Gut Feelings That...

Bad-decision hangovers, when you wish you could reverse time, hurt like a bitch. Sharpen your intuition and you won't have to endure one again.

Almost everyone has misgivings about a few past choices. Maybe you broke up with a guy because he lacked some of the qualities you had on your "list" but later realised just weren't that crucial. or perhaps you took a job because everyone said it was the smart thing to do and then discovered it didn't excite you at all. one key cause of crappy decision making: ignoring your intuition. "our initial gut reaction is often spot-on, yet we tend to disregard it and rely on practical thinking instead," says Judith orloff, M.d., author of Emotional Freedom.

Intuition is a real, scientific phenomenon in which your unconscious mind picks up on crucial information lying beneath the surface of what your rational brain can perceive, explains dan ariely, Ph.d., author of Predictably Irrational.

Listening to your instinct is the trick to making wiser judgments, from whether the guy hitting on you is a catch or a creep to if you should move to a new city. But to take full advantage of your intuition, you need to understand how this underused guide works.

YOUR BRAIN HAS A SECRET POWER

"We know a lot more than we think we do in most situations," says Ken Paller, Ph.d., coauthor of The Brain Advantage. Your mind stores key details from past experiences and then uses them to assess new encounters. For example, if a friend lied to you, your brain might have registered subtle changes in her body language or speech pattern when she fibbed. Later, your unconscious might pull up those details and note that your man is behaving in a similar way. as a result, you'll get a gut feeling that he's acting shady. Think of it as a rolodex of valuable info that your brain continuously shuffles through.

"This is your implicit memory at work," Paller says. "it happens so quickly that you're not aware of it; you just feel a tugging towards a certain conclusion." That tugging is your instinct kicking in.

Although implicit memory happens naturally, you can still sharpen it. its power depends on the breadth of your experiences, so putting yourself in unfamiliar situations will increase its effectiveness, Paller adds.

Work novelty into your routine at least a couple of times a week, from taking a different route home to going to lunch with someone new. The more often you do things that fall outside your comfort zone, the larger your Rolodex of information will grow and the more data your brain will have to draw upon when making snap assessments in the future.

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