How to get better at trusting your intuition in under 10 minutes a day
BY MORGAN GREENWOOD
LAST UPDATED JULY 9fTH, 2021
Trusting your intuition – a.k.a. “going with your gut” and “following your heart” – sounds a bit like billowy self-help fluff until you consider the cold, hard science.
The human gut is lined with 100s of millions of neurons - the same nerve cells that make up the fundamental units of our brain. And the heart? It turns out it has its own neural network, too. In fact, researchers have determined that the heart’s neural network is so sophisticated that, independent of the brain, it can feel and sense information, learn, and even make its own memories.
So, maybe your brain isn’t the only intelligent organ in your body. Maybe, there is something to be said for “trusting your intuition”, “going with your gut” and “following your heart” after all. Perhaps together, your brain, gut, and heart hold a wealth of deep-seated and dynamic information about who you are, who you want to be, and which decisions will help you close any gap between the two.
This post is all about trusting your intuition. In it, we set out to do three things:
Should you feel like you know exactly what you came here for (go, intuition, go!), feel free to use the table of contents below to jump to the specific topic of interest. If your gut is telling you to take the scenic route, read on.
What is intuition and what does it feel like to have a "strong" one?
If you are looking for a simple definition, intuition is an immediate recognition of something, an instant “knowing” of sorts.
If you prefer a more poetic definition, you can borrow Sylvia Clare’s:
“Intuition comes in several forms:
- a sudden flash of insight, visual or auditory
- a predictive dream
- a spinal shiver of recognition as something is occurring or told to you
- a sense of knowing something already
- a sense of deja vu
- a snapshot image of a future scene or event
- knowledge, perspective or understanding divined from tools which respond to the subconscious mind.”
So, generally speaking, that’s what intuition is. Now let’s get specific and talk about your intuition.
Want to find out how "strong" your intuition is? Answer this one question.
If you are looking to get a pulse on your personal intuition health, a good place to start is to think about how often you hear your inner voice.
Note, that the question here is NOT how often your inner voice SPEAKS to you, it’s how often you HEAR your inner voice. This is because your inner voice is talking to you all the time. How often you hear it is really a matter of whether or not you are listening.
So, are you?
When was the last time you experienced a sudden flash of insight, a spinal shiver, or the feeling that your gut or heart is trying to tell you something? Choose an answer below:
(a) I have experienced this within the past few days.
(b) I have experienced this within the past thirty days.
(c) I have had roughly 3-4 experiences like this over that past year.
(d) I can’t recall the last time I was had an experience like this.
There is no judgment here. No right and no wrong. The benefit of asking yourself this question comes from simply sitting with your answer and deciding whether or not your current dialogue with your inner voice is enough for you, personally.
If you are unsure whether your as-is relationship with your intuition is enough for you, have a quick look at the table below. On the left is a short list of what it feels like to have a strong, sinewy intuition. Signs of an intuition that could use a little exercise and nourishment are on the right.
If you felt a few pangs while reading the out-of-shape intuition signs, don’t feel badly about this. Like any relationship, your connection to your intuition is subject to a little ebb and flow. Yours might be in ebb, but, you can do the work to get it flowing again. Also, recognize that your intuition isn’t so far off from you as might think.
Those pangs you felt just a moment ago? Those were jabs from your intuition. See? It’s still there. It might be miffed by the lack of attention it’s been getting, but it’s still there. If you did feel pang-y, the most significant next step you can take is to develop an understanding of what made your intuition go from shouting, to whispering, to politely waiting to be called on to speak, to excusing itself from the room because it can’t get a word in edge-wise.
Let’s explore that a bit.
3 reasons why your intuition might feel "weak"
Intuition Enemy No.1: An overpowering ‘Ought Self’
In another post, we discuss the Ought Self, the Ideal Self, and the Actual Self and offer an easy exercise for detangling all three. Here's how we defined these terms:
The Ought Self: the collection of attributes that 'belong’ to the person you feel you should be based on obligations, responsibilities, and the beliefs of others.
