From refusing to take on more than you can handle when a friend asks for help to blocking exes on social media, setting healthy boundaries is the secret to a happy life, according to pop-therapy Twitter.
The internet has a knack for turning useful phrases – most often used in therapy – into nails-on-the-chalkboard sounding buzzwords (think: burnout, mindfulness).
There comes a point, usually after the 30th tweet in 24 hours, when these words are rendered almost meaningless.
And, unfortunately, that’s where the word boundaries is heading.
But before they were engulfed and regurgitated by well-meaning people on the internet, these buzzwords were a genuine part of the secret recipe to healthy lives and relationships – and the truth is, they still are.
‘People talk about boundaries in pretty much the same broad terms they talk about mindfulness. It sounds like something but no one’s very sure what it means,’ Sally Barker, senior therapist at Working on the Body, tells Metro.co.uk.
So what does it actually mean to have boundaries?
According to Sally, ‘having boundaries is simply having the ability to say “no” to things you feel obliged to do but would prefer not to do.’
It’s also about knowing when to say “yes” to the things you do want to do, or more importantly, need to do.
‘Women, in particular, find it difficult to say “no” to other people’s requests as they are encouraged in most families to be compliant,’ Sally adds.
‘Practising saying “no” is a revolutionary act that takes some practice.’
Sounds simple – but how do we implement boundaries into our everyday lives? Saying ‘no’ can be difficult, especially when it feels like someone else’s emotions are on the line.
When a friend needs help but you can barely make a start to your own to-do list, how do you navigate turning them down without hurting their feelings?
‘When you’re asked to do something you’re not sure about, you need to check in with yourself first instead of just agreeing as a knee-jerk reaction,’ Sally says.
‘Take a breath and pause. What’s the hunch you feel about this?
‘Hunches or gut feelings come from your intuition and your intuition always has your higher good in mind and will help you decide if this is something you are authentically happy to do or just feel obliged to do.
‘If your hunch says no then use the stuck record technique to make sure you don’t get pressured to do things you don’t want to do.’
The ‘stuck record’ technique
The ‘stuck record’ technique involves repeating a short phrase every time you want to say ‘no’ to something. The phrase should be simple, without going into any detail or explanation about why you’re declining.
‘Use your own words but something along the lines of “Oh that sounds lovely but no thanks at the moment,”’ Sally says. ‘With this approach, you don’t explain yourself or expand upon the short phrase and, eventually, you will be heard and your ”no” will be acknowledged.’
She adds: ‘Start small. Your “no” is like a muscle: the more you use it the stronger it gets.
‘Imagine only choosing to do the things you want to do and being led by your intuition. It could be life-changing.’
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