Think of the word ‘intuition’ and you’re likely picturing a sudden stroke of inspiration, a ‘sixth sense’ guiding you toward the right choice, an ‘aha’ moment that seems to come from nowhere or that gut feeling that turns out to be right… But where does intuition come from, do we all have access to it and should we trust it? Intuition is a well-researched psychological phenomenon: our intuitive ability to pick up patterns and make accurate judgements in a flash hails from prehistoric times, when our brain’s primary task was to keep us alive and out of danger. And although nowadays we’re unlikely to be fending off saber tooth tigers, those ancient areas of our brain continue to operate alongside the newer, conscious parts. And this channel to our subconscious knowledge keeps supplying us with valuable insights – whether we pay attention to it or not.
So how can it help us today? Many well-known entrepreneurs credit following their inner guidance as a source of their success. Steve Jobs urged us all to trust intuition over intellect:
Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
And he‘s onto something. Besides upping our business world brownie points, intuition can help us make better decisions in all areas of life – from choosing a spouse to buying a home. Sounds good, right? But what if you wouldn’t describe yourself as a very intuitive person? The great news is, we all have the potential to tune into our inner knowing and there’s a lot we can do to strengthen that connection. Consistent practice pays dividends, so tune in and start applying our five intuition boosters today.
1. Quiet your mind to notice the signals
Tune out… tune in… Intuition often comes to us as subtle signals – be it physical sensations, emotions, mental images or words – and it may take a bit of practice to be able to recognise them. More often than not, we’re so distracted by our internal chatter that the intuitive messages have trouble getting through. Overthinking – that blight of modern life – lures us into obsessively analysing our options instead of pausing and listening to what our inner voice is trying to tell us. The solution? Any practice that helps us slow down and tune out distractions opens a space for our intuitive thoughts and feelings to bubble to the surface where they can get our attention. Give your mind a breather from the chaos of day-to-day life by meditating or practicing mindfulness – even just for a few moments each day. Physical activities and creative pursuits that put us into a relaxed state of focus are also brilliant at strengthening our receptivity to spontaneous bursts of inspiration – yoga, running, climbing, painting and knitting are all great options. Or turn to our favourite way of creating space for inner guidance: a long soothing soak in the bathtub…
2. Access your intuition through a journal
Are you after a more direct way to access your inner wisdom? Try some ‘stream of consciousness’ writing. Grab a pen and a notebook and begin by writing down a question – it could be something specific like ‘Should I accept this job offer?’ or something generic like ‘What do I need to be aware of?’ – and then start writing whatever pops into your head. (You can set yourself a timer or decide on a number of pages you will fill before you stop.) You may find that something that has seemed irrelevant up until now suddenly surfaces in your writing in a way that shines new light on your situation.
Your journal is also a brilliant place to record and reflect on moments of intuitive insights. Write down any you can remember from the past. How did intuition speak to you? Did you follow the guidance at the time? How accurate was your ‘hunch’ in hindsight? Write down any new ‘aha’ moments you experience as well – you’ll be more likely to remember and make the most of them.
3. Use sleep time to boost intuition
When we sleep, we’re fully immersed in the realm of the subconscious, the source of our intuitive insights. Experiment with setting intentions at bedtime: ask to be shown answers to your questions while you sleep, or simply request to see something that will be of benefit to you. As soon as you wake up, jot down any thoughts that come up or doodle pictures in a Dream Diary. Remain open to receiving insights throughout the day even when nothing relevant immediately jumps at you.
Exploring our dream worlds can also give us powerful intuitive glimpses into our circumstances. Rather than consulting a dream dictionary, you may get better results by trying a more personal approach. The Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés (author of The Women Who Run With The Wolves) recommends the following simple method of dream analysis:
- Write down your dream as a story.
- Pick out all the nouns (the places, the people and the things) in your story.
- List any personal associations you have with each of these dream symbols.
- Choose what feels like the strongest association for each symbol and rewrite your dream story.
For example, a dream about following a dog into your childhood home could, for you, mean being led by your desire to feel safe and protected back to the comfort of old and familiar habits.
4. Feed your intuition with new experiences
Older may not just mean wiser. Elderly individuals seem to have the edge over youth when it comes to following gut instincts as well – and it may have a lot to do with the wider range of experiences that come with having lived longer. All new experiences give our subconscious mind something novel to chew on, boosting our potential for intuitive breakthroughs at the same time. Therefore, while we’re learning to listen to our intuition better, we’d do well to feed it a varied ‘diet’ of experiences too. Have fun exploring new places in your city and further afield, try out a new hobby and read books you normally wouldn’t. Even shaking up your daily routine by taking a different route to work or eating your lunch in a new café could spark a new insight or two.
5. Practice acting on your hunches
Finally, becoming an expert at noticing our intuitive guidance doesn’t do much good unless we’re also prepared to act on our hunches. Admittedly, that can be scary. Many of us have learned to do the opposite of trusting our intuition by actively ignoring the signals or dismissing them as irrelevant. When faced with decisions, we may have trouble believing that intuition can truly lead us in the right direction and instead write lengthy lists of pros and cons or turn to friends, books or Google for answers. But if we want to partner up with our intuition to make better decisions and solve problems more effectively, we need to begin to trust our gut feelings – and ourselves – more.
Begin to break through the discomfort by acting on your hunches when the stakes are small. If you suddenly think of a friend, give them a call or send them a message. Or maybe you find yourself inexplicably drawn to certain places, activities or ideas? Take time to explore them and see where it leads you. As you try out these new habits, keep track of any positive outcomes that following your hunches leads you to. Then, as your confidence in your intuitive abilities grows, allow your inner wisdom to guide you through bigger decisions too. By trusting our gut feelings we’re not abandoning all logical thinking – we’re simply adding another powerful tool to the mix. And the more airtime we give to intuition, the more likely we are to see great results in all areas of our lives.0