When Should You Trust Your Intuition?

Signs Your Gut Is Trying to Tell You Something—and 4 Times You Should Listen

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Intuition is the innate ability to know something without having to consciously think about it. It’s often referred to as a “gut feeling” when you “just know” something. A study found that people who trust their intuition are more likely to do the morally right thing. While trusting your intuition is not a skill you learn, it is one that you can strengthen.

“Learning to trust your intuition begins with self-awareness. Being self-aware allows an individual to know and understand their mannerisms, thoughts, and emotions. Once you are self-aware, you can identify those ‘gut feelings’ clearer,” explains Keanne Owens, MSW, LCSW, psychotherapist, and provider partner with Grow Therapy.

What Are the Signs of Intuition?

Many people have referred to intuition as a “sixth sense.” Like your other five senses, intuition can cause physical signs in your body as follows:

  • You may have tension in your body or have a gnawing thought that won’t go away.
  • You feel like you have a pit in your stomach.
  • The hairs on the back of your neck stand up just before a frightening experience.
  • You feel like you should avoid a certain area, not knowing why, only to discover you would have been in danger if you were there.

Experts say these instances show how intuitive guidance works.

The idea of intuition sounds great—having something to lead you down the right path. However, many people don’t hone in on the signals that their body gives to them.

“Trusting your intuition takes practice for most people as we are often taught to disregard it once we start primary school. Unfortunately, trauma experienced in life can also skew your intuitive delivery system, which can make people believe they can’t trust themselves or their intuitive guidance,” explains Teresa Lodato, CPCC, founder of Becoming Aware®.

The reason developing your intuitive skill is so key is that there are times when you don’t want to ignore it. And those times can be life-changing.

When You Shouldn't Ignore Your Intuition

You understand that intuition is innate. You understand that your body gives you signals that can be your intuition. But how do you know when to trust it? Feelings, after all, can be based on a lot of things and aren’t always the best indicator of what action you should take. So, when is it best to trust those “gut feelings"?

Trust Intuition When It Comes to Your Safety

When things seem “off” or awry in a situation, you should not ignore what you are feeling. Even if the nudging seems minimal, it is important not to brush it off. “Never ignore your intuition when it comes to safety. If you have a gut feeling that is specific to your safety in a location, situation, or even a disagreement, always listen to it. It may be that subtle voice that prevents you from danger,” Owens says.

If your gut is telling you to take a different route home, drive in a specific lane, stop at another gas station or store, be aware of what’s going on in your surroundings. Even if your gut is telling you that you should leave an event suddenly, you should listen.

Trust Intuition When Your Body Sends You Signals About Your Health

“The main purpose for your intuition is to keep your body safe, and in ancient times, this would extend to ‘knowing’ what food or water source was safe to eat [or] drink. In modern times, this might also look like getting migraines, headaches, or digestive disturbances when you are around toxic personality types. Pay attention to the messages your body is sending you because it is highly calibrated to keep you safe!” Lodato says.

Furthermore, don’t discount sudden weight changes, nagging body pains, or unusual body sensations. They can also be signals that something is off internally.

Trust Intuition When You Think Something Is Off in a Relationship

If your romantic partner is acting in a way that is questionable, or makes you uneasy or suspicious, it’s important to investigate those feelings. “If … you feel there is something off with your relationship to your partner, don’t ignore that. Be curious instead and seek to understand what is going on that has you wondering if something is up,” notes Lodato.

Granted, not all situations end up negative. However, even if it’s not nefarious, looking into the source of the feelings can help sort out issues in the relationship.

Trust Intuition When You Doubt Your Abilities

When confronted with a task or request that takes you out of your comfort zone, it’s easy to feel insecure. And insecurity can lead to fear. However, experts caution against self-doubt, and not having enough faith in yourself. “Never ignore your intuition when you know that you are skilled in a certain area or task. That may be imposter syndrome. Don’t second guess your abilities,” advises Owens. 

Stored memories, stress, and underlying trauma can contribute to the way your body responds when it comes to recognizing intuitive signals. However, training yourself to listen to your intuition can be valuable for you mentally, physically, and emotionally.

“To be clear, your intuition will never steer you wrong; however, your body in a hyperactive [or] stressed out state can overreact, causing your intuition to feel different. Just as it takes time and effort to unlearn habits, it takes practice to bring awareness to the kaleidoscope your intuition sometimes must travel through to communicate with you,” Lodato says.

How Do You Know If It's Your Intuition or Overthinking?

You may be the classic worrier, who worries about every minute detail. You overanalyze situations. So, it’s hard to know whether what you’re feeling is simply you giving too much thought to a situation, or truly your intuition trying to direct you. But there are ways to tell the difference.

“Intuition will always come as neutral communication. It will never ‘tell’ you what to do. [Rather] it will suggest, unless there is a clear threat or danger to your physical body. Listening to your intuition typically feels like ‘you might want to go this way’ versus ‘go this way or else’,” Lodato says. “Overthinking generally refers to repetitive, unproductive thoughts where people ‘ruminate’ about the future or ‘worry’ about the past,” she offers.

Listening to your intuition typically feels like ‘you might want to go this way’ versus ‘go this way or else.'


While there’s no one correct way to learn how to follow your intuition, making the effort to listen to your body and focus on your mental signals is worth it.

“Most people don’t realize they shouldn’t ignore their intuition until after the fact. Some people think trust must be earned, but I think trust must be learned. It is a process to learn to trust yourself,” Lodato concludes. “[But] it can be one of the best gifts you give yourself, empowering you to live a full and purposeful life you love!”

1 Source
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  1. Ward SJ, King LA. Individual differences in reliance on intuition predict harsher moral judgments. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2018;114(5):825-849.