Your Intuition Really Can Guide You In The Right Direction, So Here's How To Listen To It

by Julia Guerra

The heart might want what it wants (whiny little thing, isn’t it?), but your gut’s bound to have some opinions, too. So step back, Selena Gomez — intuition coming through. Of course, no offense to Sel — those lyrics were spot-on, after all — but in some instances, your heart’s going to say one thing while your gut will try to convince you of another. In times of crisis, you need to know which part of yourself to listen to, and new research is making a solid argument for why you should trust your intuition sometimes. But whether or not you should roll with your gut as opposed to your brain, heart, or whichever organ would like to offer up its two cents, will ultimately depend on a few things.

I’m almost positive the first time I’d ever even heard of intuition was when I first heard Jewel’s song circa 2003, when the singer-songwriter belted out that intuition was “easy to find” and would ultimately lead me “in the right direction.” In order to get an expert take on the concept, I reached out to Shannon Thomas, an award-winning therapist and survivor of psychological abuse, for a clear definition. According to Thomas, intuition is an “involuntary internal response” that happens when your body and mind internalize something new, and react as a form of “self-protection,” or a push “to propel us into a new positive direction.” In other words, intuition is that tiny, almost irritating nudge coming from your gut to take notice of or react to a situation in a very specific way.

So now you might be thinking: What’s so special about the gut, and how the heck are you supposed to know if your intuition really is all-knowing? Well, the answer is simple, but kind of complicated, too: Nothing in life is all-knowing, but in the same way that, sometimes, your heart knows exactly what it wants, generally speaking, your gut has a pretty good idea of what you want, too.

According to new research published in the scientific journal Emotion, a big reason why people will trust their intuition over logic is because, whatever it is they’re feeling deep down, it seems to reflect what their true selves really want. So even if, logically speaking, you make the wrong decision in a situation, you might feel emotionally obligated in some way to stand by it.

To come to this conclusion, researchers from the University of Toronto Scarborough and Yale University conducted a four-part experiment in which the same 450 participants were asked to choose between different things, “such as different DVD players, mugs, apartments or restaurants,” per ScienceDaily, based on either logical reasons or gut instincts. Following each choice, the participants were then asked a series of questions about how they came to their decision. In the end, those who based their decisions on gut instincts were “more likely to advocate for them,” according to ScienceDaily. Sam Maglio, Ph.D., a co-author of the study and an associate professor of marketing at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said in a statement,

In making decisions, people must decide not only what to choose, but how to choose it. Our research suggests that individuals focusing on their feelings in decision-making do indeed come to see their chosen options as more consistent with what is essential, true and unwavering about themselves.

But if your intuition has the tendency to defy all logic, how can you tell whether or not it’s steering you in the right direction? Well, as far as Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, is concerned, the decision to either go against or with your gut instinct depends on a few different things, such as your core values and your long-term happiness. “You have to ask yourself what the ultimate rewards are when faced with a particular decision,” Glatter tells Elite Daily. On the one hand, he explains, staying true to yourself means prioritizing your gut instincts, choosing to honor your values, and remaining loyal to your inner self. “If your decision satisfies important values and reinforces your inner core," Glatter says, "it may lead to longer-term satisfaction and ultimate happiness.”

What’s important to keep in mind, though, is that your intuition is naturally in favor of you staying in your comfort zone, according to Thomas. This can work in your favor, but sometimes, in order to learn important life lessons, you have to step out from underneath your security blanket, and that’s exactly the type of scenario where listening to your gut can get you into a bind. On that note, if fear or past pain causes you to hold back, you may need to “resist that false gut feeling and push through into something new,” Thomas tells Elite Daily.

Accepting that you even have an intuition to fall back on is the first step in learning how to properly use it, Thomas says. From there, as you begin to recognize it come up more and more, you can assess the risk factors of going with your gut before committing to any decision. “It’s the ability to see the big picture — choosing to remain true to your inner core — which has a bigger payoff and reward over the long-term,” Glatter adds.

Bottom line: to go with your gut, or not to go with your gut. That is the question. Only you can know the right answer, but to help you along, I'll leave you with this piece of wisdom from none other than the brilliant L.C.: