What is Intuition? A gut feeling? A vibe ? A sub-conscious or even unconscious emotional response?
In order to understand if you’re getting ‘gut-feeling signs’ from your intuition or ignoring your intuition, we need to really understand what intuition actually is.
Where does Intuition come from?
In this article we look at expert opinions, perspectives, and ideas in-order-to gain a deeper understanding for intuition, and how tapping into it may improve your decision making for the rest of your life..
Let’s Dive In.
What Is Intuition?
You’ve likely had times in your life when you had a ‘gut feeling’ that something just wasn’t right. Maybe a ‘bad vibe’ when walking through a parking lot late at night, or feeling ‘negative vibes’ from being around someone, possibly without even knowing why.
Often, we just shrug these feeling off as ‘being paranoid’. Using our logical side of our brains, we usually override these feelings. But what about that “inner voice,” that “gut feeling”, that “instinctual vibe” from deep within that tells us how we ‘actually feel’ beneath all those layers of programmed logic?
That is intuition.
According to experts at Psychology Today…,
“Intuition is a process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning. Intuition bridges the gap between the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind, and also bridges between instinct and reason.”
Is intuition instinct, a pseudoscience, or is it rooted in a deeper understanding of human biology, psychology, and scientific logic?
Where Does Intuition Come From ?
Is intuition a wireless signal from aliens, “god”, does intuition come from deep with-in the wiring of our own brains, or is it actually stored in your gut?
1. Internal Brain Processes –
According to Dr. Orloff, scientists have a better understanding for the root of intuition than we ever before in recent history. Researchers now that believe intuition stems from the right side of our brain and in the hippocampus, which controls our endocrine system and our gut (our digestive system).
Neuro-psychologist and scientific researcher, Simon M. McCrea points to two ther areas of the brain. Dr. McCree has found that recent MRI scans ( 2010) point towards the importance of the ‘unconscious mind’ in the processing of intuition data through our brains. The unconscious mind is controlled by the “basal ganglia” and the “cerebellum”.
All three brain areas noted, the “hippocampus”, the “basal ganglia” and the “cerebellum” are all interlinked, and are all pieces of the core anatomy of the brain. As a side note, it’s believed by many that the ancient Egyptian symbol known as the “Eye of Horus” may also represent the components of the brains core structures.
According to Dr. McCrea, the same study in 2010 noted in their final conclusions that…
Said in a different, and “less nerdy” way, your ability to read non-verbal cues like body language, presentation, and micro-expressions can increase your intuition abilities.
2. The Vagus Nerve –
Dr. Andrea N. Suarez, who has a PhD in Neurobiology and Neurosciences, describes the ‘Vagus Nerve’ as “the primary means of communication between the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract and the brain.”
Dr. Suarez goes on to explain that these signals travel from the GI tract, up the ‘Vagus Nerve’, and activate the hippocampus brain region which is also linked with our memory function.
Psychology Today backs up Dr. Suarez stating that 80-90% of the nerve fibers in the ‘Vagus nerve’ are dedicated to communicating the “state of your organs up” back up to your brain in the form of “gut feelings”.
3. The Sub-conscious and Unconscious Mind –
As awareness consultant, Dr. Gasaway, points out that our brains are constantly gathering and processing information. Some of this information we’re consciously aware of, and some information gets gathered unintentionally by our sub-conscious and unconscious minds.
The information that we gather starts in our short-term memory, and from there it can either be forgotten or processed, and then filed into your long-term memory. These memories then get stored as “patterns” of information.
When we come across similar patterns in the future, it can trigger our intuition.
As the information that we store into our long-term memory settles, there are tons of factors that determine our ability to recall that information. For example, date of memory, emotional connections, relevance, repetition, and explosiveness, to name a few of the main factors that go into deep memory recall.
Some information we can consciously recall on command, like our address. While other information gets stored deep down in our unconscious minds. For example memories that get triggered by a smell, or sound, or place, or an emotional feeling.
Certain ‘vibes’ like “Toxic Positivity” can also trigger our unconscious minds with-out us even understanding why.
4. Predictions Based On Experience –
Some expert Psychologists believe that intuition comes from DNA ingrained powers of pattern-recognition. In every situation we experience, our minds’ comb through past experiences for stored long-term memories, and then then create “real-time” judgments.
Our brains are really pretty good at storing simple lessons. Some lessons we learn by being taught, some lessons we learn ourselves, and some lessons are stored deep down in our genetic coding. Experiences of long-ago ancestors encoded into our DNA is known as “instinct.”
Why Does Intuition Matter? How Can Having Intuition Benefit You ?
In a way, intuition is like a 6th sense. The ancient Egyptian “Eye of Horus” is believed to symbolize the 6 senses, the big 5 that we know, plus, thought & wisdom (intuition).
