Intuition: When Is It Right to Trust Your Gut Instincts?

trusting your guit instinct - thinking woman

Using our intuition or being guided by our first instincts has historically been considered flaky, unreliable, or a little “woo-woo” by those who are not convinced of the benefits of trusting our gut instincts.

However, recent research has shown various benefits to trusting our instincts and listening to our intuition.

First instincts

Do you rely on your intuition in situations where rational thinking doesn’t help you or when a problem or event is time-critical and information is limited?

On the other hand, do you wait it out and trust that time will bring you the data and information you need to make an informed decision?

No matter the circumstances, your body will likely give you physical and emotional cues about what to do in any given scenario – the key is to tune into those sensations. Still, not many people do this, at least not often enough.

The benefits of tapping into your intuition

There are advantages to tapping into your intuition every so often. However, people must strike a balance when deciding to go with their instincts or when to take the “rational road” to decision-making.

The above depends on the situation at hand. So often, it can be tempting to listen to our bodies instinctual cues, but is listening to these hunches the wisest thing to do?

Researchers say that listening to our instincts is not always recommended since there are occasions when rational thinking is the only way to resolve an issue or get through an event or situation.

However, in contrast, there are times when instinct and intuition can help us make an informed decision about something. Again, whatever road you decide to take will depend on various factors.

Trusting your instincts

Knowing when to trust your instincts and when to take a logical step back is a significant move when making the right decision or judgment call about something.

Intuitive hunches usually present emotionally or physically; such sensations depend on what your body is trying to tell you.

For example, suppose you experience that “sick-to-the-stomach” feeling about taking a specific course of action, or you feel dizzy and sweaty. In that case, these signals might be alerting you to impending danger or that you are about to make an unwise decision.

Essentially, your instincts are there to guide and protect you, and they will either alert you to proceed with caution or provide you with confirmation of the decisions or choices you are about to make.

Listening to your intuitive hunches

woman thinking while biting nails

Your instincts will usually signal specific cues to help you make the right choice or decision; as mentioned, these signals will often manifest as physical symptoms – you will either feel good about your actions or be incredibly uncomfortable.

Unpleasant sensations

The prospect of making a wrong decision or an unwise move will often evoke unpleasant and uncomfortable sensations. You may feel:

  • Shaky
  • Sweaty
  • Nauseous
  • Uncertainty about making a specific decision  

In addition to the above, you may experience a general feeling of discontent where your choice doesn’t sit well with what your body is trying to tell you.

You may feel out of whack and experience an imbalance between what your mind thinks you should do and what your body is instructing you to do.

If the nagging feeling is constant, it might be wise to wait it out or devise a new plan or course of action.

Pleasant sensations

Positive, intuitive sensations signify an entirely different narrative to unpleasant ones.

They confirm our choices in a way that doesn’t cause agitation or anxiety, the body is equilibrated with the mind, the association feels calm and tranquil, and there is a level of contentment around decision-making that doesn’t feel wrong or threatening.

You may experience a feeling of calm and tranquillity about your choices or be overwhelmed with self-assuredness and confidence for no apparent reason.

Lack of information 

Unlike logic and rationale, there is little information or knowledge to guide you in trusting your intuition.

With intuition, you have minimal sources on which to base your conclusions; there’s just a feeling of “this-feels-right”, which may or may not be subjective since it only makes sense to you.

The term “gut instinct” seems to make sense in this context; there is no identifiable, logical reason for why you feel comfortable and content. Instead, some researchers say this is the body’s way of telling you that you’ve made the right moves or choices.

Feelings of affirmations

woman making frame round the sun with her hands

Writer and researcher Lakeisha Ethans states that ‘’feelings of affirmations are less physical” when trusting our instincts.

Ethans explains that we must be in touch with our emotions to distinguish our upbeat hunches.

Some people may ” hear” their gut talking to them and guiding them through decision-making processes (Power of Positivity, 3 Times You Should Trust Your First Instincts, Lakeisha Ethans, October 24th, 2021).

The connection between the “gut” and our instincts

Research has shown a robust correlation between our gut feelings or instincts and our actual guts.

You may wonder how our emotions can be associated with a physical body part and what that connection might mean.

Scientific research shows that the heart, brain, and gut are connected to a mutual axis. This triage is linked biochemically and physically between the body’s organs.

Hence, gut feelings or emotional experiences often present as gastrointestinal discomfort or distress.

