Whether you call it a “gut feeling,” an “inner voice” or a “sixth sense,” intuition can play a real part in people’s lives!
The word intuition comes from the Latin verb intueri which means “consider” or “contemplate”.
We are all aware of that general feeling that something is right or wrong. Most of us experience these feelings as what we call ‘gut feelings’ that we can’t explain, such as instantly loving – or hating – someone or something.
There are many recorded incidences where intuition even prevented catastrophes. Yet science has historically ridiculed the concept of intuition, putting it in the same box as parapsychology and other “pseudoscientific” practices. But intuition is more than just a hunch and it isn’t a skill just for clairvoyants and tarot readers. We all possess it, and it is a phenomenon that has been researched more than scientists want to admit.
Research on intuition recently published in the British Journal of Psychology is revealing that our brains have an amazing ability to pick up on patterns and respond to them in a nanosecond in the form of intuitive insights. The researchers who conducted this study at Leeds University Business School reviewed hundreds of previously published research papers examining the phenomenon of intuition, and they concluded that intuition is “the result of the way our brains store past experiences, process external cues and retrieve information on a subconscious level to make a decision. However, the reaction happens so fast that is at a non-conscious level.”
Prof. Hodgkinson, an occupational psychologist interested in the impact of intuition within business believes that all intuitive experiences are based on the instantaneous evaluation of such internal and external cues. He says that “people usually experience true intuition when they are under severe time pressure or in a situation of information overload or acute danger, where conscious analysis of the situation may be difficult or impossible.”
In fact, when we access intuition, we activate a network of specific brain regions that includes the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) – the rapid detector of information; the superior temporal sulcus (STS), and the anterior insula where we try to associate a meaning to an information and produce a judgment; the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), where we store information regarding past rewards, as well as punishments and the left inferior frontal cortex (IFC), where we integrate and make sense of all the info.
Pretty complex for only being used to read tarots, isn’t’ it?
So why should we care about intuition? What makes it so valuable that it merits scientific study? And why a genius like Steve Jobs built his entire company on the power of intuition?
Here’s what he said in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Now the question is, how can intuition help us reduce stress and create wellbeing and growth in our lives?
#1 Intuition might help you identify and handle problems more efficiently as you become more aware of potential danger or threats.
There is a famous recorded case of a Formula One driver who braked sharply when nearing a hairpin bend without knowing why – and as a result, he avoided hitting a pile-up of cars on the track ahead, which saved his life. The driver couldn’t explain why he felt he should stop, but the urge was much stronger than his desire to win the race. After the event, the driver underwent forensic analysis by psychologists, where he was shown a video to mentally relive the event. In hindsight, he realized that the crowd, which would have normally been cheering him on, wasn’t looking at him coming up to the bend but was looking the other way in a static, frozen way. That was the cue. He didn’t consciously process this, but he knew something was wrong and stopped in time.
#2 Intuition supports and enhances your left analytical brain in decision making. When we are under stress it is important to know how to access our intuition because when we do, we activate our right brain and use different brain pathways from our left analytical brain. This can give us a tremendous advantage in problem-solving and to me it is astonishing!
The opposite is also true. Research in psychology shows that, during depression, patients have difficulty judging and deciding what to do, in contrast to healthy individuals. When facing a decision, patients suffering from depression often cannot make up their minds. This happens because the depressive mind is narrowed to a tunnel vision in which a person tends to circle around the same – usually negative – pieces of information. This is the process of rumination that we discussed in the previous blog on getting stuck.
#3 Intuition boosts imagination and creativity and helps you get clarity on your true purpose in life because it allows you to be open to new ideas, opportunities, and relationships.
#4 Intuition boosts your confidence in your own judgment and wisdom and it makes you feel like a more authentic and empathic person.
The great news is that the power of intuition can be developed and improved.
Intuition is a dynamic skill to develop that gets better with practice — especially with a lot of practice — because intuition is about the brain’s ability to pick up on certain recurring patterns: the more we are exposed to a particular activity, the more familiar we become with the patterns and the more and faster our brains generate solutions to the problem we are facing.
By learning to integrate your intuitive right brain with your analytical left brain, you are empowering yourself to make the very best possible choices in your life.
