What Is Mindful Dating?

Mindful dating means taking things slowly.

 Getty / CourtneyK

Mindfulness can be defined as the deliberate act of fostering greater attention and awareness of present moment. 

Mindfulness originated from Eastern, Buddhist, and Hindu philosophies and practices dated between 2300BC and 1500BC. The concept of mindfulness has been embraced by the Western self-help movement and it has been utilized to support and help manage many issues from anxiety to eating disorders.

It can also be applied to many different activities and facets of life, including dating.

What Is Mindful Dating?

In the context of dating, mindfulness refers to approaching dating in a conscious and proactive manner. It involves:

  • Having a sense of what you are looking for and a sense of yourself
  • Setting boundaries and practicing the acceptance of difficult feelings and rejection
  • Sharing thoughts, feelings, and needs with honesty and care

Many people engage in the opposite of mindful dating. They might log on to dating apps and scroll mindlessly. They complain about not being able to meet people but ignore good opportunities to do so. Or, they move through dating on autopilot without stopping to have a real conversation and listening to a person to learn more about them.

How to Date Mindfully

So what can you do to practice mindful dating? There are plenty of strategies that can help you become more mindful during your dating experience.

Set a Goal

What are you hoping to be the outcome of your dating experience? Being specific about what you are looking for will help you to be more conscious and proactive in your dating life.

If you're looking for a long-term relationship, you might not want to engage with some dating apps that target more casual users. By the same token, if you do want to date casually, going on a date with someone who wants to get married and have kids as soon as possible is not the best idea.

If you are unsure of what you are seeking, dating mindfully with awareness about how you feel as you are experiencing it can help you better discern between what you like and what you don't like, and what you want and what you don't want, for greater clarity.

Curate Prospects

Be mindful about how you find your dating prospects. Instead of looking absolutely everywhere and accepting everyone and everything, be more intentional about curating your prospects based on how well they align with your values and goals.

Often, meeting someone through mutual friends can be the most successful method because you can find out more about the person beforehand. If the usual suspects in your dating scene are not working out, you might need to branch out and start spending time in places that reflect you.

For instance, if you love going to the library, this might be a place you could meet someone with common interests. Or, if you love food, perhaps a specialty grocery store or food festival would be a place you could meet someone compatible.

Use Technology

In this day and age, you would be remiss not to include technology in your dating arsenal. There are several options specifically geared toward being more mindful when dating.

For instance, eHarmony uses comprehensive questions to match you with an ideal date. The less well-known site Sapio helps to connect you with a match by showing you answers to open-ended questions from a potential partner.

Most dating apps will also send you your best matches each day so that you don't have to waste time hunting them down. Not having to mindlessly scroll through a dating app means more time to focus on what's important.

Be a Good Listener

How often have you been on a date and noticed the other person wasn't paying attention to what you were saying? Try to practice being an active listener on dates. Being mindful in this way will help both you and your date.

Your date will feel appreciated and that you are interested. This way you will also get a better sense as to whether you are a good match. Ask lots of questions, seek clarification when you aren't sure about something, and avoid becoming distracted (by your phone and other things).

Set Boundaries

Part of mindful dating also involves setting boundaries for yourself. If you don't have boundaries, you won't have a framework from which to decide whether someone is right for you or not.

By the same token, be mindful in determining and setting boundaries for yourself. A mindful boundary you may set that works for you is not to get intimate too quickly (emotionally or physically), or you may find yourself attached to someone before you know them well enough to decide if they are a match.

A different mindful boundary may be to allow things to unfold naturally at whatever pace they may, while being aware of how you feel and staying present in each moment to notice what works for you and what doesn't. On a first date, be curious about what rises in discussion and how you feel about what is being shared and what you feel moved to share in kind.

If someone repeatedly pushes through your boundaries, let them know that it's not working out. 

Obstacles to Mindful Dating

There are also a number of things that you should try to avoid as you work on dating more mindfully. The next time you find yourself engaging in one of the following behaviors, consider how you could turn the situation around and approach it from a more mindful perspective.


When you are on a date, it's important to be mindful about how you are experiencing yourself and your date, and how they may be experiencing their time with you. If you have been feeling burned out or have been dating unsuccessfully for a while, it can be easy to slide into negative thinking and negativity bias, which can come across as being a negative person.

