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Five Gut Instincts You Shouldn’t Ignore

Sunday, 07 November 2010 11:00

Written by Courtney Helgoe

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The quirky urge. A funny tingle. That little voice in your head. These are your gut feelings talking. But what are they telling you, and should you listen? Here’s how to make the most of your own innate wisdom.

Most of us have experienced the sense of knowing things before we know them, even if we can’t explain how. You hesitate at a green light and miss getting hit by a speeding truck. You decide on a whim to break your no-blind-dates policy and wind up meeting your life partner. You have a hunch that you should invest in a little online startup and it becomes Google.

If only you could tap into those insights more often, right? Turns out you can, especially if you learn to identify which signals to focus on — whether they’re sweaty palms, a funny feeling in your stomach, or a sudden and inexplicable certainty that something is up.

According to many researchers, intuition is far more material than it seems. Hope College social psychologist David Myers, PhD, explains that the intuitive right brain is almost always “reading” your surroundings, even when your conscious left brain is otherwise engaged. The body can register this information while the conscious mind remains blissfully unaware of what’s going on.

Another theory suggests you can “feel” approaching events specifically because of your dopamine neurons. “The jitters of dopamine help keep track of reality, alerting us to those subtle patterns that we can’t consciously detect,” Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide (Houghton Mifflin, 2009) notes.

So how do you choose which gut feelings to trust? Judith Orloff, PhD, a Los Angeles–based intuitive psychiatrist and author of Second Sight (Three Rivers Press, 2010), suggests that it’s a matter of “combining the linear mind and intuition,” and striking the right balance between gut instinct and rational thinking. Once you’ve noticed an intuitive hit, she says, you can engage your rational mind to weigh your choices and decide how best to act on them.

To that end, here are five gut feelings that Orloff and other experts recommend you pay attention to — and some reasons why you’ll be glad you did.



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