How to Set Mindful Boundaries
Oftentimes we find ourselves struggling to set boundaries – sometimes it’s difficult to simply say “no” when we are already at our physical or emotional capacity. You can think of a boundary as an imaginary line that separates you from the other people in your life.
Boundaries are a way of protecting your own mental, emotional, and physical space. Overly rigid boundaries prevent you from getting close to people, while overly permeable boundaries may result in feeling overwhelmed by the needs and influences of others. Healthy boundaries allow you to engage with the world in an open, curious, receptive way.
Without boundaries, it’s easy to feel rundown and resentful. Here are some signs that you aren’t holding healthy boundaries:
- You are often exhausted, even after a good night’s sleep.
- The term “self-care” makes you laugh out loud.
- Your sympathetic nervous system is activated, so you frequently experience anxiety and tension even when you’re not in a stressful situation.
- Negative thought patterns dominate your psyche. You feel like a victim, while others are to blame.
- You feel other people’s emotions very strongly (and often lose touch with your own). This is called “emotional contagion.”
- You find it hard to connect with your center, detect your own needs, or even figure out what you want for lunch.
Healthy boundaries are similar to self-care in that while they seem to be all about you, the practices actually benefit the people around you as well. Just like mindfulness can be an integral part of your self-care routine, mindfulness can also can play a supportive role in your quest to improve your energy levels through effective boundary-setting.
Mindfulness is all about awareness of what’s going on inside you and around you. This awareness allows you to determine what’s healthy for you. Mindfulness is also a centering practice – it trains your brain to come back again and again to the present moment. From this center, you can effectively set boundaries to protect your health. Finally, mindfulness invites you to tune into your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. This awareness can give you insight into which engagements and relationships support your boundaries and which ones undermine them.
Are you ready to set better boundaries to boost your energy and prioritize what really matters to you? Try out these mindfulness-inspired tips for living with healthy boundaries:
- Have a Regular Centering Practice –Taking a few minutes every day to be with yourself – whether through meditation, prayer, mindful movement, or quiet time – will help you improve your self-awareness and set more effective boundaries.
- Schedule Recovery Time on Your Calendar – Have you ever looked at your calendar, saw empty space, and said “yes” to engagements that were right on top of each other? Packing in activity after activity can often prove unmanageable in the moment. Schedule time for yourself, even if it’s one night a week to “do nothing” or practice self-care.
- Start with “Maybe” – When someone asks you to commit to something, start with a “maybe.” Then take some time to check in with how you feel about the request and compare it to your calendar. During this consideration, focus on the long-term – will this person or commitment matter to you in one month or one year? This practice removes the people-pleasing urge to say yes in the moment. It also means that when you are later able to say “Yes,” the recipient will be that much more grateful for your commitment.
- Practice Saying Goodbye – One of the best skills you can finetune is the ability to say “goodbye” with grace. Instead of inventing stories about other commitments, you can simply say, “Thank you for sharing. It’s always great to hear your voice. I have to go now, and I look forward to connecting again soon.” Practicing different variations of this for phone, text, and in-person conversations can be extremely helpful.
- Be Direct and Specific – When someone crosses a boundary, or you need to set a boundary for the first time, it’s important to speak up in a firm and straightforward way. Remember that your speaking up is doing both of you a service and setting your relationship up for success and effectiveness in the future. If you’re comfortable, you can tell them in the moment. If you need more time to process, try journaling or talking about what happened and gathering your thoughts first. Once you can articulate your needs, voice them in a kind and succinct way.
- Let Go of the Outcome – This is one of the most important and yet one of the hardest aspects of setting boundaries. Setting a healthy boundary means you know you might hurt the person’s feelings. Remember that the boundary is for your wellbeing. Even if the recipient is offended at first, typically they will come around after being given time to process.
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. ― Brené Brown
As Chief Mindfulness Officer of Mastermind Meditation, Dorsey Standish brings research-backed mindfulness and mindful movement to clients throughout the state of Texas. A lifelong learner and scientist, Dorsey has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and is enrolled in the UT Dallas Applied Cognition and Neuroscience Master’s Program. After mindfulness transformed her own work, health and relationships, Dorsey left her corporate role at Texas Instruments to share the power of mindfulness with others full-time. Dorsey’s teachings combine neuroscience research with her experiences in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and multiple weekend and 10-day silent meditation retreats. Join Dorsey for one of Mastermind’s upcoming applied mindfulness programs at mastermindmeditate.com/programs.