The Science Behind Our Intuition
How many times did you just know something will happen...and then it does? The word 'intuition' comes from the Latin word 'consider' and for the past week or so, I've had the words 'instinct' and 'intuition' popping into my mind - so I'm following my instincts to write about these topics!
Humans have experienced challenges throughout history but the difference between pre-technological periods of time and today is that we know about everything that's going on in the world now. And on top of that, we also know everyone's stance on everything that is going on. This can make it harder for us to listen to our inner voice and so it requires more of a conscious effort to really consider our instincts. While not every inuitive feeling will be correct (sometimes my intuition is spot on and other times, it's way off!), this post explains exactly why we should at least consider our instincts rather than dismiss them as wishy-washy, hocus pocus feelings that have been plucked out of thin air with no real scientific backing. So...what's the science behind our intuition?
What is the difference between instincts and intuition?
Instincts are often described as innate behaviours, in response to external stimuli and come from the brainstem (the base of the brain), with the prefrontal cortex keeping our instincts in check. Intuition, on the other hand, is a sense of knowing something without having any explanation for it.
Where does intuition come from?
It operates through the right side of the brain (the hippocampus) as well as the gut. The term 'gut feeling' as well as the term 'gut instinct' come from the fact that the 'messengers' of the brain - neurotransmitters - are fired up in the gut when you instinctively know or feel something.
Why is intuition important?
It's often thought that there is a divide between analytic thinking and intuitive thinking - the former is slower and more conscious, while the latter is usually faster and subconscious. However, they're not opposites and can - and should - be used in tandem. The importance of listening to our inner voice and feelings continues to become more apparent and has led to the US Office of Naval Research looking into ways to enhance soldiers' unconscious mind, to give them an extra form of defence, so to speak, on the battlefield.
And that's intuition in a nutshell! Maybe you believe intuition is linked to the theory that we 'see' our lives play out before us before we're born and therefore know what decisions we should take instinctively. Maybe you think it comes from experiences from past lives or that it's otherworldly communication. Maybe you think it's simply just a chemical reaction in the brain. Whatever your stance is, I think it's important that we all practice following our inner knowing and exercise the right to make decisions based on them - even when we lack reasoning (when I was younger and somebody would ask me why I thought something, I would just say 'because!')
Keep an eye out for the next post on how to sharpen your intuition!