Many of us have frequently encountered an ‘inner voice’ or a ‘gut feeling’ guiding us along in a tricky situation. Perhaps in a meeting regarding a potential collaboration or business association that appeared fruitful, but a nagging feeling told you to exercise caution; or at a first date with a seemingly polite person, yet something bothered you about their behavior.
Very often, this intuitive sense ends up being accurate, and even helpful for avoiding unnecessary disappointment due to potentially poor choices. However, what exactly powers this gut emotion, and how do you tap into your intuition to make it a reliable source of guidance?
Intuition is often typecast as an impulsive force or instinct that drives our decisions on certain occasions, or a mysterious ‘hunch’ that we sometimes get regarding an experience. However, intuition is neither an impulse nor an instinct, but “our mind’s ‘automated response’ to various situations,” based on our conscious and subconscious learnings, says Dr. Seana Moran, who specializes in developmental psychology at Clark University, Massachusetts.
While the term intuition is often used in varying contexts in different fields, in a general sense it refers to the ability to know something immediately without the need to resort to conscious reasoning. According to Dr Moran, “Intuition is, [the feeling of] ‘I just know.’ It’s involved in the ‘aha!’ moment when a good idea suddenly comes to mind.”
Intuition is often interchangeably called gut feeling, thus validating every time that you’ve “gone with your gut”, asserts Jay Pasricha, MD, director of Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. Pasricha further explains that our gut comprises of an entire microbial ecosystem that acts as a network of neurotransmitters, deeming that the gut essentially acts as a second brain. Indeed, this recent discovery of the gut-brain axis offers crucial insight into how our digestion and food choices affect our emotions, mood, health and thoughts.
You can learn to tap into your intuition shutterstock/Triff
Being able to tap into your intuition is essential for beating indecisiveness, as studies point out. In fact, there is substantial research that establishes that intuition or sixth sense powers our thoughts and decisions by influencing our ideas and feelings. Studies indicate that intuitive reasoning often results in right choices regarding complex purchases like cars and houses.
Interestingly, researchers reveal that women tend to access their intuition more often than men. Dr. Judith Orloff MD, professor of psychiatry at UCLA, points out that women have a thicker corpus collosum or the connective matter that links the left and right hemispheres in the brain. This thicker structure boosts their ability to access and integrate emotions and gut feelings from the right hemisphere with the logical reasoning of the left hemisphere of the brain for a more balanced decision-making.
“While tapping into your intuition may seem like an intangible concept, it is possible to build and strengthen our intuitive sense, just like a muscle.”
“Women are also psychologically more in touch with their emotions and are more likely to integrate hunches, emotional ‘hits’ about people and logic,” states Dr Orloff. He further explains that men are less inclined to shift gears between logical thinking and intuition due to the thinner structure of their corpus collosum, which supports more compartmentalized thinking.
Fortunately, tapping into your intuition doesn’t require you to deny logic or facts. In addition to the input provided by the rational brain, tapping into your intuition requires you to tune into various forms of intelligence – your subconscious mind, the heart as well as the body. In fact, combining logic-based intelligence with your intuitive reasoning enables you to take a comprehensive view of a scenario, without restricting you to utilize your conscious thought-process alone.
While tapping into your intuition may seem like an intangible concept, it is possible to build and strengthen our intuitive sense, just like a muscle, states Katrine Kjaer in her TED Talk centered on The Power of Intuition. We can learn to fine-tune these intuitive responses based on our experiences and lessons over time, and with the help of the right input from our environment.
Here are seven scientifically-proven ways to access your intuition readily and with greater accuracy over time. Try them and see if you notice a difference.
There is ample research to prove the various benefits of meditation, including the important role it plays in honing your intuitive thinking. In addition to reducing stress, combating depression and boosting productivity, a regular meditation practice can improve our self-awareness by reducing mental chatter. Getting your Om on with morning meditation is a great way to start your day, since it enables you to remain calm and rejuvenated as your day progresses.
There are many different types of meditation to choose from, so you can pick the right one for you according to the skills you wish to learn from meditation and the style that suits you best. For instance, while gratitude meditation allows you to recognize the various gifts you’re bestowed with in life, Tonglen meditation enables you to transform your pain into compassion for yourself and others. It’s important here to recognize that a daily meditation routine can help you tap into your intuition and improve your ability to trust it as well.
Psychologists agree that existential boredom or one’s inability to find joy or interest in anything in life can impact mental health and well-being. By being more interested in the world around, you are less likely to feel bored with life and more inclined to learn new things. Planning your day ahead of time and including at least one interesting activity every week can help incorporate awe into your daily life. This can make the process of tapping into your intuition easier, especially since deeper knowing arises from our learnings.
Mindful listening entails paying attention and being free of prejudice or resistance. Focusing on the conversation by removing all distractions and allowing the speaker to express their opinions and experiences freely will improve the quality of any communication. Additionally, deep listening allows you to consciously gather useful information, making it possible to tap into your intuition when needed.
Intuition means paying attention to the present shutterstock/sun ok
Sometimes we end up feeling lost in life if we are not in control, or if our plans are not working out exactly the way we envisioned. Listening to your gut feeling and doing what feels right, or in other words, following your bliss instead of mindlessly chasing goals at breakneck speed can prevent burnout and enable you to be more self-aware. Living in the moment as you absorb yourself in activities you’re passionate about, like volunteering or campaigning for climate change awareness, etc. can help expand your intuitive sense.
Journaling is recognized as a ‘keystone habit’, wherein small, conscious changes or habits bring about a dramatic transformation if carried out as a routine. Jotting down your thoughts and feelings can help you travel into your interiors, bringing awareness to unresolved emotions and deepening your learnings, thus helping you tap into your intuition with ease.
People with heightened internal awareness are more in tune with their body, and often have heightened mind-body connection. Focusing-oriented psychotherapist Eugene Gandlin describes this bodily awareness as the ‘felt sense’, which involves emotional and intuitive awareness. Mental health practitioners recommend focusing on the felt sense, or checking in with your inner-self to improve your ability to tap into your intuition.
“Tapping into your intuition is essential for beating indecisiveness. There is substantial research that establishes that intuition or sixth sense powers our thoughts and decisions by influencing our ideas and feelings.”
Observing your emotions and pinpointing the location where the emotion arises from in your body helps you identify when your intuition is in action. Combining this focusing process with conscious breathing or body scan meditation can help calm your mind and help you get in touch with your body more effectively.
“Intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition,” states renowned psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman. In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman indicates that our brain is conditioned to take note of and store all our experiences and thoughts, be it first-hand or something that we ingrained subconsciously. When you find yourself in a situation that resembles this ingrained learning, your brain recognizes the stored information, thus tapping into your intuition.
Kahneman asserts that our intuitive sense may prove to be accurate more often in the longer run, and with sufficient practice. Learning to live life in the present moment can help us take notice and improve our retention abilities, thus enhancing our mental recognition blocks. Indulging in activities like gardening, knitting or pottering etc can help us stay in the present.
There’s more to intuition than just helpful inputs for small decisions or impulsive changes. “Intuition gives us detailed, targeted, and proactive information about anything and anyone,” states Laura Day, author of Practical Intuition and an intuitive healer by profession. Indeed, tapping into your intuition can be the key to living a meaningful life and finding happiness.
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Fitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict and future self journaler. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her daily pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.
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