The Actual Self: the collection of attributes that you currently possess. The Actual Self is evident in how you currently feel and behave, how you currently spend your time, and the things you currently have.
The Ideal Self: the collection of attributes that ‘belong’ to the person you want to become one day. These attributes include how you would like to feel and behave, how you would like to spend your time, and the things you would like to have.
A key takeaway from that post was that most of us know our Ought Self better than our Actual and Ideal Selves. Why? Because, from the outset, even when we are just wee little things, it is made clear to us what we ought to do and ought not to do in order to meet expectations and make others proud of us. As we grow, new rules and social constructs become more and more apparent. It's easy to be Ought.
Unfortunately, the Ideal Self has very little guidance – or even support. There are no rules that encourage individuality and, traditionally, social constructs do not reward those who dance to different drums.
And, then, there’s the Actual Self, who is typically caught in a soul-twisting tug-of-war between the Ought and Ideal Selves.
When you continually heed the call of your Ought Self - pssst, this looks like consistently making choices based on the needs, wants, expectations and beliefs of others - it is often at the expense of your intuition…and, ultimately, your Ideal Self.
The secret to undoing the Ought Self's intuition-dulling work is to understand what makes the Ought Self so powerful, i.e. what feeds it.
Where does the Ought Self get its power from? 3 common places.
There are three places the Ought Self gets its power from. Those places are:
Someone you seek approval from.
A parent, a lover, a teacher, a coach, a boss, etc. When there is someone in our lives whose acceptance we deem priceless, well, we will pay any price for it. To be deemed "acceptable", we often adopt the values, beliefs, behaviors and success and happiness standards of the person whose approval we seek.
Your comparison habit.
They say comparison is a joy assassin. And they are right. It is also an intuition assassin. It takes time and emotional energy to size up someone else’s life and use it as a measuring stick for your own. It’s also a petty, presumptive practice. Nevertheless, your Ought Self feeds off that shit. Your intuition? It chokes on it.
Previous personal trauma.
When we are manipulated mentally, emotionally and/or physically, the resulting pain and confusion can cause an overall distrust of our own experience and instinct. This outcome of self-mistrust is often referenced in cases of childhood abuse, however, I know several individuals who have been in abusive relationships for the first time as adults who have also experienced this same loss of self-trust.
Reader. Friend. Navigating such abuse is best done alongside a professional. For whatever it’s worth, and although our wounds may not be the same, the first-ever book my therapist recommended to me was Boundaries by Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I found it both comforting and empowering. A "head's up" here: there are Judeo-Christian references throughout this book that you might not enjoy if that is not your belief system. I’m a practicing Buddhist and was still able to maintain a focus on what was relevant to me in the book.
Intuition Enemy No.2: Failure to be present
Sometimes, your intuition is hard-pressed to get a little time with you because YOU are hard-pressed for time. The crazy-hectic pace of life that we subject ourselves to makes it almost impossible to be present. And, whenever we do find a moment to slow down, we often spend that time scrolling through glossy images of other people’s lives. When we get a moment to pay attention to ourselves, we just give it away.
If we are not giving our attention to someone else’s life, then we have a habit of giving it to our past or to our future – often fretting over events that are over OR have yet to begin. We are rarely present. And if we are not present, if we are not ever fully engaged in a moment, then we offer our minds, hearts, and guts no material to process. We rob our intuition of the information it needs to gather up in order to process how we might genuinely feel about our world and our place in it.
If we are not here – right here – then our intuition has nothing to process.
Intuition Enemy No.3: A lack of intuition-esteem
Before we can fully understand Intuition Enemy No. 3, we must make a quick distinction between 'self-confidence' and 'self-esteem'.
Self-confidence is your belief in your ability to do something, to accomplish something, or to become something.
Self-esteem is your belief that you are worthy without doing, accomplishing, or becoming. It is the belief that you have innate worth as you are.
Your intuition might have a history of nudging - or screaming - at you, but you might have a history of finding what it has to say unworthy.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“That’s not possible.”
“What would people think if I did that?”