As you can see, the idea of intuition playing a role, as important as sight and touch, is not something new, but an idea that could go back at least 5,000 years. Today, the military’s branch of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is using the idea of “intuition as a 6th sense” to train soldiers.
The ONR recently hosted leading experts in neural, cognitive and behavioral science to compare their individual studies on intuition. The idea was to improve our understanding of intuition and then use that understanding to train both military personnel and first responders.
In the eyes of Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. James Amos, a deeper understanding of intuition will provide our warriors a new set of skills to harness when making decisions in the field.
It is my shared personal-opinion, that the concept of ‘improving decision-making by improving intuition’ is a concept that can be applied to every human being when making decisions on a daily basis.
As a tech Executive at “Evernote”, Heather Wilde has found that by developing her intuition, she was able to help dramatically improve her company’s connection with customers and thus improve the overall customer experience.
Heather says that she “relied on intuition a lot to give me that extra emotional intelligence needed to understand the context of a situation.” Mrs. Wilde goes on to say that “When handling customer interactions, you need to be able to look beyond the surface information and find the root cause of any issue they may have.”
Intuition is not ‘surface level’.
Dr. Judith Orloff MD, Author and Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA describes the importance of intuition saying that “ I work with women executives who come to me to develop their intuition. They see it as a ‘superpower’ to use in all decisions at work as well as a guide for how to be good leaders and organizers.”
5 Signs Your Intuition Is Trying To Speak To You
The thing about intuition, is that we can override it with our active minds.
On top of our human brain’s ‘baseline-instinctual-intuition’ which we’re all naturally born with, is learned programming. For example, logic & reasoning, personal bias’s, engrained cultural morals & values, and the learned emotional responses (like anxiety or fear) that come as a result.
Each layer of learned “mental programming” acts as a filter through which your intuition travels. Depending on everyone’s own individual and unique life experience, your level of intuition could be more-or-less accessible (or not accessible).
Here’s Some Warning Signs You’re Going Against Your Intuition
1. You’re Just Pretending To Be Happy or Nice –
We’ve all been there, just going through the motions of being nice but not really meaning it. If you’re just trying to cover for a bad day then who cares, but over the long run, pretending to be nice or being to nice can lead to resentment, and “toxic positivity”.
According to Medical News Today, toxic positivity is when a person may try to appear happy all the time. Even despite having internal feelings otherwise.
In other words, ignoring your internal intuition.
2. You Don’t Feel In Control of Your Life –
When you don’t feel in control of your life, speaking from experience, I think it’s fair to say that things aren’t going as you had planned. And when things aren’t going to plan, you must ask yourself, why things aren’t things going to plan.
And when you ask yourself why things aren’t going to plan, if your answer is anything too far away from 100% self-accountability, then it could be a sign that you’re missing some signals from your intuition.
According to CEO Tai Khuong CEO of Psych2Go, Feeling a “lack of control in your life” can manifest itself slowly in strange ways like loss of free time, loss of passion, or feeling constantly frustrated.
3. Your Gut Is Actually In Pain –
The CEO of ‘The Tapping Solution’, (a stress reducing app) Nick Ortner, has experienced first-hand the power of intuition, and what ignoring it can mean. In the words of Nick as he described how he felt before leaving his corporate job in New York City…,
“All those years ago, I, was walking around with a clenched gut. I can see now that it was my intuition screaming at me.”
4. You Avoid Taking Healthy Risks (Indecision) –
Sometimes opportunity comes with risk.
As Mark Zuckerburg famously said, “the biggest risk, is not taking one.”
We tend to overthink when it comes to taking risks. Even when we’re standing on the ledge of a 30’ diving board with our inner voice saying “just jump”, sometimes we overthink, and end up climbing down.
We’ve all be there in one situation or another.
But when the same opportunities keep showing up in front of you, it could be your intuition instinctively noticing an opportunity worth the risk. For me personally, it took the same opportunity showing up over and over again for over a decade for me to realize it was a path worth exploring.
5. You Always Turn To Others (Approval Seeking) –
Asking other people for their diverse opinions, advice, or perspective is one of the best ways to widen your understanding of something.
But if you’re not listening to what they’re saying, and instead you’re just looking for someone who’s opinion aligns with yours, as a form of validation, then that’s a sign that you could be ignoring your intuition.
If you find yourself reaching out to everyone you know, this could be a red flag that you’re looking for validation (instead of looking for perspective) and that you’re ignoring your intuition which you already know to be true deep down inside.
Our intuition doesn’t always led us down the easiest path, which is why seeking external validation to lead us towards an easier option is commonly desired. Ultimately we know inside that the easy path isn’t always the right path.
If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t stop googling, and asking peoples opinions, stop. Check in with yourself. Ask yourself what you want. And don’t be afraid to tell yourself the truth.
You are the captain of your life. No-one else.
