The following is a guest post by Leah Vanderveldt, a Brooklyn-based wellness writer and recipe developer. You can find Leah’s blog here.
Learning how to take care of myself has been a major part of my life over the past few years — not just in the physical sense, but the mental and spiritual senses, too. I’ve gone from working a regular 9 to 5 (or 6 or 7) to going full-time freelance and writing two cookbooks (I’m currently working on my third). This shift from relying on others for structure, time frames, and a paycheck to relying mainly on myself has been difficult and confusing at times. But more than anything it's taught me the importance of tapping into and listening to my intuition.
The concept of listening to one’s intuition is really coming to the forefront of the cultural consciousness, but it’s easier said than done. In our society, we typically aren’t taught to value our intuition, let alone how to listen to it. And it can actually be really hard to access and hear your intuition when you’ve been scrolling on your phone for the past five years.
But the good news is, we all have an intuition and we are all able to access it with a little practice. Here are five things I do daily to strengthen and maintain my connection to my own wisdom and intuition.
#1. Take deep belly breaths each morning
Most of us are only using the upper half of our breathing capacity and breathing into our chests, but our breath can fill up our stomachs too. I like to start the day by breathing deep into my lower abdomen — or gut — a few times. I breathe in as fully as I can and exhale as fully as I can.
Many of us walk around sucking our stomachs in, so doing these big breaths that make our bellies swell may feel weird at first. But this is totally natural and helps awaken all that intelligence lying deep in our gut. That’s why intuition is sometimes called going with your gut or your gut reaction — because real wisdom lives in this area of the body. Let’s send it a little more oxygen!
#2. Practice joy
Joy is another way of saying gratitude. Each morning or evening, set aside a few of minutes to either write down or record a voice memo on your phone all things that you’re grateful for or that brought you joy in the last 24 hours. Doing this for just a few minutes can help us feel more at ease and content — which is a great state to be in for listening to our intuition.
When we’re stressed or anxious, sometimes our noisy ego voice can take over, making our intuition harder to hear. If we can get to a place of balance or — better yet — joy we can access that calm, chilled out intuitive voice giving us the guidance we need.
#3. Nourish your body — especially your gut
Making sure your body is well fed and fueled with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other whole foods is huge when you want to hit up your intuition for some intel. If we’re feeling out of balance, inflamed, and generally meh in our bodies because of what we’re eating, it’s hard to get clarity on anything. But when we’re packing in plenty of gut-healthy fiber and probiotics — from things like kombucha and fermented vegetables — we’re helping to restore our gut balance that will ultimately lead to a better relationship with our intuition.
One of my favorite things for nourishing my gut is a Ginger-Lemon Health-Ade Kombucha — the ginger and lemon are great for the digestive system and work in tandem with those fizzy probiotics. And that green and black tea give the brain an extra boost, too.
Setting aside some time to just be instead of do is prime territory for intuitive hits. Try sitting without distractions or with your morning beverage and just focusing on the sounds in the room, the way your body feels, how your drink tastes, and your breathing (multitask and do your belly breaths when you meditate).
Just 5 minutes a day is a great place to start. Don’t worry about doing it wrong or completely clearing your mind (an impossible task!), just keep coming back to your body and your breath and start slowing down that mental chatter.
#5. Get outside
Trees, fresh air, and open skies can do wonders for calming the mind and creating those soothing conditions in which our intuition can really come through. Get out in a local park, dive into a natural body of water if you can, or sit underneath a tree for a little while.
Your intuition is like a muscle, the more you use it and work with it, the stronger it will get. You just have to set yourself up for success by maintaining the connection to your body, mind, and spirit through daily practice and curiosity. Remember: we all possess innate wisdom, we just need a little help getting in touch with it sometimes. Be patient, go slow, and have an open mind and you’ll be well on your way to living from an intuitive and authentic place.