Trust Your Instincts

The Challenge

To cultivate a strong sense of intuition

and figure out when to listen to your instincts. "Intuition clears your vision and steers you to the right target," says Judith Orloff, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose self-help book Positive Energy was just released in paperback by Three Rivers Press. "It tells you the truth about how you can help yourself in physical, emotional and sexual ways that your conscious mind could never tell you."

The Solutions

Listen to your body's signals. Sometimes your body senses threat or danger before your mind does. Your breathing or pulse rate may change, or you might feel a sudden chill on your skin when around certain people. Pay attention to whether you feel peaceful or prickly around others, and you'll be able to make better decisions about whom you want to work with or befriend.

Tune into subtle clues from your environment. When you are in the moment and focusing fully on the here and now, you can begin to pick up important clues -- such as edginess in a guy you're dating or hidden tension between friends. "Any environment will carry the energy of the people who are in it," says Lauren Thibodeau, Ph.D., the Skillman, N.J.-based author of Natural-Born Intuition (New Page Books, 2005). "If you pay attention to the quality of that energy, you'll begin to sense what's really going on there."

Challenge your hunches. Don't trust your sixth sense blindly -- question it and test its accuracy by running your gut instincts past trusted friends and family members. "In the beginning, with intuition sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong," Orloff says. With practice, though, you'll naturally gain a better sense of when to listen to your inner voice.

The Payoff

Honing your intuition can help you make better decisions, come up with more creative ideas and figure out whom or what to trust. It's like having your own personal coach, muse, bodyguard and board of advisers, all rolled into one. "Intuition helps you do things that are right for you rather than what someone else tells you to do," Orloff says. "And that can help you live your life to the fullest."

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