity towards your inner instinct. This will serve you well when more important inner-messages come to your attention and prepare you to recognize them more skillfully. Here are some ways to help you start flexing your intuitive muscle and follow your gut.
• Always go with your first answer. This may seem like a popular anecdote for test taking, but this statement holds water with everyday reasoning as well. For example, if you are looking at a menu, choose the first thing that stands out to you. Ignore all the other options and ideas that pop into your head about the daily special or soup du jour. Don’t dwell and go with your first choice- maybe your body is craving a nutrient found in one item and not the other.
• Meditate: Free your mind of repetitive racing thoughts and focus on nothing but the present moment and your breath. This de-clutters the self and allows you to better hear your extra senses.
• Trust yourself: Do you ever get that uneasy heavy feeling in your stomach where you know you are making the wrong decision? Or maybe when the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you feel unsafe for no rational reason? It’s important that you listen to it. Our body doesn’t make itself feel uncomfortable or on edge for no reason, you may not see it outwardly but they don’t call it a gut feeling for nothing. The worst that can happen is that you are wrong, and there is a first time for everything, right?
• Make a subconscious journal: Everyday, use your perceptive skills to make inferences about things and write them down. Concentrate on statements like “I feel that…” or “something tells me that…” and the sensations that are correlated with those inferences. Look back periodically and see how many times you were right. The more you work on your insight, the more confident you will feel in it. You’ll start seeing that you are more often correct with your assumptions.
• Listen to your dreams: If you are struggling with something in your wakeful life and are having vivid dreams that you remember upon waking – it could be your subconscious trying to give you a hint or clue of some sort. Keep a dream journal by writing down your dreams as soon as you wake up. Notice the feeling of that dream to better understand a situation you are in.
• Stop criticizing yourself: Everyone knows the saying “you are your worst critic,” and it’s true. Telling yourself that you inner voice is wrong and setting limiting beliefs hinders your ability to grow intuitively. We all carry a set of beliefs and values that we live by, a moral code of conduct. Allowing outside factors or pressures to influence them can place us in the passenger seat of our own lives. Instead of thinking in a way that gets in the way of your goals, think of a belief that lets you fulfill your potential and run with it. Be the decision maker in your life and let your intuition guide you.
*Written by Michelle Avidon, a Clinical Psychology Graduate Student with a BA in Psychology. She mentored troubled youth at The Door in New York City and now works in Inpatient Mental Health in New Canaan, CT. *Edited by Heather Edwards, LMHC, NCC, BCC