Listening to Inner Wisdom

5 Instincts to Heed

Listening to our instincts can help us stay safe and deal better with life-or-death decisions. Making the most of the wisdom of this inner voice also enables us to live a more satisfying life in the moment. How do we choose which gut feelings to trust? Here are five messages we’ll be glad we paid attention to.

“Something feels wrong in my body. Listening to our body’s subtle signals is a critical part of exercising an intuitive sense. The body is a powerful intuitive communicator, delivering early warning signs when anything feels off, weak or just not right, so that we can address it sooner, rather than later.

“I’m in danger.” Social conditioning has helped to create unconscious beliefs that can cause flawed first impressions and ill-advised snap decisions; it’s vital that we check our subjective feelings against mental rationalizations. If some person or situation feels untrustworthy, pause to pay attention, even if the feeling might later be proved inaccurate.

“I want to help.” Evolution has inherently enabled us to quickly “read” faces and other emotional signals. For example, the sympathy instinct nudges us to change the subject when wedding talk makes a newly divorced colleague cringe or general conversation about past rough landings makes an airplane seatmate nervous—subtle gestures that can make a big difference in another’s day.

“I know how to do this.” When tempted to overthink something we know how to do, try a little therapeutic distraction, such as saying the alphabet backwards when a yoga teacher leads the class into a dreaded handstand. Briefly engaging the mind with something other than the task at hand can leave our instincts free to do their job and enjoy the fulfillment that diligent practice has made possible.

“This is it!” Most people have a great “I just knew it was right” story. It might be about the time they first spotted their sweetheart or crossed the threshold of their new house. When intuition signals that we’ve found something or someone truly right for us, the choice often becomes easy. It feels healthy and good, without resistance or conflict.

Using our instincts helps lead us to smart choices that improve our quality of life.

Judith Orloff, M.D., is the author of the international bestseller Second Sight, upon which these tips are based. An assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California-Los Angeles, Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting-edge knowledge of intuition and energy medicine. For more inspiration, visit

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