Growing up, my household was a very “be productive as much as possible” kind of place. Watching TV during the day was outlawed and idle time reading or playing was discouraged over activities such as studying, planning, and honing skills. I didn’t touch a video game console until I was in college, and to this day, I blame my upbringing for the reason I’m so embarrassingly bad at Mario Kart.
My parents — like most parents of millennials — are from the baby boomer generation where success was measured in metrics like the size of your house, your paycheck, your family, and your 401(k). They instilled in us the idea that happiness was found via promotions and tangible success — in our jobs, in our families, and in our possessions. While there’s plenty to unpack in the hows, whys, and repercussions of this upbringing, the general result for many millenials is burnout, exhaustion, and the nagging feeling that not only can they not relax, but if they do, they’ll be wasting precious time that could be spent more productively. It’s something I struggled with for so long, and it’s one of the main reasons I started going to therapy. I was constantly aching to relax without guilt, but I didn’t know how to make it happen.
Enter: The Intuition Day.
Basically, what she wanted me to do was pick a day over the weekend to do whatever my “intuition” wanted. I told her she was crazy.
When my therapist first assigned me an “Intuition Day,” I thought she was crazy. Literally, I told her she was crazy. Basically, what she wanted me to do was pick a day over the weekend (I chose Saturday to avoid any Sunday Scaries) to do whatever my “intuition” wanted. Not what I thought or told myself I wanted — which it turns out, is way easier said than done — but what my gut wanted me to do. I would listen, accept, and do, without planning any next steps.
But first, what is intuition, really?
“Imagine that your brain storing bits of all your life experiences in file folders but some, which are rarely used, are in dusty file cabinets in the back,” Forbes reports. “Intuition – the nagging feeling – is information from one of those dusty file folders trying to get through…the brain is adept at seeing connections when we can’t. But it needs the chance to find and assemble information in a new way. We’ve all had the experience of finding just the right answer as we drop off to sleep while taking a walk, or in the shower. It’s the familiar aha moment.”
At first, the concept sounded reckless. Indulgent. Lazy. And what makes it more complicated is that using your intuition (and having an Intuition Day) isn’t an excuse to binge. Intuition isn’t tossing back margs all day or chowing down on everything you don’t normally eat. It’s about really sitting with yourself, listening to what your body is telling you it wants and needs, and responding kindly. It’s not a day of reckless behavior but a day of comforting, evaluating, and healing. If and when those addictive or dangerous thoughts pop into your head (and they might! This is part of learning to listen to your intuition), you use a clear head to notice them and let them lead you to a healthy, feel-good alternative.
So while I initially thought this idea was crazy, after a lot of practice and patience, three years later “Intuition Day” has become my secret weapon for relaxing my mind and body when I’m pushed to burnout. The fix isn’t just some new-age feel-good bullshit solution to stress and overwork. Learning to hone your intuition and listen to your gut feeling is something top leaders insist is necessary to excel. This means learning to relax will actually make you more productive, successful, and content in the long-run.
So many times our intuition tells us what to do, but we quickly brush it aside for what we think is logical or makes the most sense from a productive standpoint. While crunching data and making calculated decisions is crucial, in reality, there are also plenty of times when you have to make a decision based on instinct — a decision you can’t explain but just feels right. When it comes to things like how to spend your well-deserved leisure time, your intuition is the absolute key to getting the recharge you crave. From trying new restaurants, reading in the sun all day, going to a nude beach, and taking extended naps by the pool, Intuition Days have given me the gift of guilt-free relaxation. Here’s how to toss that to-do list for a day of unplanned, stress-free bliss and learn how to use your intuition as a superpower.
Checking items off of my to-do list lowkey gets me aroused. Intuition Day, however, isn’t about plans or accomplishments.
Clear your schedule.
