Quick… make an important decision!
Our heart begins to race, palms moisten, and the mind tosses about options at epic speed. With time counting down, the decision must be made: instinct or logic.
These situations are familiar to all of us: financial decisions, relationship issues, or professional dilemmas. No matter the situation, learning to trust our instincts is a valuable tool.
“Your gut is this collection of heuristic shortcuts. It is this unconscious-conscious learned experience-center you can draw on from years of being alive…” -Unknown
How often do we trust our first instinct? If we never trust this impulse, we must question: what have we learned from our experiences? Gut feelings are referred to as interoceptive sensations. [Often referred to as the eighth sense.]
Interception is the ability to sense physiological signals originating inside your body, such as heart rate, temperature, hunger, pain, etc. Numerous studies demonstrate how humans who have a greater connection to interoceptive signals perform to higher standards in risky decision-making than those who are less connected. According to a study performed by researchers at the University of Cambridge , financial traders are better ‘gut feeling‘ decision makers than the general population.
Trusting intuition is developmental. From an early age, children learn from errors and take the experiential education into adulthood. If humans are forced to behave in unhealthy ways, or deterred from feeling or expressing emotions, intuition can be silenced, especially during the developmental ages of 6 and 16. If one is not allowed to healthily process and express mistakes or missteps, they may lose or decrease their ability to connect with interoceptive sensations.
According to Marcia Reynolds, author of two leadership books (The Discomfort Zone and Wander Woman) and Dr. Lissa Rankin, we can train (or retrain) our bodies to develop a better connection with intuitive signals, the Vagus nerve, with the following tips:
Take a deep breath. Being in a relaxed state enhances our ability to make better decisions. Clear your mind and give yourself a chance to listen to your heart. Recall a time you felt gutsy and determined in spite of your fear. Remember the moment you moved forward, took action, or spoke your mind. When we can list the times we made gut decisions with positive outcomes, we are more likely to take action on the current decision being disputed.
Feel more, think less. The mind thinks… always… arguing with itself like a crazy person. Intuition, on the other hand, feels. If you’re not sure whether you’re listening to your fearful mind or your trustworthy intuition, see if you can differentiate whether you’re thinking or feeling.
Align with your values. Your mind may steer you away from your integrity, but your intuition never will. Become comfortable with how you feel when you’re betraying your values, and you’ll learn what intuition doesn’t feel like. Learn what it feels like to behave in alignment with your values, and you’ll start to sense your intuition more clearly.
Test your hunches. Getting a sense that it will rain tomorrow even though the weather forecast says it won’t? Do you just know your best friend’s new guy is bad news? If you have feelings about what might happen in the future, write down your hunches, then check them later. See how often you were right.
Become aware of your feelings. Do a body scan of your feelings. Understand where you feel impulses and able to identify your emotions so that when you are in these situations again, you become comfortable . Use those skills of emotional labeling to get in touch with what your gut might be saying to you.
“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”