A woman on the Prevention discussion boards asks if there is a way to train herself to trust her instincts, so she can stop agreeing to do a lot of things she doesn’t want to do Here is a question from the Prevention discussion page:

Hi there! Is there a way to train yourself to trust your instincts? I always find myself feeling one way in my gut, but then rationalizing, and overthinking everything and making myself think everything''s ok. The result is I end up agreeing to do a lot of things I''m unhappy with.

For example, a friend of mine asked if I would be able to volunteer some time to take pictures at an event she was throwing. I really wanted to help my friend out, so I agreed to do it despite the fact that I had my nephew''s birthday party and a ton of errands to do. I thought I could do it all, but ended up having to cut out my errands in order to make both my friend and my nephew''s events.

I probably should have said "No" from the get-go, but I didn''t want to let my friend down. I convinced myself I would be able to do everything, but deep down I knew I couldn''t.

How can I start forcing myself to follow my initial reaction?


Hello, there, Eternalsunshine.

First off, let me say that I suspect that getting older and living longer, in and of itself, tends to take care of this issue. Most of us have gone through phases in our younger days when we overrode our gut for our head and lived to regret it, many times over. When this happens enough times, we learn from it and start giving those gut messages the respect they deserve!

There are one or two simple things that you can do, however, that can speed the process up a bit. First of all, just pay attention to these intuitive feelings, even if you choose to ignore them. The very act of noticing this override is going to be a great educator. So track these things, either on paper or in your own mind, in a conscious, deliberate way.

Another thing you can do is pay attention, literally, to your gut. When someone asks you to do something, take your focus of attention to your belly and see what''s doing in there. If your instinct is: "This is a really bad idea" you will most likely feel a slight contraction, a pulling back or inward, that is an actual physical sensation. If, on the other hand, your body thinks this is a good idea, you''ll feel the opposite - a kind of expansion, loosening, opening sort of sensation. That''s your answer, really, and if you stick with your body and don''t then go to your head, your answer is "No, thank you".

Of course then comes the other part, which also gets easier with aging: saying no! And if you are a naturally generous, empathic sort of person, that''s going to be hard to do... but if you answer "yes" enough times to a "no" situation, you will learn to say no and save yourself for where you really need to be and where you are really needed, without splitting yourself off into a hundred directions. This too is a good thing.

And, just for the record, if you really want to say no and have it stick, this phrase is foolproof: "It''s out of the question". And then don''t give a bunch of reasons why, or this will be an invitation for the other person to argue with you.

Hope that helps. I have a bunch of other suggestions for enhancing your intuitive reach in my book, Your Sixth Sense, but it seems like this is a good place to start.