If you are mindful in noticing your burnout and negativity, this may be a sign to end the date early or take a break from dating. If you are not feeling warm, open, or happy, it would not be mindful to force it, but if you are able to shift your thoughts, presence, and emotions mindfully, then you can practice keeping an open mind and heart for connection. Practice mindfulness in noticing different qualities about your date and how you feel during your time together.


Notice if you or your date are complaining frequently about people, places, or things. Be mindful of what you are noticing, how you are expressing it, and how this may come across. What is happening in the moment and is it what you would like to continue to do? For example, are you practicing presence and expressing curiosity about the person you are with, or are you finding yourself complaining about an ex?

Treat each date with respect, courtesy, consideration, and care. Unless your date does something terribly wrong or offensive that you need to address, be mindful about how and what you are communicating.

Taking Rejection Personally

It happens. There will be dates where you don't hear anything back or the person doesn't want to go out again. By responding to rejection mindfully, you can experience and process the emotions that arise without taking the rejection personally or making it a character flaw about yourself. Sometimes people will not be compatible, get along, or like you, and that may will hurt. Allow yourself to feel what you feel with mindfulness and without getting stuck in a story or negative meaning-making and the feelings will shift in time.

Not everyone will be a good match and you and your date each have a right to feel what they feel and to choose what they choose. While rejection never feels good, if you can avoid taking it personally, you can view it as a stepping stone to someone who is actually a good match for you. Not everyone is meant for everyone, and by letting go of someone who is not the right fit, you can make space for someone who may be.

It's okay to feel guilty or sad about having to reject or tell someone that the connection you felt with them is not what you are looking for. It is okay to feel sad about potentially hurting someone's feelings, and it is also the most in integrity and honoring of you and of them to be honest and kind with your truth.

Not everyone will be a match, and that may hurt and feel disappointing, but ultimately sharing your truth is best for all as you would not want to be with someone who doesn't joyfully choose you and vice versa.

Moving On Without Reflecting

It's easy to coast through dating without stopping to consider why things went right or wrong with each date. Take some time for reflection. It may be helpful to ask yourself reflection questions after a date (you could even write down your answers in a journal):

  • Were you being mindful of your values, goals, and feelings during the date?
  • How did you communicate and how was it received?
  • How did you feel about what your date shared and how they shared it?
  • What did you notice about any triggers that may have arisen?
  • Did you set boundaries and if so, were they honored?
  • Were you present, attentive, and listening?
  • Did you sense a connection and feel interest?
  • Was the other person present with and respectful of you?

Be Mindful Together

When you do meet someone you like, practice being mindful together. Find ways to spend time together in a way that helps build a positive, meaningful relationship.

  • Explore activities that you both enjoy sharing together.
  • Go to a meditation retreat.
  • Go on a mindful vacation where you have time, space, intention, and presence to be aware of your surroundings, experiences, and each other.
  • Focus on each other and make time to be fully present when you are spending time together.
  • Engage in giving and receiving caring and intentional behaviors that make each of you feel loved and supported such as holding hands, words of affirmation, acts of service, and spending quality time together.

If you carry mindfulness from your dating life to your relationship, the odds of being satisfied with each other will be higher. Research suggests that being mindfully attuned to your partner can actually promote a stronger sense of self along with increased relationship satisfaction.

A Word From Verywell

By dating mindfully, you will have the opportunity to learn more about yourself and others and grow in your exploration and through your experiences. You are invited to embrace and to be curious about yourself and others in the journey of dating rather than fighting against it or upholding rigid expectations and deadlines.

Keep discovering more of yourself through the journey of dating by practicing mindfulness about how you feel, what you are noticing, and what works and what doesn't work for you. Approaching dating in this way will help to keep you aware, open, and present throughout the process and beyond.

3 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.
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  2. Sorensen MD, Arlinghaus KR, Ledoux TA, Johnston CA. Integrating mindfulness into eating behaviorsAmerican Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2019;13(6):537-539. doi:10.1177/1559827619867626

  3. Khaddouma A, Gordon KC, Bolden J. Zen and the art of dating: Mindfulness, differentiation of self, and satisfaction in dating relationships. Couple Fam Psychol: Res Pract. 2015;4(1):1-13. doi:10.1037/cfp0000035

By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."