Go With Your Gut: Connect With Your Intuition
Many of us have had the experience of making a quick decision based on a “gut feeling” or simply because it “felt right” or something “felt off”. You may even have had the experience of feeling a sudden impulse to go somewhere or do something, which then led to a great opportunity, a stroke of luck, or a serendipitous encounter. These are examples of “going with your gut” or listening to your intuition.
Intuition is that inner wisdom or awareness that seems independent of reasoning or rational thought and it shows up for everyone in different ways. Some may experience intuition through physical sensations: a feeling in the stomach or chest, a feeling of lightness, heaviness, or a sinking feeling, tingling, or chills. Some may have a sudden clarity or hear their “inner voice” guiding them to make choices. Others access their intuition through visions, imagery, dreams, or by recognizing signs, symbols, or synchronicities.
Regardless of how it shows up, being able to listen to your intuition has its benefits. It can be helpful when you are under stress and need to make quick decisions, when you don’t have enough information but need to make a choice, or when you are trying to get in touch with what you need.
Listening to your intuition can give you a clear and decisive answer or direction, which can help prevent you from spending excessive amounts of time worrying and spinning in indecision and uncertainty. It also can help you feel more connected with yourself – your needs, interests, and desires – while also helping you build trust in yourself and feel more confident in your capabilities.
So why don’t we rely on our intuition more?
Intuition doesn’t always make rational sense, and within our culture, we rely heavily on reason and rationality. You may have been told that it’s “crazy” to listen to your gut and you formed a habit of depending on your analytical and rational mind for planning, organizing, understanding, judging, and trying to make sense of your everyday life and interactions. This is extremely useful, of course, but these sorts of thoughts can sometimes cloud your ability to listen to your intuition.
Plus, you may have learned not to trust yourself or your inner wisdom based on past experiences. You might hold a belief that you can’t be trusted because you’ve made some poor choices in the past or your choices led to negative consequences, and now you’re afraid to trust yourself or take any sort of risk.
And because of this distrust and disconnection from your intuition, you may have a hard time recognizing it when it arises or being able to tell the difference between an intuitive response and an emotional reaction.
Fear and anxiety can also generate a “gut feeling” that feels similar to intuition, and while fear is definitely worth listening to, making decisions based on fear and anxiety can be restrictive and limit your opportunities for growth and success.
So if you want to start connecting with your intuition more, you first need to be able to distinguish between intuition and fear. Here are three ways to start recognizing the difference:
1. Sit with the feeling and be curious about it.
When you notice a feeling arising, take a few moments to try to understand it. You can ask yourself: What am I feeling? What am I specifically reacting to? What’s leading me to feel distrustful or fearful? Is my reaction based on past experiences? When have I had this feeling before?
2. Notice your physical responses.
Fear and anxiety activate a nervous system response and create physical symptoms such as racing heart, shortness of breath, body temperature fluctuations, muscle tension, shakiness, etc. The feelings are more frantic, heavy, tense, contracted, and persistent.
Intuition, on the other hand, can involve physical sensations, but there is less of an emotional charge and the feelings are often more light, expansive, and fleeting – it’s like a quick hit of awareness.
3. Feeling relieved vs. feeling right.
When you make a choice based on fear it often involves saying no to something and afterwards you feel relieved because you’ve avoided a situation that felt scary or threatening, but you might second-guess yourself and question whether it feels right. When you make a choice based on intuition, you tend to feel more certain and comfortable with your decision because it just feels right.
There are times when it might be really difficult to distinguish between fear and intuition because the truth is, you may be experiencing a little of both. Sometimes fear and intuition align, like when you decide not to walk down a dark alley alone at night – you might have a gut feeling that it’s a bad idea, and also a fear based on the risk of something bad happening.
But if you are interested in being able to tap into your intuition more readily, there are some things you can do to help you strengthen and connect with your intuition.
How to help strengthen and connect with your intuition:
Notice it more often.
Acknowledge when you are using intuition or when it’s worked for you in the past, to bring it into your awareness more often so that you can become more familiar with what it feels like to trust your gut. What signals or feelings let you know when something feels right or wrong? How do you feel when you go with your gut feelings? What are the impacts?
Take note of past experiences when you didn’t listen to intuition as well, and remind yourself of what signals you ignored or should have paid attention to, that way you can learn from it.
Try testing your intuition (in low-risk situations at first).
Ask yourself: What does my gut say? Then go with the first thing that comes to mind without censoring or second-guessing yourself and see where it leads you. If you’re not able to get a clear answer, you can always flip a coin to get an answer and then notice how you feel about the answer you received. If it feels right, take note of how you know that it feels right. Do the same if it doesn’t feel right.
Take time to relax and seek positive or neutral feeling states.
It’s easier to get clear intuitive responses when you are able to be present and calm your mind. Meditation or engaging in repetitive movements or “mindless” tasks can help you get out of your thinking mind and make it easier to listen to your inner wisdom.
Manage your energy and avoid energy vampires.
Take time to rest and recharge and, if possible, limit your exposure to people who demand a lot of your energy. It’s hard to listen to your intuition when you are depleted and exhausted.
Pay attention and listen.
Make a more concerted effort to notice the world around you and listen to the thoughts, feelings, and intentions of others. The more observant you are, the more you will start to get clues that inform your intuition, and you will be able to read people and situations better.
Exercise other parts of your brain.
Take a break from logic and rationality and pay attention to what your subconscious or imaginative mind has to say through your dreams, freewriting, or other forms of creative expression. You have a better chance of accessing your intuition when you move out of the rational, analytical part of your brain.
Let go of resistance.
Stop telling yourself that it’s crazy to trust your gut!
When you learn to trust your intuition, you’re learning how to trust yourself and you can start to feel more confident, clear, and decisive as you move forward toward your goals.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that going with your gut isn’t a perfect science and it doesn’t always guarantee your desired results, so don’t just follow it blindly. Remember to balance it with common sense and rationality and consider the consequences, particularly in high-risk situations. Even if you don’t end up going with your gut, you can still listen to it and learn from it because it’s providing you with good information that you may be able to use in the future.