A recent study published online in April 2019 in the journal Psychological Science used a series of experiments to determine whether people were using their intuition to help guide their decision making or judgment. The researchers showed that when the participants were using subconscious information, they did better on the tasks, they were more confident in their choice and they became better at using their intuition over time. Professor Person, who lead the study said “It’s all about learning to use unconscious information in your brain. Just as people can become more comfortable making decisions when they apply logic, they may also become better at trusting their intuition when they use it more frequently over time.”
Massimo Pigliucci, Professor of Philosophy at CUNY-City College, in his book Answers for Aristotle, cites some of the recent research on how intuition can be not only measured but improved.
Here are some ways to improve your intuition:
Try the method of stream of consciousness writing in a journal. Begin with a prompt like, “What is true for me at this moment?” or “What do I need to learn? What do I want to create?” Then simply write what comes to mind without judging it or even thinking about what you are writing. I find helpful to set the journal aside for a few hours or days before going back and reading what I’ve written so I have more perspective.
Meditation is one of the most powerful tools to beat depression and overthinking. Even 5-10 minutes a day of meditation can help you rebalance your brain and calm your mind and by doing so you can access your intuitive brain faster.
- Remember your dreams in the morning.
Dreams are your subconscious mind’s way of processing information. As soon as you wake up in the morning take five minutes to remember your dreams and write down everything you remember.
- Be creative.
Engaging in creative activities puts your mind in a state of “flow” that makes it are more receptive to ideas, insights, and awareness.
- Go for a walk, a run or a drive with no destination.
I find that when I take a walk I often get answers to problems or have amazing ideas because it allows me to focus on spontaneous and intuitive thoughts.
- Pay attention to your feelings.
If your mood changes suddenly or you feel uneasy, remind yourself to pay attention to these shifts and become aware of them. Ask yourself “What is this feeling telling me?” Then wait for an answer. The key is learning how to use these insights as a compass to manage your life so you can reduce the toxic effects of negative people or situations on your brain.
- Notice your body language and reactions.
Learn to pay attention and follow your gut feelings. Your gut is so much brighter than your brain because the gut is connected to the brain. In fact the gut sends many more connections to the brain than vice versa, and when the gut receives messages from the brain, it reads them and it magnifies them and sends them back up to the brain so that your gut feelings tell you the whole picture, while your thoughts only tell you a small part of the picture.
- Take a break.
Take a break from your daily life and completely disconnect from technology, distractions, and responsibilities for a day or two…or more. Try to find a place where you can spend a lot of time in nature, take long walks, meditate, journal, stare at the ocean or the mountains. Listen to the sounds of nature. Give your brain and body a full detox from your busy life so you can access your intuitive brain without distractions.
- Grow your self-awareness.
Think back over past moments of your life. Have you had a powerful gut feeling about something and you ignored it and you were sorry afterward? What can you learn from these past experiences? What was your gut telling you that you decided to ignore, and how can you honor your intuition more going forward?
- Learn a habit or do something repetitive.
When we do a repetitive activity that doesn’t require much brainpower we quiet our analytical mind and activate our intuitive mind. You can use the rituals of my free audio-training for this purpose. Just pick one and start!
- Visualize the situation or envision a conversation with your wise mentor.
Go to a quiet room, sit in a comfortable position, and quiet your mind as though you are entering meditation. Instead, practice visualizing the situation you are trying to solve or envision yourself talking with your wise mentor and ask the questions you are trying to answer. Write down everything that comes up. No censoring.
- Prepare your subconscious before sleep.
Before you go to bed at night, if you have a decision or problem you want to solve or an idea you want to develop, ask your mind to come up with the answers while you sleep. Put a sticker on your bedside table so you can remind yourself to think of the answer when you wake up in the morning.
- Write it down.
Always carry a notebook with you or use the notes app on your phone to take notes about your hunches, ah-ha moments, and ideas. When you write down these intuitive thoughts, you increase your ability to remember them and act on them when the time is right.
As Henri Poincare, a French mathematician, physicist, engineer, and philosopher said, “It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover.”
And always remember that you have the power to harness growth, health, and happiness to become your most glorious self!