If you have been in the habit of telling your intuition “no” and that it is wrong or silly, then can you really blame it for taking a backseat for a while? Shushing your own intuition is often a matter of self-esteem. (That's a conundrum that we cover in other posts).
Maybe you once had a strong connection with your intuition. Maybe you have never had a strong connection with your intuition. But, even if it's been years since you've trusted your intuition, there is still good news:
The most wonderful thing about your intuition is that it is fiercely loyal to you. Even if you haven’t reached out to it in years, it’s still there in your heart and in your gut. The five exercises that follow are designed to help you invite your intuition back to the decision-making table of your life.
The secret to boosting your intuition is trusting your intuition: 5 exercises
Each of the following five exercises can be completed in under ten minutes a day. None of them are difficult per se, however, they are presented in order of increasing “stretch”. In other words, the items at the top of the list can be considered warm ups and the items towards the bottom will require you to dig a little deeper.
Intuition Boosting Exercise No.1: Sensory Exploration
Touch. Sight. Hearing. Smell. Taste. When it comes to building a more intuitive approach to life, our senses are a set of power tools. Quite literally, they facilitate the human experience. Moment-to-moment, they gather up information about your current state of existence. If you are in the habit of glossing over the information that your senses are collecting for you, then you are missing out on what’s happening in your world. In Sensory Exploration, you retrain yourself to pay attention to the work that your senses are doing.
This exercise is easy. Simply select any object of your choosing and let your senses size it up. A spoon. A flower. A Pop Tart. Anything will do. Simply put the object in front of you and do the following:
- 1Touch the object. State aloud if it is smooth or rough, soft or hard, warm or cool to the touch. Trace its outline with your finger.
- 2What does the object look like? Out loud, describe its colors and shape; state whether it is shiny, matte, or see-through; take in its simplicity or ornateness.
- 3Listen to hear whether the object itself makes a sound. If it doesn’t, can you make a sound with it? Can you tap the spoon on a table? What does that sound like? If you run your finger across the flower petals, can you hear a faint rustle? If you’ve toasted your pop tart, can you hear the hiss of its heat?
- 4What does the object smell like? Maybe something, maybe nothing. Find out!
- 5If the object isn’t poison, touch it to your taste buds. Can you taste metal? The herbiness of the flower? The sweetness of the pop tart?
Practicing paying detailed attention to simple objects is an easy and effective way to reawaken your intuition.
Intuition Boosting Exercise No.2: Observational Journaling
If you are not “into” journaling, then Observational Journaling is for you.
In this form of journaling, you simply take pen and paper along with you to any spot that feels comfortable. Then, you have a seat and begin to write down what you see. That’s it. You don’t have to write about your day, you don’t have to write about how you are feeling, you don’t have to write about who you want to be, you simply write about what you are observing. Take yourself to a coffee shop, a park, or just sit in the comfort of your own home and look out a window. As long as there is material for you to write about, you have found a good place.
What, exactly, happens during Observational Journaling? This exercise trains you to immerse your mind and body in your immediate surroundings. If you do this for ten minutes once a day or even every other day, then noticing your surroundings will become a habit even when you do not have pen and paper in hand.
Intuition Boosting Exercise No.3: Creative or Repetitive Activities
Engaging in a creative activity like painting, crotchet, sculpting, floral arrangement, woodwork, dance, etc. requires our cognitive mind to quiet the hell down, which makes it easier for our inner voices to be heard. If you don’t fancy yourself the creative type, that’s okay, the same benefit can come from repetitive activities. Chopping wood – or carrots even – can produce a similar mind-quieting result.
Again, all you need is ten minutes here, but during those ten minutes, you must single-task. Engage only in that one activity.
Intuition Boosting Exercise No.4: Inner Circle Inventory
Not going to sugar coat this one – this exercise can be a real eye-and-heart opener. To do it, you make a list of the five people that you invest the most of your mental and emotional energy in. Then, you ask yourself the three questions below.
- 1"Which of these people love me exactly as I am? Which give me the impression that something(s) about me needs to change?"
