Well-Being//

6 Ways to Build Your Intuition

It's easier than you think.

Tobias Titz/Getty Images
Tobias Titz/Getty Images

Making a tough decision means trusting your intuition. But how do you determine what’s actually intuition, and what’s anxiety, fear, or anger? Any number of emotions can cloud your judgment, obscuring the truth of what you want.

To simplify decision-making, learn how to trust your intuition. Practice ignoring fleeting thoughts, dismissing anger and fear and choosing your desires — not anyone else’s.

Here’s how to know what your gut wants.

Learn to Differentiate “Intuition” and “Anxiety”

It’s good to learn how to trust your gut, but, if you’re not careful, that gut instinct may lead to wrong turns. Research shows that anxiety decreases our confidence and increases our risk aversion. So if you’re deciding between “go on that once-in-a-lifetime trip” and “don’t go on that once-in-a-lifetime trip (because it’s scary!)”, anxiety may overpower your intuition.

The brain-gut connection doesn’t help. For many sufferers, anxiety manifests as stomach troubles. If you’re thinking literally, you might think that queasy tummy is your gut intuition.

To learn the difference, pay attention to your fears. Uncovering your intuition might mean asking some questions. Are you turning something down because you’re scared? Or are you saying no because “no” is what you truly want?

Practice Identifying Your Thought Patterns

Want to be a master of intuition? Start meditating.

Sorting fear from truth requires intensive knowledge of your thought patterns. And that’s what meditation is designed to teach: how to pay attention to the way your brain works. Worries may bubble to the surface, obscuring the truth of what you want. If you aren’t able to identify unwanted thoughts, they may obscure your true desires.

To trust your intuition, practice letting worries, fears, and anxieties “float by” through meditation. That way, when you really want something, you’ll know — no doubts needed.

Keep an Eagle Eye on Red Flags

If you’re charging head-first into bad situations, your intuition isn’t doing its job. It’s important to learn to pinpoint more than your fear and anxiety.

Watch for red flags, especially in relationships. If your new partner is rude, uncompromising, verbally abusive, or anything else that triggers warning signs pay attention to those concerns. Worrying about abuse, serious danger, or potential emotional damage isn’t a fleeting worry. It’s smart.

Once you’ve learned to separate anxious worrying and actual red flags from your gut intuition, you’ll be able to move forward with more confidence.

Determine Your Goals and Beliefs

Understanding your intuition can be difficult. Do you want to take the high-risk, high-reward job with a small startup, or stay in the comfortable corporate environment where you are now? You think you want to move to the startup…but are you absolutely sure?

Taking time to sort out your unique goals and beliefs can make that decision easier. Perhaps your goal is to run your own department in five years, and that’s more likely at a startup. Knowing what you want makes this difficult decision easier, because your intuition will always be the path that points to your hopes and dreams.

Overcome Resentment and Anger

In terms of the emotions that can cloud your judgment, resentment and anger are only a hair’s breadth below anxieties and worries. Choices made under a haze of fury are rarely the right pick.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to decide whether to go on a beach vacation with your family next year, but your sister has been a pain lately. All you can think about is how annoyed you are with her today. Sure, you can find reasons to ditch the beach: it’s expensive, you can’t get the time off work, etcetera. But are those reasons or excuses?

When your intuition is clouded by emotion, you can’t choose the best decision for you. Double-check you’re not making decisions based on fear and resentment. Soon you’ll learn to identify and ignore those knee-jerk reactions and trust your gut.

Stop Thinking in Terms of “Should” or “Must”

Do you feel like you have to make a decision because it’s what your spouse, your boss, or your parents expect?

You want to make decisions based on your intuition. Not anyone else’s.

Keep an eye on the way you’re mentally debating the issue. Are the words “must” or “should” involved? Maybe you think, “I should sign up for this photography class because my best friend wants me to take her Instagrampictures.” But do you want to spend the time, money, and effort on this new hobby?

Doing things based on a “should” or a “must” isn’t following your intuition. To trust your gut, peel back other expectations to reveal only your own desires.

Originally published on Talkspace.

More from Talkspace:

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How Mindfulness Therapy Can Improve Your Mental Health

6 Self-Care Secrets to Reduce Stress

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