Five Instincts You Shouldn't Ignore

1. “Something feels wrong with my body.”

Every doctor will tell you that they’ve seen many patients who ignored little warning signs until a small problem has become a big one. This is also true with the feelings your body gets from the people around you. You may find that your energy gets stressed up or depleted down around some people or situations more than others. This can easily lead to a situation where you feel anxious and/or depressed. If something feels wrong in your body, try avoiding the situations that make you feel bad (i.e. make some different friends, find some new activities to engage in) and/or make an appointment at University Health Services or the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health to get checked yourself out.

2. “I’m in danger.”

Everyone knows that ‘uh-oh’ feeling. It’s important to pay very close attention to your circumstances any time you feel that way. If you tell other people, they may agree with you, but they may also tell you that you’re being paranoid or over-reacting. Don’t listen to them. Your perception of the situation is the one that matters. When your intuition warns you, act immediately to increase your safety – leave the area, set a boundary, cross the street, call a friend, or lock a door. Sometimes acting on your intuition can feel awkward, embarrassing, or even stupid. Never let these feelings stop you from being safe. You and your safety are more important than anyone’s embarrassment or inconvenience.

3. I know how to do this.

When athletes ‘choke’ it is because their thought process is interfering with their muscles. While it’s good to think things out, it’s possible to overthink too. A study at the University of Chicago showed that novice golfers did better when they thought carefully about their putts but the performance of more experienced golfers got much worse when they thought too much about what they were doing. This was because they drowned the intuition that they had developed through the years by overthinking. Next time you’re tempted to think too much about something you already know how to do really well, try a little distraction. Say the alphabet backward or sing a favorite song – anything to briefly engage your conscious mind with something other than the task at hand. This will leave your instincts free to do their best job.

4. I want to help.

Compassion is one of our most basic instincts and as a species, we’ve evolved a powerful capacity to recognize when others need support. Most people are hard-wired to be able to quickly read faces and emotional signals. It’s your instinct for compassion that makes you change the conversation about planning for Mother’s Day when your friend’s mother has recently died or to start a conversation with a new student who seems lost on campus. These subtle gestures can make a big difference in someone’s day. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

5. This is it!

When your intuition signals that you’ve found something truly right for you, the choice often becomes strangely easy. This is sometimes called ‘following your heart.’ This feeling means that your intuitive guidance system has helped you makes decisions that are in line with your deepest values and concerns. The “this is it!” feeling never feels conflicted or forced, instead it feels healthy and good. It is a signal that you have found meaningful engagement and/or relationships that truly resonate for you. Following your heart leads to the choices that are deeply satisfying and maximize the quality of your life.


Adapted from