The first step to having a day of no plans is to actually clear your plans. Yes, I realize you could be working on that big project, running errands, or checking off some of those tedious to-do list items you keep putting off like deep cleaning the oven or following up with emails. How productive of you! But the thing is, Intuition Day isn’t about being productive — it’s just about being. So, pick a day when you don’t have a lingering deadline. Hard as it is, move every single thing off of your to-do list. Intuition Day is a clean, fresh, unplanned page. A blank canvas of a day.
Put your phone away.
There are very few rules for Intuition Day. The whole point is to follow your gut. That said, I find it helpful to limit phone access. If my cell is on or near me, chances are I’ll check my Instagram, emails, and texts impulsively. Before I know it, I’m agreeing to finish an assignment, sorting out family drama, or having an hour-long DM convo. I like to silence my texts, keep my ringer on (in case of emergencies), and store my phone in my bedroom. That way, I can avoid checking it for the sake of something to do, but I don’t have to worry about being completely cut off and unreachable in the case of something urgent.
The other big rule for Intuition Day is to put your work away. “But working and getting things done will make me feel better,” you say. Sure! I get it. Today, however, that won’t fly. As much as your calculated mind fights it, work is officially off-limits. No emails. No “let me just check this one thing”s. You can do almost anything you want, but working is officially outlawed.
If pancakes pop into your head, you’ll go: “Great! Do I want to make them or order them?”
Say “Yes, And” not “No, What Else?”
This is where we start getting into the real fun (and challenge) of the day. As a certified type-A, I have most every moment of my days planned, and checking items off of my to-do list lowkey gets me aroused. Intuition Day, however, isn’t about plans or accomplishments. So, how do you get yourself to stop thinking of the mountain of work you have or what you need to do later and just live in the moment? Basically, you’ll improv it.
If you’ve ever binged a whole bunch of Whose Line Is It Anyway, you’ll know that the first rule of improvisation is to say “yes, and.” The point is to agree with the statement given to you and add on to it. During your Intuition Day, that’s exactly what you’re doing — you’re improvising a full 24 hours just based on what feels good in the moment. You don’t get to plan what you’ll have for dinner or what time you’re going to sleep because you have no idea what will happen between now and then.
Basically: You wake up. Your brain says: “I want pancakes.” On a normal day, you might be like “Uh, no. Why would we want pancakes? We haven’t had them in years. I don’t know how to make them. They’re not healthy. Do they actually sound good?” We question and second-guess what we actually want to the point of confusion and frustration.
Instead, on Intuition Day, if pancakes pop into your head, you’ll go: “Great! Do I want to make them or order them?” The first response you have is what you go with. No questioning, no doubts, no hemming and hawing. It’s living a day of “yes and” instead of, “no, here’s why.”
Catch yourself trying to plan.
As a society that runs on tracking devices, spreadsheets, and calendar alerts, planning is what we do. It helps us stay on top of things and deep down, it helps us feel more in control. Turing that basic instinct off is extremely challenging — especially if you’re the type of person reading an article in the hopes of learning how to relax.
Your brain is going to want to plan anyway, no matter how much you don’t want it to. When it happens, because it will, don’t get frustrated. Instead, acknowledge it and let it go. If you start planning what to have for dinner, what movie to watch, or what exactly you’ll do next — stop. Take a deep breath and tell yourself “Cool! We’ll see how we feel when we get there.” Guilt and shame won’t help you feel more at ease, but promising yourself you’ll consider your active mind’s wants if your intuition takes you to that point will.
In short: Intuition Days help you learn to trust yourself, which eliminates the paradox of choice, guilt, and the overactive parts of our brains that make us question and allows us to just… live. While most people can’t swing an Intuition Day every weekend (things like to-do lists and projects do exist after all), carving out some time here and there might just be the key to finding the relaxation, happiness, and recharge our generation desperately craves.
Rachel Varina is a social media, digital marketing, and editorial expert living in sunny Tampa, Florida. When she’s not creating content or collaborating with brands, you can catch her devouring thriller novels and supporting pineapple in the great pizza debate with her husband and two rescue pups by her side. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.
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