Intuition is challenging to define, despite the huge role it plays in our everyday lives. Steve Jobs called it, for instance, “more powerful than intellect.” But however we put it into words, we all, well, intuitively know just what it is.
Pretty much everyone has experienced a gut feeling — that unconscious reasoning that propels us to do something without telling us why or how. But the nature of intuition has long eluded us, and has inspired centuries’ worth of research and inquiry in the fields of philosophy and psychology.
Cognitive science is beginning to demystify the strong but sometimes inexplicable presence of unconscious reasoning in our lives and thought. Often dismissed as unscientific because of its connections to the psychic and paranormal, intuition isn’t just a bunch of hoo-ha about our “Spidey senses”.
1. Listen to that inner voice
In order to make our best decisions, we need a balance of intuition — which serves to bridge the gap between instinct and reasoning — and rational thinking, according to Francis Cholle, author of The Intuitive Compass. But the cultural bias against following one’s instinct or intuition often leads to disregarding our hunches — to our own detriment. (you can buy his book here).
2. Take time for solitude
If you want to get in touch with your intuition, a little time alone may be the most effective way. Just as solitude can help give rise to creative thinking, it can also help us connect to our deepest inner wisdom.
In fact, creative people are highly intuitive, explains Burnham, and just as you can increase your creativity through practice, you can boost your intuition. In fact, practicing one may build up the other.
4. practice mindfulness
Meditation and other mindfulness practices can be an excellent way to tap into your intuition. As the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute explains, “Mindfulness can help you filter out mental chatter, weigh your options objectively, tune into your intuition and ultimately make a decision that you can stand behind completely.”
5. observe everything
“The first thing to do is notice — keep a little journal, and notice when odd things happen,” Burnham says. You’ll gain a keen sense for how often coincidences, surprising connections and on-the-dot intuitions occur in your daily life — in other words, you’ll start to tap into your intuition.
6. listen to your body
Intuitive people learn to tune into their bodies and heed their “gut feelings.”
7. connect deeply with others
Mind reading may seem like the stuff of fantasy and pseudo-science, but it’s actually something we do everyday. It’s called emphatic accuracy, a term in psychology that refers to the “seemingly magical ability to map someone’s mental terrain from their words, emotions and body language,” according to Psychology Today.
8. pay attention to your dreams
Burnham recommends paying attention to your dreams as a way to get in touch with your mind’s unconscious thinking processes. Both dreams and intuition spring from the unconscious, so you can begin to tap into this part of your mind by paying attention to your dreams.
9. enjoy plenty of down time
Few things stifle intuition as easily as constant busyness, multitasking, connectivity to digital devices and stress and burnout. According to Huffington, we always have an intuitive sense about the people in our lives — on a deep level, we know the good ones from the “flatterers and dissemblers” — but we’re not always awake enough to our intuition to acknowledge the difference to ourselves. The problem is that we’re simply too busy.
10. mindfully let go of negative emotions
Strong emotions — particularly negative ones — can cloud our intuition. Many of us know that we feel out of sorts or “not ourselves” when we’re upset, and it may be because we’re disconnected from our intuition.
That’s not to say that intuitive people never get upset — but your intuition will fare better if you’re able to mindfully accept and let go of negative emotions for the most part, rather than suppressing or dwelling on them.