How To Harness The Power of Your Intuition ?
Listening to you intuition can be powerful, but relying on your intuition alone can bypass our most valuable human resource, our brains ability to think. There’s a balancing ‘yin to every yang’
As ‘high-functioning humans’ we need to leverage both our instinct (intuition), and ‘logic-reasoning’ in order to give ourselves the best chance to make the best possible decisions.
1. Meditate –
According to Harvard University, meditation can help us recognize that some of our “fear reactions” are disproportional to the threat, and thus by meditating it can reduce our “fear response”.
You don’t have to be a “spiritual guru”, “boho hippie”, or Buddhist Monk to meditate. Drake, Connor McGregor, and Chuck Norris are all celebrities that have achieved great personal success and advocate for meditation.
Meditation is one of the best techniques for developing a ‘conscious self-awareness’ for your inner intuition. When you meditate correctly it requires you to focus deep into the recesses of your mind. This deep focus help you to sort through the “noise” or “chatter” on your mind, and penetrate deep down to find clarity.
With deep thought, comes a deeper understanding, and with a deeper understanding, comes a higher level of consciousness.
People have been meditating for thousands of years, as written about in the Ancient Vedas Texts, and when something sticks around for thousands of years (like the wheel), it usually works.
2. Escape From Your Daily Routine –
When we get ’caught-up’ in our daily routines, it becomes easy for anything “out of the ordinary” to cause a feeling of uncertainty. We fear what we don’t know or understand.
This can throw off our inherent intuition causing it to throw false alarms out of fear or ignorance.
Going back to our ancient cave dwelling ancestors, it was safe to stay in the cave all day, but in order to truly thrive (not just survive), it takes risks and breaking routines.
To give your intuition more ‘ammo’ to work with in order to be more accurate you must ‘feed’ yourself more life experiences.
Think of a baby girl who was brough up with-out ever going outside. Her natural intuition would be that everything from the sun to the mailman is scary. It takes life experience to build a powerful intuition.
3. Spend Time In Nature –
We spend so much time in front of screens and for the sake of sanity, it’s important to disconnect from screens and re-connect with nature. Take a break from the “humdrum” of modern life. And if that’s not always possible, at least go for a short walk at your local park, and take some deep breaths to reconnect.
In 2019, the International Journal of Environmental Health Research published a study concluding that by spending only 20 minutes a day in nature it has been shown to improve both your mental and physical health. Spending time in nature can lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, slow your heart rate, and boost your mood.
All intuition boosting health benefits.
Nature moves at a slower pace than technology and can give your brain time to relax and process your feelings and thoughts. By slowing yourself down the “chatter” in your brain starts to fade away giving way to your true “core feelings” or intuition.
From our ancestors living in real jungles to modern day humans living in concrete ones, many of us have essentially cut ourselves off from the calming effects of the natural pace and frequency of nature.
I can personally testify to the therapeutic benefits of being in nature even if just for a few minutes a day. I always take a few deep breaths and try and connect with the vibe of the natural world. Feel the flow of the wind, the sway of the trees, the slowness of which nature grows in time.
When I take the time to slow down and breath-in fresh air, it gives my intuition time to breathe and become clearer. This happens because being in nature helps you connect with the natural flow of energy and the natural “rhythm” of nature’s pace.
4. Learn From The Past –
The only way you ever learned to walk is by first falling. As a baby you might make a small change, and then trying again. After a few hundred attempts, you’ve made enough adjustments to balance.
As a child, we did this with-out even thinking about it. But as an adult, learning from the past can be a choice that many of us choose not to take.
Reflecting is so vitally important to developing self-awareness and intuition, because with-out looking back, you have no idea what adjustments to make in order to move forward.
5. Release Your Resistance –
Being open-minded is the key to a constantly expanding and evolving intuition. It’s only after you find the ability to be truly open minded that you can connect with the deepest knowledge and unlock your inner wisdom.
If you’re not open to changing your mind, you won’t be able to grasp onto your true inner wisdom. You must accept that your opinions could be completely wrong.
The best way to cultivate a state of open-mindedness is by understanding that even the smartest individuals in the world make mistakes.
Open-minded people are better at predicting the behaviors of others, making them less prone to projecting themselves onto others. And lastly, open-minded individuals have also been known to score higher on general cognitive tests, such as IQ tests and SATs.
Final Thoughts: Understanding Your Intuition
Intuition is a powerful tool that leverages human instinct, intelligence, and experience in order to make split second judgements and decisions. It seems that that there’s a “baseline” level of instinctual intuition in most of us that manifests itself in different ways depending on our individual life experiences.
By getting a better understanding of intuition, what it is, and what causes intuition, and how to build better intuition it is our understanding that you can dramatically improve your daily decision making which will hopefully led to an improvement in your level of everyday enjoyment of life.
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