9 Ways to Tap Into Your Intuition (And Why You’ll Want To)

9 Ways to Tap Into Your Intuition (And Why You'll Want To)

You know the feeling. It’s a ‘knowing’ or at the very least a gentle persuasion that something is off, or awesome, or needs our attention. It’s subtle and doesn’t clamour for attention, which is why it’s easily missed.

It’s intuition, and like most things that speak with a quiet voice, if we listen the potential is life-changing.

For a long time, intuition was dismissed by science as pseudo-science – sort of science but not really. Really! Fortunately for all of us, science is now on board and researchers have found the part of the brain where intuition does its brilliant best. 

Intuition: We’ve all heard of it, but what is it?

Researchers at Leeds University analysed a hefty pile of research papers on intuition. They concluded that intuition is a very real psychological process where the brain uses past experiences and cues from the self and the environment to make a decision. The decision happens so quickly that it doesn’t register on a conscious level.

Intuition exists in all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not. The more we can learn about it, the more we can use it to shape our lives for the better.

The human brain has two ‘operating systems’. The first is quick, instinctual and effortless. This is where our intuition lies. Intuition works by drawing on patterns collected by our experience and when we have to make a quick decision about whether something is real, fake, feels good, feels bad, right or wrong, we draw on these patterns.  It all happens ‘offline’, outside our conscious awareness.

The second operating system is slower to respond. It’s more analytical and deliberate and it’s conscious.

The Evidence

Science has found real evidence to support the existence of intuition. There are plenty of studies, but let’s talk about one in particular – because it’s a good one. This particular study showed how the intuitive part of our brain knows the right answer long before the more analytical part.

In this study, participants played a card game which, unknown to the participants, was rigged from the beginning. Participants had to choose from one of two decks of cards. One was rigged to provide big wins, then big losses. The other – small gains but hardly any losses. 

The participants reported that after 50 cards, they had a hunch about which deck was safer. After 80 they were able to explain the difference between the two decks. But here’s where it gets interesting – after only 10 cards, the sweat glands on on the palms of their hands opened whenever they took from  the dangerous deck. It was about then that participants started to prefer the safer deck but there was no conscious awareness that this was happening. So, before the analytical part of their brain knew what was going on, the subjects’ intuition guided them towards a better decision.

Sharpening Your Intuition

Every person on the planet has intuition but not every person listens chooses to listen to it. 

Intuition is the way the subconscious mind communicates with the conscious mind. The information that informs ‘that feeling’ is real. It’s like any other decision but the workings of it – the collection, the storage, the putting together – happen outside of our conscious mind. 

So intuition is a brilliant thing. The sharper it is, the better off you’ll be. Here’s how to feed yours so it’s flourishing and ready to advise … 

  1. Shhh. Listen.

    It’s sounds simple enough – and it is. No tricks here. Your intuition can’t talk to you if you’re not listening. When you start to take notice, good things will happen. Just try it and see.

  2. Trust your gut feeling.

    When a word like ‘gut’ teams up with a word like ‘feeling’, you know there has to be a good reason. And there is. Research suggests that emotion and intuition have a physical presence in our gut. The gut is lined with a network of neurons and is often referred to as the ‘second brain.’ It’s known as the enteric nervous system (ENS) and it contains about 100 million neurons, which is more than the spinal chord and peripheral nervous system but less than the brain. This is why we get ‘sick’ about having to make a tough decision or knowing we’ve made a bad one.

    [irp posts=”1021″ name=”The Rules for Being Human”]

  3. Feel.

    You’ll know your intuition is there because you’ll be able to feel it – if you let yourself. You’ll feel it in your belly and it will goosebump your skin, send a shiver down your spine, race your heart and quicken your breath. Sometimes it’s even more subtle and the only way to describe it as a ‘knowing’.  You’ll feel when something is right – it will feel clear, nourishing and enriching. And you’ll feel when something is off – for me it’s an ache or a flattening. Trusting your intuition might be difficult at first if you’re not used to it, but give it time and trust it bit by bit, if that feels better. It will be worth it.

  4. Be ready to let bad feelings go.

    Negative emotions wil cloud intuition, which is why when you’re angry or depressed bad decisions can happen so easily. Research has backed this, finding that people made better intuitive choices in a word task when they were in a positive mood as compared to when they were in a negative mood. 

