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Stronger Bonds

Setting healthy boundaries to create a happier life

A young woman smiles and sits on a chair.
Martine Foreman
Martine Foreman November, 01, 2019

Book-lover, mom, kickboxer, motivator, dreamer 

Quality time with people you love is incredibly important. Those hours spent laughing and bonding can often be what leaves you feeling refreshed and reenergized as you move forward in life. It's also how you strengthen the relationships that are the most vital to you.

But sometimes, figuring out how to balance social time with your other interests requires setting boundaries.

Easier said than done, right? We totally get it — but it's worth the effort!

Setting boundaries is one of the best ways to form healthy relationships without losing out on everything else that keeps you smiling, like self-care. Wondering how to actually make it happen? Here a few tips to help get you started.

Trust your gut (it often knows best)

Setting healthy boundaries is rooted in your ability to identify how different experiences make you feel, and being able to trust those feelings. It's about listening to that little voice inside that tells you what you should avoid and what's worth chasing.

Some people call this intuition. Others call it a gut feeling. However you describe it, there's no denying that connecting with your deepest thoughts and feelings is an important step in establishing healthy boundaries! Agreeing to things you don't enjoy can leave you feeling depleted, so trust your gut when it tells you something's off.

Two female friends talking at a coffee shopSurround yourself with people who get you

When you set out to do something challenging, having the right people in your corner makes a huge difference. If you feel conflicted — or maybe even guilty — about saying "no" to something, don't hesitate to reach out for a little support!

A solid support system is there to remind you that saying "no" is absolutely OK to do. These are the people who know how awesome you feel when boundaries are set and understand how taxing it can be to agree to things you're not interested in.

Your supporters can even help encourage you to confidently address boundary violations when they occur. With the right support system in place, setting boundaries can become something completely effortless.

Kindly (but firmly) help others understand your preferences

Contrary to what some may say, honesty doesn't have to be brutal. It is possible to say "no" and still come from a place of kindness and love!

If you're not up to going to a major get-together with your friends, explain to the host why you can't make it. Then, follow up by encouraging them to invite you to something else in the future. If you're setting boundaries with someone that you're not totally comfortable with yet, explain to them that you're not trying to put them off, and that saying "no" occasionally helps you feel happier.

Now, of course, setting boundaries with kindness doesn't mean it will always be received that way. But it does mean that you can feel good about how you delivered the message. Remember to always be honest and humble — it can go a long way with others!

Create space for yourself by letting loved ones know your boundaries

Although setting boundaries with colleagues and neighbors is typically most important to people, don't forget to also set them with the people you love most. It's OK to tell your kids that you don't want to talk while you're in the shower because that's your quiet time. It's OK to tell your best friend that you can't attend an event with them because it takes place during a time you've already set aside for something else. And it's OK to set boundaries without providing a long explanation! As long as you're coming from a place of love and positivity, your friends and family should be understanding.

So, go ahead, get in touch with what you want and need. Kindly say "no" with purpose. Remember that relationships thrive when you're honest with others and yourself. Get comfortable with the fact that no matter how kind you are, some people won't appreciate it (but understand that's really about them, not you).

Never feel guilty about saying "no" to something you don't want to do. At the end of the day, being conscious of your time and feelings gives you the freedom to say "yes" to the things that truly matter to you! You don't need to put up walls to make time for the things in life that bring you joy — just to draw a line in the sand.

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