Taking Time to Reflect and Trust Your Instincts

rhn-reflecttimeThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Leslie Kolb, MSW, ASW.

When you’re faced with a dilemma or a decision to make, how often do you hear the phrase, “What does your gut say?” or “What’s your first instinct?” Often this is the advice you’re given to help you make decisions—trust your instincts, go with your gut. But what does that really mean? How can you identify what your instincts are trying to tell you?

So often in life, it’s easy to ignore your instincts and start rationalizing a decision. For instance, if you find yourself in an unstable or unhealthy relationship, assuming your partner is unwilling to work with you to improve the relationship, do you ignore your instinct to leave your partner? Do you rationalize that it’s better to settle for something that is unhealthy in order to be alone? Chances are, you’ve sensed what the right decision for you might be, but you have ignored it in favor of what seems logical or reasonable.

In tough situations like that, it helps to take time to yourself and reflect on what your inner voice might be saying. It can be difficult to commit to finding time to quiet your mind and sit with your feelings, especially considering how hectic your life can get between work, family, kids, friends, pets…the list goes on. But if you are feeling stuck and unsure which way to proceed, schedule yourself thirty minutes (ten if you’re really pressed for time) and just be still. Put both feet on the floor, focus on your breathing for ten counts, and listen to yourself. Better yet, try to just be in your body for that quiet time.

They call it your gut instinct for a reason, and often you sense your instinct in that region of the body. In which direction is it pulling you? Ask yourself, do you know what might be best for you but are arguing with yourself? Take a moment and notice if you’ve been arguing with yourself since you’ve been thinking about the dilemma. It’s possible the argument has been going on for much longer than these few minutes you’ve been still and mindful. Consider what might be keeping you from following what feels right. If your mind wanders, focus on your breathing for another ten counts.

Listening to your instincts takes practice. The first few times you try using quiet reflection as a tool to help you make a decision or help you find your path, you might have to breathe and re-center a number of times in order to find your mindful place. Keep trying. Your inner voice may start off as quiet, or shushed, or reprimanded, but with some mindfulness, it might just get louder and louder. The more you can pay attention to it, the more easily you can follow your instinct. You might be surprised how helpful it can be to do so.


Elana Clark-Faler
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