Butterflies in the stomach

For instance, you may experience anxiety or fear as physical sensations that affect the stomach – you may experience a stomach ache, pain, or spasms when feeling anxious about an upcoming event or situation.

Having “butterflies” in the stomach is not just a clever play on words; it’s a chemical response that may give us insightful cues about our choices.

Essentially, trusting our intuition or first instincts is not a metaphysical concept. On the contrary, our instincts have a genuine substance that can be observed and measured scientifically.

The First Instinct Fallacy

However, some research contradicts the efficacy of trusting our first instincts, particularly an approach developed in 2005 by Justin Kruger, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign.

Kruger described The First Instinct Fallacy as “the one that can hurt you the most” since sticking to your first option puts you at higher risk of being wrong.

Additionally, Kruger says that it is unwise to listen to your first instincts; instead, you should use those hunches coupled with logic to come to a decision.

However, the above is situation-dependent; the key is to learn which situations require logic and reasoning and which can be resolved using your instincts.

Dangerous situations

Suppose you are skating on an ice rink and are in imminent danger. Perhaps you are about to take a massive fall or crash into someone at high speed. 

You will need to make a quick decision for your safety and others. For example, do you conduct a quick snowplough stop to prevent serious injury to yourself or someone else?

Or do you wait until logic provides enough data on what to do next?

In the above example, your first instinct is likely to be correct. The snowplough stop, the most basic of stops, is the best and safest course of action since waiting for enough information before taking action will not prevent a severe accident.

When trusting your instincts is the right thing to do

thinking man weighing scale

Studies show that in dangerous situations, such as the ice rink example, you should base your actions and decisions on instinct alone.

In time-critical situations, it is essential to use your instincts.

For example, when danger is imminent such as an injury or assault, we usually do not have the time to hang back and wait for logic and reasoning to kick in or for accurate data to jolt us into action. We need to act there and then.

Moreover, in a time crunch, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to think logically or rationally.

Analysing content or data will not happen as logically as it ordinarily would; your choices are based on your needs in any given situation.

Acting on intuition

Growing up, we are often told not to act on impulse or intuition; this is sage advice in some situations.

However, acting on your first instincts is the safest option if you are rolling off the ice at high speed and about to break your leg. 

Essentially, the first thoughts you have in those crucial moments will be the ones that bring you the most benefits (Power of Positivity, 3 Times You Should Trust Your First Instincts, Lakeisha Ethans, October 24th, 2021).

When your intuition screams at you to hit the brakes to avoid injury, it’s because it’s the safest and best thing to do.

The underlying message is that your intuition has your best interests at heart – your instincts only want what’s best for you, even in less extreme situations like deciding to accept a last-minute date or going on vacation.

When and why you should trust your instincts

Our instincts play a critical role in our lives, yet, they often get bad press. People who follow their intuition are often accused of being illogical, unrealistic, or flaky.

It might be fair to say that there is room for logic and instinct; although they are separate entities, the two can coexist and help people make informed decisions based on different factors.

Of course, it would be unhelpful to base all your moves and decisions on instinct; however, trusting your intuition is sometimes vital.

Instincts induce physical and emotional responses, and you will be aware of these reactions in most situations. But moreover, researchers say there are times when listening to our instincts is imperative.

Clear-cut signs

Our intuition often provides us with clear-cut signs. 

For example, suppose you go on a first date with someone and get a negative first impression. You may feel uncomfortable or uneasy in that person’s presence. In this example, you must consider these feelings valid.

You may not need to run for the nearest exit, but your instincts are providing you with information about something, so it’s wise to get curious about these feelings.

You may even decide to use your intuition or instincts as confirmation of something– if you feel content, your choice is likely correct. Still, if you feel agitated or uncomfortable, you may need to make some tweaks or changes.

The most critical suggestion when trusting your intuition is to use your first instincts when making a quick decision or plan.

Depending on the situation, your intuitive hunches are there to guide you – and you’ll likely know when it’s best to trust your instincts or when it’s best to take a more logical approach to things.

Contact us

If you want more information about this article, our friendly team at Centres for Health and Healing is always here to help. Contact us for more details.

Resources

1. 3 Times You Should Trust Your First Instincts: Power of Positivity, Lakeisha Ethans, October 24th, 2021
2. The First Instinct Fallacy: Psychology Today, Jason Feirman, May 1st, 2005

Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

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