  5. Be deliberate about the people you hang on to.

    People who drain you will add to the noise and make it more difficult to hear what your intuition wants you to hear. Chances are that you already know how they are. If not, be still for a moment – your intuition will be trying to tell you. Keep people who enrich and empower you and walk away from those who drain you. Understandably, you can’t always walk away from the troublesome ones and if that’s the case, empower yourself by making it your decision to stay, rather than not theirs because they’ve taken your choice. The difference is subtle in language but big in impact. One lets the power stay with you, one gives it over to them.

  6. Pay attention to what’s going on around you.

    The more information you are able to gather from the environment, the more the intuitive, subconscious part of your brain has to work with – and the more accurately it will inform your decisions.

  7. Connect with others.

    There are so many things that inform our opinions and decisions other than speech. Tone, volume of speech, body language, gestures – they all contribute to the meaning we give to our interactions with people. Sometimes, we have a feeling about people but can’t quite put a finger on what it is. People might seem distant, distracted, uninterested, and often these aren’t spoken but are ‘picked up’ through in different ways. The ability to pick up on the thoughts, feelings and intentions of others is referred to as ‘empathic accuracy’. The more time we spend with people, the more we can finely tune or empathic accuracy. Being able to pick on the signals of others will all add to intuition.

    [irp posts=”1142″ name=”Want to Be Happier? Letting Go of These Will Make it Happen”]

  8. Find time to be silent and still.

    Having solitude turns down the clamour of the world and allows you to tune in to your intuition. Our intuition is always sending warnings and encouragement but often we are too busy to notice. Let your mind wander and be open to what comes to you – feelings, thoughts or words. One of the ways to do this is through mindfulness. By focusing your thoughts on your own experience in the present moment, mindfulness gets rid of mental clutter and makes way for you to connect with your intuition.

  9. Use your dream time well. 

    Dreams are the brain’s way of processing information that’s left over from the day. They are rich with valuable data – experiences, memories, learnings – so they can work hard if we let them. Paying attention to dreams can provide information that we may not have access due when we are awake. Before you fall asleep, turn your thoughts to any unresolved issues or problems. Think about possible options or resolutions as you’re falling asleep. Close your eyes and let your brain do the rest. 

But of course …

Intuition is powerful and can lead to amazing insights, but that doesn’t mean you follow it blindly. It’s still important to use common sense and a balance of rationality. You need a balance of both – call into play both the intuitive and rational parts of the brain to position yourself to reach the best decisions.

16 Comments

Chay Wise

I just found this website. I believe it will be a great resource for my readers. Thank you!

So you will know ….. I give credit to all websites with clicks on the pictures and verbiage. So, each time I find something I believe my readers will like, then I refer them to your site to complete reading.

Reply
Turenne

Intuition or inner feelings, I call it dance spirit. It seems one and the same. It is about listening to our body’s reaction! Right?

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Absolutely. It’s about listening to our body’s reaction and the thoughts that whisper. (And I love the name dance spirit!)

Reply
Turenne

Hi Karen,
It is so interesting to see that we are on the same page, and can agree on it, even though the vocabulary is a bit different.

I find that 7 of the 9 ways you are showing on how to tap into our intuition are truly our dance spirit legacy. I really enjoy the article and appreciate the insights about our dreams and our brains process, and being deliberate about the people we hang on to.

Thanks !

Reply
Shelly Brockman

I needed to find this today. Thank you. I always enjoy reading your posts.

I’m going to share this one, my intuition tells me others need to read this too.

Reply
Phoenix the Elder

Just a note of clarity, the empath and the intuitive are not the same, you have some crossovers here. These two neither operate the same way, nor express it in the same way. A police officer and a psychic are classic intuitives but not empaths. A seer and a dreamer are empaths but not intuitives. Dreamtime can only be accessed by a fully enlightened human being, but dreams and dreaming can be done by every. There is much more of course but great job and blessings.

