The quirky urge. A funny tingly. That little voice in your head. These are your gut feelings talking. But what are they telling you, and should you listen? Here’s how to make the most of your innate wisdom.
A few weeks ago I had an appointment in the city about 3 hours away. The day before I had a gut feeling I should cancel and reschedule. So, listening to the feeling, I called the office to tell them I needed to reschedule. After many attempts to reach them I gave up and just thought everything would be alright and I would go to my scheduled appointment. The following day I proceeded to the city, after horrible traffic, I pulled into the parking lot, as soon as I parked my car, my cell phone started ringing. I answered and it was the office where my appointment was, they were canceling my appointment because an emergency had come up. Yes, I was upset after driving all that way in awful traffic and wasting all that gas. When I hung up, I was more upset at myself for not better following in gut.
A few years back some scientists at the University of Iowa conducted an experiment where individuals played a game of chance with four different card decks and stacks of play money. Each card indicated whether they had won or lost money, and the goal of the player was to draw as many cash-delivering cards as possible. What the players didn’t know was that the decks had been rigged. Two of them as been stacked so they yielded high rewards but punishing losses, while the other two offered smaller rewards and virtually no losses. It took most player about 50 cards before they started to favor the safer decks, and about 80 cards before they could explain thy they did so.
Here’s the curious part, sensors attached to the players skin showed that after 10 cards, a player’s hand would get sweaty and nervous when it reached for the risky decks. Although the individual had little inkling of which card piles were the most lucrative, their emotions know which decks were dangerous.
Most of us have experienced the sense of knowing things before they happen, even if we can’t explain how. Maybe you hesitated at a greenlight and missed getting hit by a speeding vehicle or you decide on a whim to break your no blind date policy and wind up meeting your life partner. You have a hunch that you should not go somewhere and find out later a bad accident had happened right where you were going.
If only we could tap into those insights more often, right? It turns out we can, especially if we learn to identify which signals to focus on – whether they’re sweaty palms, a funny feeling in our stomach, or a sudden and inexplicable certainty that something is up.
According to researchers, intuition is far more material than it seems. The right side of our brains are always reading our surroundings, even when our conscious left brain is otherwise engaged. Our bodies can register information while the conscious mind remains blissfully unaware of what’s going on.
Some theorists suggest we can feel approaching events specifically because of our dopamine neutrons. The jitters of dopamine help keep track of reality, alerting us to those stable patterns that we can’t consciously detect.
This means if something in the environment is even slightly irregular- the speed of an approaching vehicle, the slightly unusual behavior of someone at a party – your Brain squirts dopamine and you get that “weird” feeling. Whether you pay attention or mot can make all the difference. Your might meet your future partner, or meet your maker. Those signal carry a lot of important information, so, it’s wise to listen up.
1. Listening to your bodies subtle signals is a critical part of exercising your intuitive sense.
Intuition allows us to get the first warning signs when anything is off in your body so that you can address it. Your body is a powerful intuitive communicator,
2. I’m in danger. If you don’t trust somebody, even if it turns out to be inaccurate, it is something to pay attention to. Have you ever been walking down the street at night and you get the feeling to stay away from that person, and you cross the street, or go into a business.
3. I want to help, you might think that gut instincts are something we’ve maintained mostly to avoid danger, the human species has evolved to an equally powerful capacity to sense when other people need support. Sympathy is one of humanity’s most basic instincts, which is why evolution lavished so much attention on the parts of the brain that help us think about what other people are feeling. (Sadly the instinct to support people seems to have gone out the window in some people).
Since evolution has made you a quick read of other faces and their emotional signals, you don’t always need to wait for a verbalized cue before you reach out. The sympathy instinct nudges us to change the subject when wedding tale makes a newly divorced colleague cringe, or to start up a conversation with a nervous seat mate during an airplane landing, subtle gestures that can make a big difference in someone’s day.
4. This is it, most people have a great “I just knew I was right” story. It might be about the time they first spotted their partner cross the threshold of their first house or figured out they wanted to switch careers. There’s a reason most of us have memorable stories about the biggest and best decisions we make in life.
When your intuition signals that you’ve found something or someone truly right for you, the choice often becomes strangely easy. It feels healthy, it feels good, it doesn’t feel like your forcing it, there’s not a lot of conflict.