- 2"Which of these people leave me feeling energized after I interact with them? Which make me feel drained?"
- 3"Which of these people seem in tune with who they really are? Which do not?"
Note! It’s important that you write your answers down. After you’ve written your answers down, read them aloud. Carefully consider your answers and the impact that these relationships might have on your intuition.
Intuition Boosting Exercise No.5: Detangle your Ought Self, Ideal Self, and the Actual Self
Remember how we talked about an Overpowering Ought Self and how we identified it as one of the culprits behind a distant intuition? This exercise is designed to help you put your Ought Self in check. It’s insightful – and repeatable – and it can help you uncover and better align with your core values. In another post, we cover how to complete this exercise in depth and offer a helpful printable workbook to get you started quickly. You can read the post and get your hands on the workbook here.
How to tell if it's your intuition - or just something you really, really want to be true.
These exercises are designed to make trusting your intuition come more naturally to you. Until you get there, there will be times when you find it difficult to tell the difference between your intuition and other life factors. Here, we address questions like:
- 1"Is it my intuition or am I trying to justify something I want?"
- 2"Is it my intuition or am I trying to justify someone I want?"
- 3"Is it my intuition or a mid-life crisis?"
Intuition, Decision-Making and Time-Constraints
Generally, intuition can best serve you in short, burst-like moments OR over the course of the long term.
Let’s say you have a decision to make, but not much time to make it. In an instance like this, you need to make your best decision using as much information as you can gather in a brief moment. In this case, recruiting the perceptive capabilities of your gut and your heart does make sense.
Now, what about those situations where you’ve got plenty of time to make a decision? Let's say you aren’t under pressure to make an instant decision. Maybe you are considering switching careers when your job is currently stable or ending a relationship that no longer serves you, but is “fine for now”. In these no-time-pressure cases, your intuition may have been nagging at you for years about what’s right for you, but you've been slow to act for whatever reason. If you have had a steady, long-term knowing, then that’s very likely your intuition and you can trust it.
Finally, there are situations where you have just a few weeks or maybe a month to make an important decision. Unfortunately, this is just enough time to do some serious overthinking and overanalyzing, which can drown out your inner voice. In situations like these, it can be especially difficult to distinguish between intuition and something else. This is exactly when spending some extra time with the exercises above can come in handy.
Intuition vs. Mood
Your mood can also make it difficult to determine whether your intuition is trying to guide you or whether you are being influenced by something else entirely.
Depending on how you cope when you are troubled, you may find yourself withdrawn, depressed, or obsessively analyzing your situation. None of these make it easy for your intuition to reach you. On the other side of that coin, when you are experiencing an emotional high, you are often extra-open to the wonders and possibilities of the world, so you may find yourself over-reaching for your intuition. Or even putting words into its mouth.
The clearest communication with your intuition happens in quiet, even-keeled moments. It is best to ride out emotionally highs and lows before sitting down and listening for what it really wants to say.
"Is it my intuition or am I trying to justify something I want?"
This one is actually easier than you think. Intuition is intimate, innate knowledge of self. It knows nothing of - nor is not interested in – the value of material things or social status, so it can’t be used as a reliable tool to justify something that you want.
"Is it my intuition or am I trying to justify someone I want?"
Also easier thank you think. Again, intuition is intimate, innate self-knowledge. It is knowledge, not emotion. Love, desire, rejection, despair, frustration, fear – those are all emotions. If you are experiencing emotional noise due to "hot" or "cold" feelings like these, then you can’t hear your intuition properly at all. In this case, please revisit Mood.
"Is it my intuition or a mid-life crisis?"
When we are young children, life is relatively straightforward. We have simple motivations, few responsibilities, and we haven’t yet made many decisions that will irreversibly shape the rest of our lives. In fact, we haven’t made many self-willed decisions at all! With the grown-ups in our world at the helm of our lives, we havevery little say in how our days go.
As we grow, so do our responsibilities. We begin to make multiple decisions daily. Some of the decisions we make are big ones that seem to send us down roads with no shoulder to make a U-turn. And, if along the way we have decided to have children of our own or if we have assumed the role of caregiver for our parents, the decisions we make no longer affect only us. So much seems at stake.
