Emotional Anchors - What They Are and How They Can Help You

One of my most recent reads is The Life Coaching Handbook by Curly Martin. In her book she talks about the ins and outs of Life Coaching, how to conduct sessions, and how to ask questions that help your client identify their struggles and roadblocks. She also discusses the concept of anchoring, which I've recently found very helpful as I'm learning to work through my own emotions.


First thing's first: What is an emotional anchor?


According to Curly Martin, "Anchoring is a process by which any stimulus is connected to, and triggers, a response" (The Life-Coaching Handbook, p. 97).

In essence, emotional anchors are things we can use to steady ourselves when our emotions start to fly out of control.


Since anchors require stimuli, what you need to do is recognize which stimuli get which reaction from you. For example, the smell of hazelnut may make you happy because it reminds you of fall, while someone else may find the smell of hazelnut depressing because a deceased loved one always smelled like hazelnut. A vast majority of the population will have no reaction to hazelnut because it is not an anchor for them.

Identifying Anchors


One thing you should know about anchors is that while they can be created, it's easier to find the ones that are already attached to you. As you've grown from a child, anchors have embedded themselves in you, so whether you realize it or not, you've already been practicing the method of anchoring, for better or for worse.


To help you identify some of your anchors, I'm going to share some of my anchors with you and why they work so well for me. Hopefully that will spark some ideas in you as to which stimuli work best for you.


  1. Running - Running gets my blood moving and makes me feel alive. It reminds me that I am a living, movable, being that is capable of facing challenges head-on. Walking gives me a similar, yet slightly more calm, feeling of ambition.

  2. Journaling - Journaling grounds me and reminds me what is real. It calms me down when I'm feeling irritable, and helps me think about the current moment rather than all of the other plans I have to do that day.

  3. My Himalayan Salt Lamp - I don't understand all of the healing properties of these lamps but I do know that when I light mine I begin to feel much calmer and sometimes even sleepy. Whether that is because of the salt lamp or because of some placebo effect I don't know, but I do know that it works as an anchor for me.

Negative Anchors


Remember that example of the person who became depressed when they smelled hazelnut? That's an example of a negative anchor, one that hurts instead of helping. Unfortunately, a lot of anchors are sounds, smells, or situations we can't control. Instead of trying to delete the negative anchor, try replacing it with a positive one instead. I will often journal before entering situations I find stressful. I have also changed the background on my phone to encouraging and relevant verses right before entering a stressful situation and then I refer to it when I'm starting to feel anxious.


One Final Note

You may have noticed in my list of examples that most of my anchors (including the ones I didn't list) are things that you do. Because everyone is different, different types of stimuli effect us differently. I tend to be more positively anchored by things I do, not just things I see or smell, but you may be very different. If you're struggling to find your positive anchors, try journaling for a bit about the things that make you happy. You might discover a common thread among the things you enjoy.


This isn't even Anchoring 101; you could write an entire book on this concept. But, hopefully this is enough to get you started on identifying some of your own anchors and using them to encourage, support, and love yourself! If you have any questions, you can email me at brigetteannehenry@gmail.com.


If you found this article interesting and you want to learn more, consider getting a life coaching! Life coaching help takes you from the place you are now to the place you want to be. While you can take that journey on your own, it is very helpful to have someone go on that journey with you. If you're interested in having me be your life coach, click here to find out more!