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February 27, 2024

18 Setting Boundaries Exercises to Try at Your Own Pace

Kristie Plantinga
group of people sit together in discussion; setting boundaries examples
February 27, 2024
5 min to read
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Setting healthy boundaries in our relationships and lives can be challenging in 2024, especially if you tend to put others' needs before your own. 

You may feel guilty saying "no" or struggle to identify where your needs end and another's begins. Please know that you are not alone. Many caring, empathetic people struggle with boundary setting. 

The exercises in this article are designed to help you reflect on your boundaries in a self-compassionate way, at your own pace. Progress takes patience and practice. Listen to your inner voice and tune into your emotions and needs. 

You deserve to have your feelings and wellbeing respected. With small steps, you can gain clarity and confidence in expressing your limits without self-judgment. Wherever you are in your process, it's courageous to prioritize your growth. You and your boundaries matter.

Exercises to Do Alone

Easy Difficulty

Self-Reflection Journaling

  • What it is: Set aside time to journal about your personal boundaries, reflecting on past experiences and identifying areas where you need to set or reinforce boundaries.
  • How to do it: Write freely about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to boundaries. Consider questions like, "What situations make me feel uncomfortable?" or "Where do I feel my boundaries are being violated?"
  • Time needed: 15-30 minutes of journaling each day for a week.

Visualization Exercise

  • What it is: Visualize yourself confidently asserting your boundaries in different scenarios.
  • How to do it: Find a quiet space, close your eyes, and imagine yourself in situations where you need to set boundaries. Picture yourself calmly and assertively expressing your needs.
  • Time needed: 10-15 minutes each day.

Boundary-Setting Checklist

  • What it is: Create a checklist of common boundary-setting scenarios and your preferred responses.
  • How to do it: List common situations where you may need to set boundaries (e.g., at work, with family, with friends). Next to each scenario, write down a brief description of how you would like to respond assertively. Review and update the checklist regularly.
  • Time needed: 10-15 minutes to create your boundary-setting checklist. Refer to it whenever you encounter similar situations.

Medium Difficulty

Role-Playing Scenarios

  • What it is: Act out boundary-setting scenarios alone, playing both your own role and that of the other person.
  • How to do it: Choose scenarios that challenge your ability to assert boundaries effectively. Practice different responses and observe how they make you feel.
  • Time needed: Spend 20-30 minutes role-playing scenarios like saying no to extra work or setting limits with friends.

Boundary-Setting Affirmations

  • What it is: Create affirmations that reinforce your ability to set and maintain boundaries.
  • How to do it: Write down positive statements that affirm your right to set boundaries and prioritize self-care. Repeat these affirmations daily.
  • Example: Repeat affirmations such as "My boundaries are valid and deserve respect" or "I am confident in asserting my needs" for 5-10 minutes each morning. Check out our list of people pleasing affirmations for inspiration!

Progressive Exposure to Boundary Challenges

  • What it is: Gradually expose yourself to increasingly challenging boundary-setting situations.
  • How to do it: Start with relatively easy scenarios where setting boundaries feels more manageable, then gradually expose yourself to more difficult situations as you become more confident. Keep a journal to track your progress and reflect on your experiences.
  • Time needed: 15-30 minutes each day.

Hard Difficulty

Boundary-Setting Challenges

  • What it is: Challenge yourself to set and enforce boundaries in real-life situations that make you uncomfortable.
  • How to do it: Identify specific boundaries you want to work on and deliberately put yourself in situations where you can practice asserting them.
  • Example: Commit to saying no to one request that goes against your boundaries each day for a week.

Boundary-Setting Visualization Meditation

  • What it is: Engage in a guided meditation focused on visualizing and affirming your boundaries.
  • How to do it: Find a guided meditation or create your own script that guides you through visualizing yourself setting and maintaining boundaries in various scenarios.
  • Time needed: Dedicate 20-30 minutes to this meditation practice several times a week.

Boundary-Setting Visualization and Action Plan

  • What it is: Combine visualization with concrete action planning to reinforce boundary-setting skills.
  • How to do it: Visualize yourself successfully setting and maintaining boundaries in various challenging scenarios. Then, create a specific action plan with actionable steps to implement these boundaries in real life. Set deadlines and accountability measures to ensure follow-through.
  • Example: Spend 30-60 minutes visualizing and creating an action plan for a particularly difficult boundary-setting situation you anticipate encountering. Break down the steps into manageable tasks and commit to completing them over a designated period.

Exercises to Try With Others

Easy Difficulty

Clear Communication Practice

  • What it is: Practice clear and direct communication with a trusted friend or family member.
  • How to do it: Choose a simple topic or situation where you can practice expressing your needs or preferences clearly and assertively. Ask the other person to role-play with you and provide feedback.
  • Example: Practice asking for what you want in a restaurant (e.g., requesting a specific table or speaking up if you have dietary restrictions) with a friend. Spend 10-15 minutes on this exercise.

