Walking Mindfully With Borderline Personality Disorder

Building mindfulness skills can help with managing BPD

Woman walking on wall in park

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

Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways, including walking meditation (or mindful walking). This active practice is great for newcomers as well as those who prefer a more active form of meditation.

Benefits of Mindful Walking

People with BPD often experience intense emotions and become “stuck” in a cycle of judging the emotions, as well as themselves. Mindfulness meditation helps teach you to recognize these emotions, and then step back and chose your behavior in an appropriate way.

Mindful walking is one way to promote mindfulness skills. Here is a look at a few of its many benefits:

  • It doesn't require a lot of time.
  • It is easy to learn and practice.
  • It helps to reduce stress and anxiety and increase positive emotions.
  • It helps bring you closer to the earth and to nature.
  • It helps you feel connected to your body.
  • It provides the benefits of meditation and exercise.

How to Practice Mindful Walking

Get into comfortable clothing and shoes, and try this simple exercise to promote mindful walking. It's inspired by Thich Nhat Hahn's book, "Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life," which provides examples of how to incorporate mindfulness practice into every day activities.

Set Your Intention

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.

Notice Sensations

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 and feel the ground beneath your feet or shoes.

  • What muscles tense or relax as you move?
  • Where you are stepping?
  • What is the quality of each step?
  • What is the intensity of your motions?

Notice Your Surroundings

As you walk, what do you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel? 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.

  • How does the air feel on your skin?
  • What do you notice around you?
  • 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?

There is no need to judge these internal experiences as good or bad; practice just noticing them for what they are.

Congratulate Yourself

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, 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. 

A Word From Verywell

Keep in mind that, as with other types of mindfulness meditation, it may take some time to see the benefits. With regular practice, mindful walking can help soothe your emotions so you can better manage your BPD symptoms.

If you or a loved one are struggling with borderline personality disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. May JM, Richardi TM, Barth KS. Dialectical behavior therapy as treatment for borderline personality disorderMent Health Clin. 2016;6(2):62-67. doi:10.9740/mhc.2016.03.62

  2. Hanh TN. Peace is Every Step, The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Bantam; 1992.

By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD
 Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University.