Use your in­tu­ition – tune into that feel­ing in your bones and let it guide you

BUT­TER­FLIES IN YOUR STOM­ACH? OR DO YOU FEEL IT IN YOUR BONES? WHEN YOUR BODY GIVES YOU SIG­NALS IT’S WISE TO LIS­TEN. JO HART­LEY EX­PLAINS HOW TO USE YOUR IN­TU­ITION TO YOUR AD­VAN­TAGE

Good Health Choices - - CONTENT -

‘In­tu­ition is the abil­ity to know some­thing with­out con­scious thought’

Oprah once said that us­ing your in­tu­ition is para­mount for any last­ing suc­cess. “I’ve trusted the still, small voice of in­tu­ition my en­tire life,” she said. “And the only time I’ve made mis­takes is when I didn’t lis­ten.” Many of us agree. A new study about in­tu­ition has found that the more we rely on gut feel­ings to make a choice, the more we feel that the choice re­flects our true selves and the more con­fi­dent we be­come in it.

“In­tu­ition is the abil­ity to know some­thing with­out con­scious rea­son­ing or thought,” says reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gist Rachel Hard. “Peo­ple often de­scribe phys­i­o­log­i­cal symp­toms as­so­ci­ated with the gut when they don’t feel good, safe or sure about some­thing.”

A stir­ring in the pit of the stom­ach or a stom­ach drop sound fa­mil­iar? Rachel says that these feel­ings come from your ‘se­cond brain’. “It’s be­lieved that in­tu­ition comes from our gut,” she ex­plains. “This is es­sen­tially neu­rons, chem­i­cals and hor­mones that flood the brain with mes­sages about the state of our body, such as when we’re hun­gry or stressed.” Rachel notes that the brain then pro­cesses these mes­sages to un­der­stand what’s hap­pen­ing in our body and why we might feel anx­ious with­out cog­ni­tive aware­ness.

“At this point, if we pay con­scious at­ten­tion, our brain ‘steps up to the plate’,” says Rachel. “We can ap­ply rea­son­ing, past ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­pec­ta­tions to fig­ure out why we feel that drop in the pit of our stom­achs.”

So what fac­tors in­flu­ence our in­tu­ition? Our bod­ies are wired to pro­tect us from threat, so the ‘flight, fright or freeze’ re­sponse is mainly a sub­con­scious process. “From birth, our brains pick up in­for­ma­tion and knowl­edge which helps us make quick de­ci­sions, such as stop­ping at a red light,” ex­plains Rachel. “These de­ci­sions be­come sub­con­scious, and our brain is freed up to process new in­for­ma­tion.”

Rachel notes that per­cep­tions of threat can be af­fected by pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ences of harm or dan­ger, as well as mes­sages in our cur­rent com­mu­nity or wider so­ci­ety. “When the body sends a mes­sage, it’s im­por­tant for us to lis­ten,” says

Rachel. “Lis­ten­ing to our needs, whether phys­i­cal or emo­tional, is im­por­tant in main­tain­ing our well­be­ing.”

Healthy in­tu­ition

When it comes to eat­ing, lis­ten­ing to your guts (quite lit­er­ally), is a sure-fire way to im­prove health. In 2014, ex­perts re­viewed nu­mer­ous pub­lished stud­ies that ex­am­ined in­tu­itive eat­ing in­ter­ven­tions. In each study, par­tic­i­pants were taught to fol­low in­ter­nal cues of hunger and sati­ety. The au­thors con­cluded that in­tu­itive eat­ing helped par­tic­i­pants de­velop a health­ier re­la­tion­ship with food. Im­prove­ments in blood pres­sure and car­diores­pi­ra­tory fit­ness were noted, as were psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits in­clud­ing de­creased de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, in­creased self-es­teem, and im­proved body im­age. “Lis­ten­ing to and ac­knowl­edg­ing our needs is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant in pos­i­tive men­tal health,” says Rachel. “The abil­ity to recog­nise what we need and take steps to pro­tect or look af­ter our­selves is empowering. Be­ing in tune with our bod­ies means we can iden­tify when we’re tense or wor­ried and can re­act swiftly to keep our­selves well.”

And, when it comes to keep­ing our­selves well, we all know that ex­er­cise is im­por­tant. But it doesn’t have to mean burpees or marathons. In­tu­itive ex­er­cis­ing is about lis­ten­ing to our own in­ter­nal trainer: what our body wants and when it wants it. Hav­ing a bad day or feel­ing weak? Maybe it’s time to have a rest or take a short stroll. Feel­ing en­er­gised? Aer­o­bics or run­ning might hit the spot. Adopt­ing this ap­proach means that we’re much more likely to want to ex­er­cise and more likely to en­joy it. And you can’t ar­gue with your in­ter­nal trainer on that.

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