Borderline Personality Disorder and Walking Mindfully

Mindful Walking and Building Mindfulness Skills Can Important Tools with BPD

Walk in the Park
Walk in the Park. Mario Tama / Staff / Getty Images

We know that mindfulness can be a powerful tool to reduce symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD). In fact, mindfulness is a core component of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), one of the most effective treatments therapies for BPD.

Mindful walking is one way to promote mindfulness skills without having to make time for formal practice or requiring a high level of athleticism or fitness.

Try this simple exercise to promote mindful walking, inspired by Thich Nhat Hahn's book Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, which provides lots of examples of ways to incorporate mindfulness practice into activities you already engage in every day:

  1. First, set your intention to walk mindfully. Take a few deep breaths, and just acknowledge that during your walk you will try to be aware of your environment and your internal state, including your thoughts, feelings and sensations. There are no set rules for this walk and it can be done in any location. Whether it's at a local park or just around your neighborhood, you can practice mindful walking anywhere. 
  2. As you begin to walk, first notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground to help get you focused and centered. Notice the process of moving your legs. What muscles tense or relax as you move? Notice where you are stepping, the quality of each step, the intensity of your motions and the feel of the ground beneath your feet or shoes.
  1. Expand your awareness to notice your surroundings. As you walk, what do you see, smell, hear, taste and feel? How does the air feel on your skin? What do you notice around you? Think about what you see, hear and smell as you walk. 
  2. Try to remain aware of the sensation of walking and the external environment while you also become aware of your internal experiences, such as your thoughts, feelings and emotions.

    What thoughts cross your mind as you walk? What emotion or emotions are there right now? Are they intense or mild? Are these internal experiences pulling you in or can you observe them with a little bit of distance? No need to judge these internal experiences as good or bad; practice just noticing them for what they are.

  1. As you complete your walk, congratulate yourself for your intention to practice mindful walking, no matter how many times your mind was pulled away from the walk or how "well" you thought your practice went today. Just notice that the intention to be mindful is the key to practice, and pat yourself on the back. 

If at any point during your walk you notice your mind wandering to the past or the future or being pulled away from the walk, just gently acknowledge that your mind has wandered and bring yourself back to the present moment. Remember that being pulled away and coming back is the key to mindfulness practice. No one has perfect focus all the time. 

With regular practice, mindful walking can help sooth your emotions. As you establish your routine, you may find that your walks help manage your symptoms.

Continue Reading