Have you ever felt extremely confident about a big decision in milliseconds, where you haven’t even had time to process it? What about a lingering sense of discomfort that you couldn’t put your finger on? Both of these are examples of your intuition, or an inner knowing that aren’t explained by logic.

I remember using my intuition when we were shopping for our first home. Walking into an open house, I’d have a sense of “this is definitely not it”, or “this could be it, but…”. Sometimes I wouldn’t have the words to articulate how I came to that conclusion. Of course, in order to try to explain it to my husband and our agent, I’d then try to come up with reasons to express what I was drawn to and what was a hard no so the next houses we checked out would be closer and more aligning.

At one point, we found our “almost the one” home. It was a model home, so it had large blue chrysanthemum wallpaper in the guest bathroom and everything from accent walls to the accessories was color coordinated in navy blue and white. It also happened that all the furniture would be included. The whole interior was gorgeous and well-designed. Unfortunately, when we informed the sales office, there was a contingency we couldn’t negotiate and we ended up having to pass. In retrospect, I felt a sense of relief because I actually liked a lot of the furniture we already had, and had a nagging feeling about the navy blue and white. I had let my head lead instead of my intuition on that one, but luckily it didn’t work out.

The next time we found our “almost the one” home, we loved the floor plan, but not the interior which was a dark brown wood. I remember speaking that out loud to the sales office there, wishing we could have that same floor plan with the ability to pick out the details of the cabinets and carpets. It so happened a new community was just starting construction a few blocks away with the same floor plan, and an added bonus was that it would be in a cul-de-sac (which was something we wanted but weren’t sure we’d get). We would be able to pick out the interior details for the house since nothing was built yet. While it felt risky to put a down payment on a plot of land without being able to see the house, I had a knowing that we had found the one. Everything else fell into place, too: the price was just within our budget, and they were able to work with our conditions. From the day we moved in two years ago to today, I still get that wave of peace wash over me.

I can’t describe intuition more than “a knowing” or a “peaceful feeling”. It does take practice to become more aware of it though.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to hone in on my intuition:

Listen without judgement. This is a big one because I grew up with a lot of “shoulds” in my life, constantly trying to meet others’ expectations of what I should do (get good grades, go to college, get a financially secure job, get married and have kids, and so on). If you find yourself having a hard time distinguishing between your knowing and the other voices and thoughts in your head like I did, try this: When you have an opportunity to plan something you want to do in the day (you know, maybe a weekend morning or a day with no pressing deadlines), take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Settle into the silence and focus on your breath. Then, ask yourself: “What do I want to do today?” Keep focusing on the breath, and any feeling that arises. It will feel like a thought that comes from somewhere deeper than your brain. It might not make sense at first, but roll with it! Practice non-judgement and just do it.

Write down your dreams. Yes, your literal dreams. Place a journal and pen by your bed. When you wake up in the morning, jot down what you dreamt about. Then, Google “dream dictionary” and look up what you saw in your dreams. The other day I dreamt about riding a bike unsteadily, and when I looked it up it said I was trying to bring back balance and was basically in the thick of it. It gave me a new perspective to consider and reflect on, as if my subconscious were trying to tell me something. Doing this over the course of a few weeks helped me tap into thoughts that haven’t made it into my consciousness yet, and piqued my curiosity about my subconscious.

Have a conversation with your intuition. This is a combination of the first two. In your journal, write a stream of consciousness dialogue of you and your intuition. Between the dialogue, close your eyes and listen without judgement.

Here’s an example:

Me: What do I want to do today?

I: Rest.

Me: Why?

I: Enough.

Me: What do you mean enough?

I: All is done.

Me: I have nothing else to do?

I: No.

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You’ll know it’s your intuition and not your thoughts when the intuition’s response is short, a few words, and more of a feeling than fully formed ideas.

(And clearly, my intuition says I need to shut off now. Will get to it soon, promise!)

It may feel uncomfortable at first, even silly. I remember thinking the same. However, over time I’ve found that exercises like these have helped me become more aware of my intuition when I need clarity. I can see why people like to sleep on it when faced with big decisions. As you cultivate that awareness, you’ll grow to become more confident in how you respond to those decisions.

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