- the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.
- a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.
I am your classic N in the MBTI. I base most of my decisions on my intuition. And while it may not have always been as sharp, through age and with practice (to this day) I have learned to grow intuitively. A good friend and I now joke when we get this tingly feeling that our intuition is on “fleek”; how very millenial of us really. But I guess what it is is a result of practice.
I decided to write about intuition because a classmate recently raised this question in a training workshop. As psychologists we’re always looking for new ways to enhance our ability to “sniff them out” and to bring salient information to the surface. So whether you’d like to develop your intuition to become a better empath, coach, or counselor, I am here to share with you what my various mentors have taught me about developing our intuitive ability.
1. It all begins with the body
Intuition is felt in the body, that’s exactly why it’s sometimes referred to as “gut feel”. When we learn how to pay attention to our bodies, we find ways to identify what is happening to us and learn to pick out cues. One way in which we can enhance our body sensitivity is by practicing a daily body scan.
A body scan is a 15 - 30 minute method that involves paying attention to each and every part of your body and seeing what comes up for you when you place your attention on each area. It is meant to help you pull away from your mind and put you into your body to ground you in your present state.
Through this simple exercise you activate the somatosensory cortex of your brain - particularly your thalamus, anterior insula and anterior cingulate - which help you pay closer attention to your own cues and perhaps even empathize with the cues of others.
Of course, meditation. If you know me by now you would know that meditation is a staple activity for me.
The reason why we don’t hear our intuition is often because our minds are SO cluttered. It’s important that we find ways to quiet down and control what the Buddhist monks like to call our “monkey minds”. There’s so much chatter going on that we tend to lose focus. Meditation takes us out of the chatter and into a space that Deepak Chopra likes to call “The Gap”.
The act of meditation shifts our attention increasing “frontal midline theta rhythm, which is related to attention demanding tasks and is believed to be indicative of ACC activation”. The ACC is what detects conflicting information coming from distractions. Therefore increasing our ability to focus as well as developing areas of our brain such as the dorsal / medial prefrontal cortices which are affected in depressive and anxiety disorders
3. Get good quality sleep
Among the 3 this has to be my favorite because it is so easy! All you need to do is fall asleep and make sure you stay asleep for at least 6 - 7 hours. Why? Because when we sleep our growth hormones are activated and that’s when our body can heal. It’s the best time for our subconscious to process all our material too.
We fall asleep because our pineal gland releases melatonin. “Melatonin is significant for its effects on our mood, immune function, circadian rhythms, and the quality and quantity of our sleep. Melatonin is also known as an anti-aging and anti-stress agent because it both suppresses cortisol and is a powerful antioxidant.”
And because your pineal gland is secreting melatonin and helping you sleep it also releases neuro chemicals that help your physical and emotional processes on the cellular level - giving clearer signals to your mind from your body and vice versa.