We have all heard someone say, “Something made me uncomfortable, but I told myself it was all in my head.” Later, the story goes on to a tragic ending. You are taught not to trust your intuition, particularly if doing so makes you seem rude. I’m here to say that manners are not as important as safety – and if your body is telling you that someone isn’t safe to be around, listen.
But first of all, what is intuition? Carlin Flora from Psychology Today writes:
“Intuitions, or gut feelings, are sudden, strong judgments whose origin we can’t immediately explain. Although they seem to emerge from an obscure inner force, they actually begin with a perception of something outside—a facial expression, a tone of voice, a visual inconsistency so fleeting you’re not even aware you noticed.”
Getting in touch with our intuition is more than just avoiding dark alleys and creepy people. It is trusting the sum of our experiences to guide us. Deep down, we know when it is time to leave a relationship, or what course of study to pursue. We know when our current lives are destroying our souls—we just don’t value that feeling.
When faced with a tough situation—leaving a relationship, switching jobs, moving across the country—it is easy to feel torn in opposing directions. We often know what we should do, but are afraid to trust our intuitive wisdom. It feels flighty, or somehow female. But when we listen to our inner wisdom, or gut feeling, the relief is immediate.
But how do you amplify this skill so you can learn to trust your intuition in the future? Here are simple ways to do it.
8 Ways To Trust Your Intuition
1. Create space to focus.
It took me a long time to realize that most decisions don’t need to be made this minute – just as most emails don’t need an immediate reply. A text feels urgent because it arrives in an instant, but that doesn’t mean it is critical.
I often remind myself, “What if I were in a movie theatre? My phone would be turned off for two hours.” It is ok to be temporarily unavailable. There is nothing wrong with replying, “I’ll think about that and get back to you.”
2. Commit to making a decision.
The most emotionally painful place for me is indecision. Once I know I’m on the right path, I can deal with whatever comes up. Avoiding the decision is prolonging the agony.
I remember sobbing on the floor of my therapist’s office, trying to decide if I should leave my first husband. The minute I made a decision, my tears dried up and my thinking cleared.
3. Reconnect with your better self.
There is always an internal war between what I want to do (i.e. lie on the couch and watch Netflix) and what I know is my better self (i.e. get daily exercise and do something productive). The more in tune you are with your better self, the more you can trust your intuition.
For some people, this manifests in meditation or walks. My aunt reads daily inspirational books. Other people start the day with poetry. For me, this means starting each day with 10-minute yoga. I am not great at getting up early, but I can manage 10 minutes.
I do one of only two routines. So I don’t have to think about what I’m going to do and I can go through the flow with my eyes closed. This small change in my daily routine has helped me feel more centered, more myself.
4. Clear away negativity.
Stress lives in our bodies. I have an odd but effective way of getting the tension out, whether it’s anxiety, anger, or frustration: I do push-ups.
The reason is simple—I hate push-ups. Push-ups are hard. They are so hard that all I can think about is how much I hate them and how much I can’t wait for them to be over. But they release all the negative feelings residing in my muscles.
When I am overflowing with negativity, I drop and do 10 push-ups. Sometimes on my toes, sometimes on my knees. Some days I don’t do any at all. Other days I wind up doing 10 sets of 10. There is some comfort in knowing that I am turning all that tension into muscle. Other people run for the same reason.
5. Talk to people who will listen without an agenda.
Often, I process my feelings by talking to friends and family. I often need to hear my thoughts out loud to clarify what I’m thinking. But I’m generally NOT asking for advice, I’m looking for permission. I already know what I need to do – I just need to hear myself say it.
6. Do a reality check.
How do you know if your intuition is healthy thinking? I list the pros and cons, even if I think I already know what I should do.
I ask myself, “What are the consequences if I am wrong?” If I take a job and hate it, I can find another job—they can’t take away my birthday. If I move across the country, it might be a little harder to undo that decision. But as my mother likes to say, “The only thing that’s the end of the world is the end of the world.”
7. Make a choice and see how you feel.
If I really can’t dial down which direction to go in, I’ll do a coin toss. The minute I see the way the coin fell, my gut immediately tells me what I really think—either a ‘Thank Heavens’ or a ‘Hell, no’.
8. Prepare responses to naysayers to help set boundaries.
I generally know what my intuition says I should do – I just don’t know how to reconcile it with other people’s expectations. It often feels easier to do what other people expect, instead of what I know is right. But it rarely works out in the long-run.
The best practice is to have canned responses ready ahead of time. These sentences are NOT meant to create dialog. They are meant to help me stand up for what I know is in my best interest politely so I can move on.
- I appreciate your feelings, but I know this is the right decision for me.
- I’m sorry you feel that way.
- I know you are disappointed, but right now I need to focus on what is best for my family.
- Thank you for your input.
- I do not need to engage in further discussion. I trust my intuitive wisdom, and that is enough.
Your turn: can you trust YOUR intuition? Why or why not?
Tell us in the comments section below.