At some point, often in mid-life, we discover that we have conflicting motivations. What we want for us, might not be the best for our partner, our children, our bank accounts, etc. This can make us feel stuck. It can make us resent those we love. It can result in making decisions that we might regret. It is no bueno. We don’t want to do this.
If you are suffering from a bit of a soul pinch and you are genuinely unsure of whether a certain ‘feeling’ is your intuition coming alive or if it’s something else, the following four questions can help clarify things a bit.
"Do I feel myself being pulled toward a thing or person?"
If the answer is "Yes", it’s not your intuition.
"Would acting on this 'feeling' conflict with any of my core values?"
If the answer is "Yes", it’s not your intuition.
"Is this the first time ever in my life that I've been compelled to do what I think my intuition is telling me to do?"
If the answer is “Yes”, it is not likely your intuition that is speaking to you.
Again, your intuition has always been with you. And it has probably been trying to get your attention for a long, looong time. While it’s most exciting to think of your intuition as an out of the blue impulse, it’s more of an ever-present nudge that you are already aware of, but have been ignoring. Now, this doesn’t mean that your intuition will never have a fresh idea. But, if you are currently in the process of rebuilding trust with your intuition, it’s best that you start by acting on the intuitive yens that have been with you for longer.
"Would I use the word 'anxious' to describe my emotional state for the past few months?"
If the answer is “Yes”, it is possible that your intuition is speaking to you. Even if it is your intuition, as we’ve already learned, when our emotional state is high, low, or rollercoaster-y, it is very difficult to parcel out pure intuition from other noise. So, it’s best not to act until your emotions have quieted. If the intuitive impulse is still there when things are quieter, then you can more confidently recognize your intuition as the one doing the talking.
Exactly what to do when you aren't sure whether its your intuition or something else...
Even when we feel stuck. Even when we feel manic. Even when the person, place, or thing we can relate most to in life is a scrambled egg, our intuition is with us and willing to help. The solution is to slow down. Instead of acting on an urge that you aren’t sure is coming from a pure place, act on these exercises. This will let your gut, your heart and your brain work together to come up with a go-forward plan that brings you sustainable happiness. And speaking of a go-forward plan:
FREE TOOL The Start Trusting Your Intuition 30-Day At-a-Glance Calendar + Workbook
If you are ready to start trusting your intuition now (or tomorrow or next week), I’ve created up a tool that can help.
In the , you will find an overview of each of these exercises as well as a suggested 30-day plan for working them into your routine. At the end of these thirty days, you will have reawakened your intuitive muscles and that just might result in:
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The head, the gut + the heart: how to get better at trusting your intuition recap
We are all equipped with an intuition that is potent, trustworthy, and impeccably attuned to our true path. Whether you use it or not is up to you.
Scientific evidence supports that our hearts and guts engage in intelligent cross-talk with our minds. In this post, we’ve outlined five short and simple exercises that you can use to revive your intuition and tune in to that cross-talk.
If you do the work and practice weekly, you can enjoy the confidence, hell, the aliveness that comes from genuine self-knowledge. If your sleeves are rolled up and you are ready to begin, you can download an overview of these intuition-boosting exercises and that will help you work them into your routine over the next thirty days.
Now, there’s one topic we haven’t discovered here that is worthy considering as you begin your intuition-boosting practice.
What if you aren’t totally comfortable with some of the self-knowledge your stronger intuition helps you uncover? Or if your intuition tells you something that “isn’t possible”? What if you are worried about what other people might think of your newfound insights?
Ultimately, grappling with new self-discoveries is a matter of self-acceptance and self-esteem. If that sounds like an interesting topic to you, we’ve got two great articles for you.
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Hello! I'm a recovered Type-A+ people-pleaser and praise-seeker. Through Neon Soul Supply Co., I share the same habits, exercises, projects and tools that I used to start self-defining success and happiness so that you can do the same.
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