Reply
Peggy B

Just found your article while searching information about; Intuition vs Leading. While in a conversation I suggested I was “lead” not to walk the same path on the way home. My companion said, “Was it your intuition that spoke to you?” In my opinion I see my intuition and my leadings as different. It was difficult for me to explain the difference to her. I appreciate your articulation of intuition in this article. I would be interested in knowing if you feel there is a difference between intuition and leading. For me a “leading” is almost as if you know something is going to happen before it happens but you have no way of know in advance or of checking it out in advance and you don’t know what is going to happen and you don’t even think of wondering if something is going to happen. You simply know you want to do a certain thing (because it is presented to you in knowing or leading) and you chose to do it.

Reply
NANDANA PRAKASHAN

it is absolutely correct that, our body will react to feelings…

Reply
Lillian B

What about conflicting feelings? If I leave a situation that feels draining for certain reasons, or from certain people, yet I still get the ache you describe from a bad decision?

Reply
Kristina

I met a lady today for a job/paid hobby I do, she asked to reduce my price on my booking page and pay cash and my gut instinct immediately started feeling off. I’ve never felt this way before but this particular person set off my internal alarm bells. I’m wondering if you have any insight as to why that could be and if I’m potentially overreacting or I should definitely be listening when they’re such strong negative vibes towards the situation

Reply
Alex

I have been practicing this for a few months now but I’m curious if you or someone could help me with one question; how do you know to trust it’s your intuition guiding you from reoccurring past situations or just something you want to believe? Do we just acknowledge the past reoccurrences and let go to trust whatever happens happens? Since every situation can be different and not follow old patterns.

Reply

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Anxiety has a way of demanding ALL of the attention. It shifts the focus to what feels scary, or too big, or impossible, or what needs to be avoided, or what feels bad, or what our kiddos can’t do. As the grown ups who love them, we know they are capable of greatness, even if that greatness is made up of lots of tiny steps, (as great things tend to be).
Physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response (which is where the physical feelings of an anxiety attack come from). Walking will help to burn the adrenalin and neurochemicals that have surged the body to prepare it for flight or fight, and which are causing the physical symptoms (racy heart, feeling sick, sweaty, short breaths, dry mouth, trembly or tense in the limbs etc). As well as this, the rhythm of walking will help to calm their anxious amygdala. Brains love rhythm, and walking is a way to give them this. 
⠀⠀
Try to help your young one access their steady breaths while walking, but it is very likely that they will only be able to do this if they’ve practised outside of an anxiety attack. During anxiety, the brain is too busy to try anything unfamiliar. Practising will help to create neural pathways that will make breathing an easier, more accessible response during anxiety. If they aren't able to access strong steady breaths, you might need to do it for them. This will be just as powerful - in the same way they can catch your anxiety, they will also be able to catch your calm. When you are able to assume a strong, calm, steady presence, this will clear the way for your brave ones to do the same.
The more your young one is able to verbalise what their anxiety feels like, the more capacity they will have to identify it, acknowledge it and act more deliberately in response to it. With this level of self-awareness comes an increased ability to manage the feeling when it happens, and less likelihood that the anxiety will hijack their behaviour. 

Now - let’s give their awareness some muscle. If they are experts at what their anxiety feels like, they are also experts at what it takes to be brave. They’ve felt anxiety and they’ve moved through it, maybe not every time - none of us do it every time - maybe not even most times, but enough times to know what it takes and how it feels when they do. Maybe it was that time they walked into school when everything in them was wanting to walk away. Maybe that time they went in for goal, or down the water slide, or did the presentation in front of the class. Maybe that time they spoke their own order at the restaurant, or did the driving test, or told you there would be alcohol at the party. Those times matter, because they show them they can move through anxiety towards brave. They might also taken for granted by your young one, or written off as not counting as brave - but they do count. They count for everything. They are evidence that they can do hard things, even when those things feel bigger than them. 

So let’s expand those times with them and for them. Let’s expand the wisdom that comes with that, and bring their brave into the light as well. ‘What helped you do that?’ ‘What was it like when you did?’ ‘I know everything in you wanted to walk away, but you didn’t. Being brave isn’t about doing things easily. It’s about doing those hard things even when they feel bigger than us. I see you doing that all the time. It doesn’t matter that you don’t do them every time -none of us are brave every time- but you have so much courage in you my love, even when anxiety is making you feel otherwise.’

Let them also know that you feel like this too sometimes. It will help them see that anxiety happens to all of us, and that even though it tells a deficiency story, it is just a story and one they can change the ending of.
During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.

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