In order to make decisions that are right for you and align with your individual truths, you need to trust your intuition. Doing so allows you to act and choose from a place of confidence, self-assuredness and self-possession, knowing that you are operating on the level of your highest self. But getting to a place where you can let go and trust that your intuition is right is a learning process that can take lots of time and practice. How, exactly, can you learn to listen to the voice within that knows what is best for you in both the smallest and largest of circumstances?
Start Small I suggest starting with the little things. One exercise I give clients to start flexing the intuitive muscle is to begin checking in with themselves, on a daily basis, around the seemingly insignificant choices they make. Food choices are one example we can all relate to. Think of breakfast. Is your choice of what to eat driven by external factors such as what is supposed to be good for you, or what your favorite fitness person on Instagram is eating? In the absence of that external input, do you really know what breakfast is best for you? If not, you’re not alone. It’s easy to become bewildered by the many choices out there — or the lack of choices. What works best for others is not necessarily what works best for you, and that can be frustrating.
Switch Out of Autopilot So I have my clients switch from autopilot mode, where it’s easy to be swayed by other people’s choices, to slowing down and getting to know themselves better, asking yourself, what does your body need at this time? Here’s where discernment comes in. Your lower self, or what I call the “gremlins,” will guide you toward sugar and an overload of carbs, telling youneed those, that you deserve them, that you will feel so much better if you eat like junk. Your highest self, that wise, even-keeled, patient-sounding voice knows better than this. Your highest self knows you don’t need those types of foods to arrive at a place of feeling well. So, what do you need? This is the direction you want to go in. This is the voice that you want to tap into. It is the voice of your intuition. The one that knows.
Check in With Yourself Another exercise I have clients do is to check in with themselves when somebody asks them to do something. Let’s say, for example, you are asked to attend an event, go out to eat, or take a walk. Your knee-jerk reaction might be to automatically reply yes or no because you think you should or shouldn’t for reasons that have more to do with the other person than with yourself. Stop and instead, ask yourself: do I really want to do this? Tell the person you’ll get back to them so you can take some space and consider your needs and what feels right. Check in with your body and apply body awareness to arrive at your answer. Do you feel expanded, open, relaxed, contributing to a yes feeling? Do you feel tight, agitated, restricted, leaning towards no? Take a few minutes to read the energy in response to your question and then make your decision based on confidence, trust and a knowing of what feels best for you. In both of these cases — food choices, and a request or invitation — it can be easy to let the gremlins take over. Their loud, sucker-punching voice tells you that you aren’t enough, that you are “less than,” that you won’t achieve what you set out to do anyway. It can be so loud that it drowns out the voice of your intuition. But your intuition is always there. I wrote about learning to navigate between the two voices in my young adult novel, The Land of Blue, a story about twelve-year old Cassie whose father goes missing into the Land of Blue, a metaphor for addiction, depression and anxiety, and how Cassie enters the Land of Blue to find him. It all comes down to trusting the voice that holds you back from achieving greatness and to listen to the voice that operates on a higher frequency, that one that roots for your growth and evolution. This is the muscle you want to flex.
Practice In addition to pausing to think, you can practice by becoming still and learning to meditate. The simple act of going within to make a decision–no matter how small it may seem–strengthens your ability to do so for other, bigger decisions. Your body will also give you cues to help point you toward your intuition. Your stomach might ache or burn as you contemplate eating those carbs. You might suddenly feel tired or tense when your friend invites you out on a walk you don’t really have time for. Eventually, you will come to recognize and trust these signs. But don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself and see. The more you choose to trust yourself, the more you take the time to be consistent in your practice, the greater the rewards will be. You’ll get to the bigger questions and decisions in your life. But if you want to learn to develop your intuition from an interesting theory to a practical application, start small, with day to day choices, and take it one step at a time.
Jill Sylvester is a licensed mental health counselor and author of the self-help book, “Trust Your Intuition: 100 Ways to Transform Anxiety and Depression for Stronger Mental Health.” Her work has been featured in Well+Good, Bustle, SheKnows, WorkingMother, Parenthood, TeenMentor, and OprahMag.com. To receive her free weekly blog containing tips to better your life, subscribe at www.jillsylvester.com.