How Trusting Your Intuition Helps Your Decision Making, According To Science

February 20, 2020

Decision makingOver the last five years, I have been faced with several huge life decisions. To leave a job, to start a business, to go back to school and to leave my home country. It’s safe to say that for a long time now, my stress level has been at its peak. I’m an over thinker. I like to sit on decisions for large amounts of time, even though deep down I know what I want. 

I’ve told myself I overthink just to make sure it’s the right choice. But the truth about decision making is that we often won’t know if it will be the right choice until we actually go ahead and do it. 

There is so much fear on either side of our decisions. We get anxious about the “what ifs” of doing or not doing a particular thing. But the danger isn’t always in making a bad decision. The real harm can be done during the in-between process. It’s the waiting game we like to play in the hopes that some miraculous intervention will happen, making the decision easy for us. At least that’s how I felt.  

I always thought a “gut feeling” wasn’t a real thing—that it was just one of those phrases people said. But that was in a much simpler time before the decisions I made highly impacted my future. When experiencing this feeling, it wasn’t just my gut that was signaling me, it was my entire body. But science has now given much credit to what our intuition can do.

In fact, a 2016 study found that a gut feeling or an intuition increases our accuracy in interpreting a situation’s outcome. In this study, the University of New South Wales researchers asked participants to decide whether dots on the screen were moving to the left or the right. At the same time, a bright flashing square appeared on the screen with a positive (a baby or a puppy) or a negative (a gun or a snake) image. The image flashed only for a split second so that it could only affect participants on a subconscious level. The participants did better at determining the direction of the dots when they saw the positive images. They also reported feeling more confident in their choices. So our subconscious emotions are intimately tied to our decision making. And, chances are if something doesn’t feel exactly right about a situation—it probably isn’t. 

Not getting what we want, staying trapped by fear, and wasting our time are all consequences of indecision. Being trapped in the ceaseless turmoil of making endless pros and cons lists,  too many sleepless nights and the “what if” game (which is unrealistic and so not helpful!) can take a serious toll on our physical and mental health. Depression, anxiety, low energy, low libido (everything I experienced) among many other things, are directly related to any kind of stress we put on ourselves. And keeping ourselves in an unnecessary state of stress just isn’t worth any of that—especially if at some point we are going to have to make a decision anyway.

So many times we drag out the process until it becomes unbearable. And by that point more damage has been done than if we had just made up our minds.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t give a reasonable amount of time towards making decisions. Snap decisions can be dangerous too, so we should always consider our resources, the pros and cons of the decision as well as concentrate on putting all our effort into saving the situation we are considering changing. This last point could mean for example, if you are considering leaving a relationship but are unsure if there is something to save, try putting all your effort into keeping it alive. If it still doesn’t work, then you know for sure. 

Instead of delaying decision making, spend some time with getting to know both options, get to know them and listen to your gut. Being in tune with who you are and what you want helps too. Say no to fear and just be honest with yourself.  

Also by Nea: Why I Left My Dream Job Without A Real Plan

Are We A Generation Of Complainers? How We Got Here & What We Can Do About It

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Nea is a vegan and gluten-free baker currently living in Bermuda. She is a huge vegan foodie, an aspiring writer and a lover of poetry. Traveling often, her goals are to seek out new cultures and experiences, to learn as much as she can and to spread the message of peace, love and kindness always.

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