"Intuition is a woman's radar'
Intuition, or a sixth sense, is something many of us rely on for snap judgments and often life-altering decisions. But what exactly is it? A 2008 study in the British Journal of Psychology defined intuition as what happens when the brain draws on past experiences and external cues to make a decision -- but it happens so fast that the reaction is at an unconscious level.
But that's only part of it, says Judith Orloff, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author of Guide to Intuitive Healing: Five Steps to Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Wellness. "Just like the brain, there are neurotransmitters in the gut that can respond to environmental stimuli and emotions in the now -- it's not just about past experiences," she says. When those neurotransmitters fire, you may feel the sensation of "butterflies" or uneasiness in your stomach. Researchers theorize that "gut instinct," which sends signals to your brain, plays a large role in intuition.
So how do you tune in? First, pay attention to your physical responses. "Maybe you're trying to decide if you should take a new job that pays twice the salary as your current one," says Orloff. "Your head says ‘Of course! That's a lot of money,' but you notice that you feel a little sick to your stomach or exhausted. That's an intuitive cue that you should step back and really examine the offer."
You also need to make sure you aren't mistaking strong emotions for intuition. "Fear, desire, and panic can all get in the way of intuition," says Orloff. "It's important to really focus on that inner voice."
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