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Successful Health Recovery Strategies

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 200 - November 2012

I run Healing Power of the Mind workshops at City Lit London in which learners are encouraged to adopt a positive attitude about their health, and write their own, or adapt other people's successful health recovery strategies to deal with major health events in their lives.

These are brief strategies for achieving a better than average recovery from different forms of health adversity, i.e. My successful stroke recovery strategy, ...,Hip replacement operation recovery,.. Calm strategy for before and after hospital procedures.

Whilst hospital booklets are brilliant at giving accurate and practical outcome summaries, we often recover even more quickly when we also have our own customized recovery strategy which we feel works best for us.


Health Recovey

Strategy For Calm Before Hospital Procedure

A study done in a teaching hospital in England, aimed at reducing the need to give general anaesthetics to patients who had failed to attend for MRI scans because they were claustrophobic, used an NLP anxiety-reducing technique called anchoring.

After using the strategy, 76% of patients (38 out of 50) who had previously failed to attend, successfully underwent scans without general anaesthetics. The results were advantageous in terms of patient safety, costs, no need for the presence of an anaesthetist, and reduction in the number of patients not attending for their procedure.

What is an Anchor?

An anchor is any stimulus that changes your state. It can involve any kind of sensory input, that is something you ‘see’, ‘hear’ ‘smell’ ‘taste’ or ‘touch’ and also your thoughts from past memories. Your state is created by your sensory experiences, your memories and thought processes. Everyday examples of Anchors are: the smell of bacon frying, coffee, Palmolive soap or the sound of a favourite song.

Anchors Change your State

We anchor memories throughout our lives. When we hear a few bars of familiar music and we want to jump up and dance, we have anchored a behavioural response to a sensory stimulus. It can be evoked through any of the senses, a smell, a sight, hearing a snatch of music which creates an association in your senses and gives you a familiar feeling. You may imagine a baby sleeping, its smile, its smell and warmth, and feel protective and loving. An anchor is any stimulus that changes your state.

Anchors fire associations or memories and can put you into a resourceful or unresourceful state. Think of anchors when you want to feel more confident and you to move yourself into a strong resourceful state.

Strong Images with Lots of Sensory Detail are Remembered Best

Build your ability to assemble strong images of positive feelings which you can carry with you as a resource into the next situation in which you feel unsure.

  • You might want Confidence for interviews, or examinations, to manage your state for hospital procedures or operations, before flying on an airplane, or going on a date.

We can learn to use anchoring techniques to put ourselves in a positive state at will.

Rather than be affected by our thinking and the negative spiral of things, we automatically say to ourselves when under pressure, we can choose to manage our state and decide how we will feel in advance.

How to Anchor a Good Feeling

Think about the situation about which you are anxious or nervous. We want to replace the feeling with a more resourceful and positive state that works for you.

List 3 or 4 more resourceful things you would need to feel in the future situation to deal with the unwanted situation more positively. Breathe deeply, and think of a time in the past when you already felt confident and deeply relaxed and you had these confident feelings. Live the experience again:

‘See what you saw’, ‘hear what you heard’, ‘notice what you noticed’ and ‘feel what you felt’.

At the height of the experience when you are feeling really relaxed; anchor that good feeling with a small hand gesture you can link to the event, one that you can easily repeat. Practice running and building your confident images; make the feeling stronger and stronger again. At the peak of each good experience, anchor the good feeling with a small hand gesture.

Now briefly think of having your unwanted procedure, then move out of it quickly. Go back to your really good feelings, press your fingers together to anchor that positive state, then step back into the negative spot bringing associations of all your good feelings with you.

Continue to associate into your positive anchors and build them so that you feel relaxed and happy, the way you want to feel in the future. Practise the anchoring sequence so that you are able to access your relaxed feelings on demand.

Research at University College London has also found that creating positive internal representations is an effective tool for calming emotions

Teach Yourself Self-Motivation.


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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


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