The Importance of Anchor Points

Greeting my friends. Happy winter, and boy did I get a new taste of it this past month with a time upstate New York! It’s always so interesting coming back to the blog after trying something new, like the stillness practice and morning yoga I talked about in my December blog post. While I was not as successful as I would have liked with the actual practice, it was on my mind every day since I now was making a conscious choice not to do it (for whatever reason I was coming up with that day). That’s the beauty of setting habit intentions. You can learn a lot from failure if you move the ego and negative self-talk aside, which is precisely what I did.

First, because I set the intention of stillness, I made sure to capture moments in it throughout the day, especially when I bypassed it in the morning, so that was a nice win. Second, by even having any type of stillness practice at all, I recognized how much better I felt on the days I allowed some quiet into my life (and a motivating factor to continue trying). Third, I realized that I had unmoored myself in more ways than one from the people, places, and things that enabled me to be the healthy, happy, focused, and incredibly determined person I know myself to be. These people, places, and things are called anchor points.

I was first introduced to the concept of anchor points by the exceptional psychotherapist and psychiatrist Dr. Wei Wang back in 2011. After many years, I had just been re-diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put my somewhat fabulous albeit very messy life back together. I’ll couch the word fabulous to mean being in the best shape of my life and loving my job as a personal trainer in an elite NYC gym, against the reality of intense mood swings and struggling to make a living. I was so fortunate that Dr. Wang was available for psychotherapy and not just medication management (a rarity in psychiatry), which proved instrumental in my exceptional recovery. The concept of anchor points is just one of many therapy gems she taught me throughout the years.

What exactly are anchor points?

Anchor points are the various things in your life that keep you grounded, happy, satisfied, joyful, and content, to name a few good adjectives. Some anchor points are more universal, like having a robust social network, supportive family and friends, and healthy habits. Others are entirely unique to you, just like your fingerprint. They can be things like your favorite hobbies, your career, how you like to spend time relaxing, what you find energizing, what you’re curious about, and more. I noticed just how important these are in my recent part-time move upstate. I unmoored myself from my five-day-a-week workout routine and clean eating plan, practicing stillness and yoga, artmaking and checking in with family and friends. And I just did it again last week while back in NJ!

While it may be novel to not cook for a week or do the dishes, guess what? I spent too much time on digital devices, inert, feeling lethargic, and way too envious of the Olympic athletes I was staying up way too late to watch. I even came down with a second cold in two weeks. Interestingly, both colds were not covid-related and evidenced a self-inflicted weakened immune system indicative of less-than-stellar healthy eating, exercise, and sleep habits.

Mooring your ship

These past six weeks have been quite illuminating, and I am grateful I love to do this type of self-reflective work. For me, anchor points are the foundation of lasting behavior change because they have an incredible sense of comfort and of coming home. For example, if I start feeling too revved-up, unfocused and flighty, or not revved enough, and find myself unmotivated and lethargic, I can see the list below and see where I might have set myself adrift. Below are my most cherished anchor points:

Daily:

  • Being impeccable with taking my daily medication and vitamins
  • Going to be early and waking early with no alarm
  • Practicing stillness such as meditation, mindfulness, kundalini, and pranayama
  • Clean eating and steering clear of alcohol
  • Moving my body in free-flow (like a fun conscious dance in my living room)
  • Listening to music for pleasure and performance art inspiration

Weekly:

  • Exercising in a variety of ways – yoga, weight-training and cardio
  • Cooking (especially more plant-based meals)
  • Relaxing with a massage, yin yoga, yoga Nidra, or a nap
  • Carving out time for my hobbies (sewing and aromatherapy)
  • Socializing and catching up with family and friends
  • Art-making, training, and rehearsing
  • Blogging, writing, and journaling
  • New! Sunday schedule to map out my week and set goals around them

OK, now that I’ve identified these (and these are not new revelations), I am going back to December’s mention of tiny habits and starting small. I am a fan of saying “it all counts” when it comes to well-being, and it’s all about balance. Seeking my daily and weekly list helps me get realistic about many hours there are in a day to fit this all in. But grounding myself in this reality helps me not overachieve when making behavior change goals. However, what’s most important about writing out this list, is knowing what keeps me grounded when out of a routine, too, just like during my recent move.

Your turn

It’s your turn to write down your unique anchor points. Don’t worry about attaching any goals around them. Just bask in the delight that you have this wonderful tool available at your fingertips to maintain a healthy and happy life. Please share them with me! 

Photo by Manuel Keusch from Pexels

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