Listening to Your Instincts is a Guest Post by Ali Bengough.
You know that little voice in the back of your mind that gives you a warning when something isn’t right?
The one that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck?
Most often I think we associate this voice with when our lives are in danger. When we’re out in the dark, hear a noise we can’t identify and we are suddenly on alert, searching for the cause to make sure we won’t be harmed. Or when we’re laying in bed at night and hear a noise outside, we wonder whether it’s an intruder; right up until we realise it’s the tree branches rubbing up against the window in the breeze.
Or as parents, we might listen to the voice when the kids go quiet and we know they’re up to no good. They might have gotten into something, or worse, they’ve taken off on an adventure around the neighbourhood. And when they’re just 2, or 3 years old, that’s probably not the best place for them to be! You get this sixth sense that something is wrong and you’re instantly on alert and ready for action! You’re ready to jump right in and search tirelessly until you know your precious child is safe.
That sixth sense is your instinct.
And as you can see from the examples, it plays a very important role. It provides you with signs and signals when you need to pay attention. It will tell you when your life is in danger.
That voice isn’t always just for your survival, however. If you can listen closely, it can also help you direct your life. It can help you make decisions that serve you. It can help you learn lessons and grow from experiences. And it can help you to find your passions and live your purpose, thereby creating a life of love, joy and happiness.
If, that is, you listen.
With modern lifestyles as they are, it can sometimes be quite difficult, if not impossible to hear that voice, let alone allow it to direct you to make empowering decisions! Lives are super busy. You race around from the moment you wake up to the moment you lay your head on the pillow at night. Getting the kids ready for school, exercising, employment, attending necessary appointments, cleaning the house, feeding the family, building your relationships and friendships.
The list is endless. And the opportunities to stop, or even to slow down, are limited. And therefore the voice of your instinct is often drowned out by the noise of life. The busy-ness of life creates busy-ness (and often chaos) in your mind.
It creates an environment where self-doubt is rife and you second guess every decision you make. Especially the important ones. The bigger the decision, the more difficult it becomes to settle on the direction you want to take. Do you turn left or right? If you go left you might encounter X, Y or Z. And if you turn right M, N or O may trip you up. So you get stuck and end up going around in circles and not making a decision at all. Which leaves you in a chaotic mess with nowhere to turn. You feel stressed and overwhelmed and try to ease the feeling by reaching for things you know aren’t necessarily good for you.
So how can you turn things around so your instinct is once again loud and clear? How can you pick it out of the noisy chaos and learn to trust the direction in which you’re being led? How can you be confident in your ability to trust the choices you make?
There are a few things you could do to reconnect with your SELF and come back to listening to and trusting your gut.
Quiet your mind. If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that you cannot hear the voice of instinct if you have a mind full of chaotic self-talk. So you need to come back to centre and quiet your mind. Only then can you listen to and trust what it has to say. Some things you could try are:
Give yourself permission to stop the busy-ness of life. Take some time out to do things just for you. Try some creative activities that allow you to reconnect with yourself.
Reconnect with nature. Spend some time outdoors where you can release some of the stress. On the beach, climbing a mountain or in a native garden, if the environment speaks to you, embrace it and allow your body to release the tension.
Journal. Sometimes one of the best ways to release the chaos is to write down everything that is in your head. Release it onto paper so your mind doesn’t need to hold onto it. Once it’s out you can hopefully find a little space and clarity.
Spiritual practice. Different people find peace in different places. Whether you find it in prayer or communing with nature, try to find some time to practice what speaks to you.
Diaphragmatic breathing. When we get busy and become stressed it’s easy to get caught up in the cycle. Our breathing becomes shallow and we activate the survival system that switches on the fight/flight mechanism. This then puts us on high alert and turns off our ability to think clearly. The easiest way to deactivate this system is to get some really good quality oxygen flowing through your brain and body.
Place one hand on your ribs over your diaphragm and one on your chest. Observe your breathing for a few seconds and notice which hand is rising as you inhale. Try to keep the hand on your chest still while the one on your diaphragm rises with every breath in. Within just a few breaths you should notice the difference in your stress levels. You should feel slightly calmer and more peaceful.
Start small. The brain doesn’t like being out of routine. If you ask it to suddenly go from complete chaos to complete calm, you’ll find that it will put up a considerable fight to keep you in the chaos. So when you first begin using some of these strategies don’t expect things to change overnight. Sometimes you’ll feel only split seconds of calm before the mind chatter begins again. This is ok. Keep practicing and over time you should notice that those split seconds become moments that stick around for longer.
It takes time to make these strategies a habit. Understand that your brain is simply doing its job and be kind to yourself.
You deserve to be.
Ali is a counsellor and works in the community services field. She has 12 years of practical counselling experience and has worked with a variety of individuals, including some of the most vulnerable people in the community. Ali created The Mindset Effect to enable easy access to information that will equip you with the knowledge and tools to rise above struggles and live the life you deserve – a life of fulfilment, personal power, love and joy.