Role-Playing Scenarios

  • What it is: Act out boundary-setting scenarios with a partner, taking turns playing both roles.
  • How to do it: Choose scenarios that challenge your ability to assert boundaries effectively. Practice different responses and provide constructive feedback to each other.
  • Example: Role-play scenarios like saying no to extra work or setting limits with friends. Spend 20-30 minutes practicing with your partner.

Setting Boundaries in Group Settings

  • What it is: Practice setting boundaries in group settings, such as in a meeting or social gathering.
  • How to do it: Identify a specific boundary you want to work on (e.g., speaking up when you feel overwhelmed or saying no to additional tasks). Role-play scenarios with a small group of friends or colleagues, taking turns asserting boundaries and receiving feedback.
  • Example: Role-play a scenario where you need to decline an invitation to a social event because you're feeling overcommitted. Spend 20-30 minutes practicing different approaches with your group.

Medium Difficulty

Boundary-Setting Workshop

  • What it is: Host or participate in a boundary-setting workshop with a group of friends or colleagues.
  • How to do it: Plan a structured workshop where participants can learn about boundary-setting techniques, share experiences, and practice assertiveness skills through role-playing and group discussions.
  • Example: Organize a 1-2 hour workshop where participants take turns sharing personal boundary-setting challenges and receive support and feedback from the group.

Conflict Resolution Training

  • What it is: Attend a conflict resolution training session or workshop with a partner or group.
  • How to do it: Find a local training program or online course focused on conflict resolution and communication skills. Participate in interactive exercises and discussions with your partner or group to practice setting boundaries and resolving conflicts effectively.
  • Example: Enroll in a weekend workshop on conflict resolution and attend together with a friend or family member. Spend 4-6 hours participating in various exercises and discussions.

Group Boundary-Setting Challenge

  • What it is: Collaborate with a group to set and enforce boundaries in a shared environment or relationship.
  • How to do it: Identify a specific boundary-related goal or challenge that the group wants to address together. Develop a plan of action, set clear boundaries and consequences, and support each other in implementing and maintaining these boundaries.
  • Example: Form a support group with friends or colleagues who are all working on improving their boundary-setting skills. Meet regularly to discuss progress, share insights, and hold each other accountable.

Hard Difficulty

Confronting Boundary Violations

  • What it is: Confront someone who has crossed one of your boundaries in the past.
  • How to do it: Choose a past incident where someone violated your boundaries and prepare what you want to say. Schedule a meeting or conversation with the person, clearly express how their actions affected you, and assert your boundaries going forward.
  • Time needed: This conversation could take 30-60 minutes or longer, depending on the depth of the discussion.

Boundary-Setting Intervention

  • What it is: Stage an intervention with the support of friends or family members to address boundary violations in a close relationship.
  • How to do it: Plan and coordinate an intervention where multiple people confront the individual who has been crossing boundaries. Prepare statements expressing concern for their well-being and the impact of their behavior, and outline clear expectations for change.
  • Example: Organize an intervention for a family member who has a history of disregarding boundaries, such as constantly borrowing money without repayment. Gather a group of concerned family members to express their feelings and set clear boundaries for future interactions.

Group Therapy for Boundary-Setting

  • What it is: Participate in group therapy focused on boundary-setting skills and interpersonal relationships.
  • How to do it: Find a therapist or counseling group that offers sessions specifically geared toward developing healthy boundaries. Attend regular group sessions where you can share experiences, receive support from others facing similar challenges, and practice assertiveness skills in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Potential time needed: 1 month+

These exercises offer opportunities to practice setting boundaries with others in various settings and relationships, ranging from casual role-playing with friends to more structured interventions and therapy sessions. 

Choose exercises that align with your goals and comfort level, and don't hesitate to seek support from trusted individuals or professionals as needed.

Final Thoughts

Setting boundaries may seem like a daunting task, but remember, it’s a journey, not a destination. It’s okay to find it challenging, and it’s okay to stumble along the way. 

The important thing is that you’re taking steps towards a healthier, more balanced life. These 18 exercises are your companions on this journey, designed to guide you, challenge you, and most importantly, help you grow. 

So, take a deep breath, believe in yourself, and embrace the journey. You have the strength to set boundaries and the power to uphold them. Remember, every step you take is a step towards a happier, healthier you. You can do this!

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Written by
Kristie Plantinga

Kristie Plantinga is the founder of Best Therapists. Along with being on the client-side of therapy, Kristie has had the honor of working directly with therapists in her marketing agency for therapists, TherapieSEO. While working alongside therapists, she learned about the inequities in our mental health system that therapists face on a daily basis, and she wanted to do something about it. That’s why Best Therapists is a platform designed to benefit not only therapy-seekers, but therapy providers. Kristie has a Masters degree in Written Communication and a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Music.

Reviewed by
Katelyn McMahon
Registered Psychotherapist, VT #097.0134200

Katelyn is a therapist-turned-writer with a passion for mental health. She has a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of England and is a Registered Psychotherapist in the state of Vermont. Katelyn has professional experience in aging care, addiction treatment, integrated health care, and private practice settings. She also has lived experience being on the client side of therapy. Currently, Katelyn is a content writer who’s passionate about spreading mental health awareness and helping other therapists and therapy-seekers Do The Work.

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