What Is Mindful Dating?

Mindfulness can be defined as the deliberate act of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It's a concept that has sprouted from the self-help movement and has been used to combat all manner of problems 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 means:

  • Having a sense of what you are looking for and a sense of yourself
  • Setting boundaries and being okay with rejection
  • Sending out positive feelings that you hope will be reciprocated

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.

Curate Prospects

Be mindful about how you find your dating prospects. Instead of looking absolutely everywhere, try to curate your prospects based on how well they align with the goals you have chosen.

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 interesting.

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, have boundaries for yourself. Don't 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 first date is not a therapy session—talk to your friends about your problems, and to your date about your hopes, dreams, passions, and plans for the future.

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.

Negativity

It sounds simple, but when you are actually on a date, it's important to have good vibes. If you've been dating unsuccessfully for a while, it can be easy to slide into negative thinking, which sends out a negative message to your date.

Instead, try to be warm, open, and happy—keep an open mind and remain hopeful that the person you are on the date with has the potential to be a special person in your life. Try to find the good qualities in your date (within reason), and let your happy side shine through.

Even if you end up not being a good match, at least you will have enjoyed yourself.

Complaining

Along with sending out good vibes, it's important to avoid complain. Don't engage in self-pity. Be mindful of the message you are sending on your dates. Are you showing interest in the person you are with, or complaining about an ex?

Treat each date with respect and courtesy. Unless your date does something terribly wrong or offensive that you need to address, keep your complaints to yourself.

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. Try to be understanding about rejection and not take it personally.

Be mindful of the fact that not everyone will be a match, and that your date has a right to feeling that way about you. 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.

Never feel guilty about having to say goodbye to someone. Not everyone will be a match for you, and that's okay.

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.

Were you being mindful of your goals? Did you adhere to your boundaries? Were you sending out good vibes and being a good listener? Did you sense a match? Was the other person respectful of you? Ask yourself a long list of questions after a date (you could even write down your answers in a journal).

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.

  • Find hobbies that you both enjoy doing.
  • Go to a meditation retreat.
  • Go on a mindful vacation where you have time and space to really be aware of your surroundings.
  • Focus on each other when you are spending time together.
  • Engage in caring behaviors such as holding hands, using positive affirmations, and doing things you know your partner will appreciate.

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

Mindful dating means the chance to learn and grow as you search for potential mates. Try to embrace the journey of dating rather than fighting against it. Keep a solid sense of self through the ups and downs of dating by using your mindfulness. Approaching dating in this way will help to keep you level-headed and open to the right person when they come along.

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  1. 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