The Key To Happiness: Setting Boundaries


Setting good personal boundaries helps to achieve increasing returns for your mental health.

When it comes to situational and relationship oriented anxiety or depression, one of the main causes is the lack of clear, healthy, and assertive boundaries.  When we say “assertive,” we don’t mean being a jerk or using anger as a way of communication, but simply saying, “when you do this _____, I’m going to do this _____ in order to protect my boundaries so that your behavior doesn’t turn into something negative for me.”  It’s appropriate for one person’s negative behavior to affect them negatively.  It’s not appropriate for one person’s negative behavior to affect them positively while turning into a negative for another person.  

No one has a perfect sense of personal boundaries and we’re all working on it.  Whether it’s family, friends, or professional life, boundaries are the key to happiness.  There’s a lot of talk about happiness and how to be happy these days, and it’s all directly or indirectly connected with lowering co-dependency in your life and dealing appropriately with expectations of self and others.  All of these things can be summed up in one word: boundaries.

Boundaries are simply a way of saying what you are responsible for and what someone else is responsible for.  You are responsible for your own actions, feelings, and reactions towards someone else.  Likewise, someone else is responsible for their behaviors and their own feelings.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider anyone else’s feelings and that you shouldn’t care about what they think.  Having balanced, healthy relationships involves compassion and thinking of the other person before yourself.  However, if the overriding thing is putting someone else first to the extent that you see yourself as “unimportant” and do not practice any self-care at all, then your internal boundaries might need a little adjustment.

Survey For Personal Boundaries

  • When was the last time you stood up for yourself or someone else for something you believed in?
  • When was the last time you said, “no” when someone asked you to do something that you really didn’t want to do?
  • When was the last time you took ownership for your own behaviors and feelings and how they affected someone else?
  • When was the last time you told someone that if they did/ didn’t do “x” that you would respond by adjusting your boundaries so that you didn’t feel the results of their behaviors as much?

Saying “Yes” Vs. Saying “No.”

Setting boundaries is not easy.  It can be messy…extremely messy!  However, it can be more messy down the road to suffer the result of poor boundaries.  It’s important to practice setting boundaries with loved ones, friends, and family before stepping it up in other situations such as work, where there might be more pressure to say “yes” when you want to say “no.”  Having someone else respect your “no,” is one of the most important and one of the most overlooked parts of self-respect.

It’s also important to remember that individuals who suffer from mental illness can have a difficult time figuring out their own boundaries.  Believe it or not, some people who suffer from mental illness may not even know their own protected civil rights, much less having any healthy notion of what boundaries they should set.  As advocates for people with mental illness, we want to stand up and say that this is not acceptable.  We also want to advocate for everyone in this nation to work on their own personal boundaries–and this includes ourselves as mental health practitioners.  We’re not perfect, but we are always trying to grow and improve, both personally and professionally.

As someone once said, “the only time you stop growing is when you die.”  If you’re reading this, take up the challenge to advocate for yourself and others through setting more healthy boundaries.  It’s something that we can all work on in order to improve our own mental health and well-being.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.  If you know a loved one or friend who suffers from mental illness, let them know that you want to be their ally in recovery to live a healthy and productive life and that you want to help advocate for them to do so.  We really are all in it together– we believe– because we’re all part of one big community.  If you or a loved one is experiencing anxiety, depression, PTSD, or any other mental health concern, please give us a call today.  We have two great locations for mental health care, at Covington and at Baton Rouge.  We want to be in your corner as partners cheering you towards a healthier and happier life.