Most of the decisions we make in our day-to-day lives are made, not using reason and logic, but intuition. Most of us instinctively know what we’d like to order when we pick up a restaurant menu – but gut feeling applies even in areas of life where there’s no actual digestion involved.
Some of us know when to trust our gut feelings, and when to ignore them. For others, however, this can be a bit of a problem. An over reliance on analysis and brainpower can lead to paralysis, most commonly observed in the phenomenon of ‘overthinking’.
There are a few strategies we might employ to hone our gut feelings, and to learn to listen to them.
In many cases, we’re able to observe patterns in the world around us and realise that something is wrong, even if we don’t know the exact reason. You might have had the experience of walking out of the front door in the morning, realising that something is amiss, and after a moment spent casting your eye about, deduced that you’ve forgotten to put out the bin.
Sometimes, these situations might be more consequential. In a medical context, for example, you might come away from a hospital appointment feeling that your situation hasn’t quite been resolved properly. This is how many hospital negligence claims get started.
Drowning out the noise
In many cases, we don’t listen to our instincts because we can’t hear them. When there’s a problem in our lives, we reach out to those around us in search of guidance. If you’re wondering what colour to paint your bedroom, we might ask friends, family and colleagues – everyone, in other words, apart from the person who’ll actually be sleeping in the bedroom.
You might spend inordinate amounts of time scrolling through Netflix, and never settle on something to watch. This is an example of the same phenomenon – except it’s an algorithm offering you suggestions. The solution is the same: stop scrolling, take a moment, and go with your gut.
Listening to and channelling a gut feeling, is something that takes a great deal of practice. But once you’ve gotten into the habit of it, you might find that it comes more easily. The secret is to notice when there’s a gut feeling coming up.
Undoubtedly the most effective way to do this is with the help of deliberate mindfulness. There are a number of apps, books and classes that will help you to get started with this. Schedule a daily practice and stick to it for a week, and then a month, and then a year. You’ll notice the difference!