8 Tips for Turning Mindless Swiping into Mindful Dating

When she was single recently for several years, Janna Delgado, E-RYT 1000, Lead Faculty for the Kripalu School of Yoga, resisted her friends’ suggestions that she try online dating. “I’d say, ‘No, it’s not my style. I’m not into it,’” she remembers. In time, though, she broke down and gave it a shot—mindlessly.

“My heart wasn’t in it,” she recalls. “I didn’t give it my focus, presence, attention, or intention. I was just flipping through profiles begrudgingly, not being open to the possibilities. I wasn’t present while I was scrolling through. I’d find any reason to nix someone.”

Looking back, Janna says she believes one reason people have a hard time approaching dating mindfully is that it can be a scary process. “The whole act of trying to meet someone and become close emotionally and physically—there’s a huge vulnerability in that,” she says. “If someone has had difficult life experiences or a rough time with relationships, it can be challenging to open up again and allow love in.”

While that may be true, dating mindlessly can be potentially be a waste of everyone’s time, “because you’re not really engaged, open, or present,” Janna says. “It’s hard then to have a quality connection or even get a sense of whether there might be a connection. You could miss someone who’s a gem.”

In addition, dating mindlessly can lead to suffering through dates that are clearly not a fit much longer than necessary. “Rather than being honest and saying, ‘This isn’t working for me,’” Janna explains, “you might just sit there and go through the date kind of half checked-out.”

So how did Janna finally turn her mindless approach to dating into a mindful one? She broke her foot, believe it or not … and something shifted. “I could no longer take for granted standing up to brush my teeth or crossing the room to take my dog out for a walk. I was forced to be mindful in every moment,” she recalls. “And because of my lack of mobility, I was kind of sedentary. So I turned to Match.com and gave it a serious look for the first time.”

Her injury not only forced her to slow down, but it also heightened her mindfulness, enabling her to approach the dating site differently than she had been. “I got curious,” she says. “I started going on dates, showing up in my crutches. When I was on a date, I was right there, present, engaged.” And within a handful of dates, she met someone.

“Dating can be deflating and demoralizing,” she admits. “But mindfulness allows for more clarity and equanimity in the process.”

Now in a relationship that she’s mindfully cultivating, Janna offers these tips on how to practice mindful dating.

Suspend judgment. “It’s easy to get tunnel vision,” Janna says, referring to dating sites as well as in-person dates. “A lot of people make snap judgments—‘I want this. I don’t want that’—but try to have an open, curious mind. It might be someone that you’d never in a million years have imagined having a connection with, but if you’re open to the possibility, then the possibility exists.”

Unplug when you’re out together. Rather than keeping your phone in front of you as a crutch, put it in a bag or pocket. If you need to keep the ringer on in the event of an emergency, okay, but don’t check it unless you have to. “Give people your undivided attention,” Janna says. “That’s a huge gift in itself.”

Make eye contact. While sustaining eye contact might feel awkward with a new acquaintance and possible love interest, challenge yourself. Looking directly into someone’s eyes is a good way to focus your attention in the here and now. “It may turn out that they’re not a match, but at least you will have opened yourself to the possibility,” Janna says.

Listen actively. Rather than anticipate when your date is going to stop speaking so you can jump into the conversation, take a breath and listen. “Really hear what they have to say,” says Janna. “Savor those moments of getting to know someone. You only have one shot at that.”

Ask questions. Another way to anchor yourself in the moment is to ask your date questions. “What’s the best place you’ve ever traveled?” “Do you have siblings?” “How do you like to spend your free time?” “Inquire and be open to learning about them so you can get a deeper understanding of who they are as a human being,” Janna suggests.

Be authentic. It’s not uncommon on dating apps for people to lie about their height, age, income, or weight, and it’s not uncommon when meeting in person for people to project an idealized image of themselves—an image that might be hard to maintain over the long run. “If you really want to meet someone you can be with, be real and true,” Janna says.

Practice non-attachment. Most everyone who’s dipped their toes into online dating has had the experience of having an enjoyable phone conversation or a pleasant date, only to be ghosted. “It’s easy to get hurt or disappointed if you’re attached to specific outcomes, so non-attachment is hugely important,” says Janna.

Don’t take things personally. You’re attracted to someone, but they’re just not that into you—or vice versa. It can be rough out there, no doubt, but it’s important to remember that you can never really know what’s going on in another person’s head and heart. Do your best to avoid self-criticism and negativity.

Be patient and kind to yourself. See if you can enjoy the ride, and remind yourself that it may take some time. “It could take two weeks or two years,” Janna says, “so make sure to be kind and compassionate to yourself in the process.”

Portland Helmich has been investigating natural health and healing for more than 15 years, as a host, reporter, writer, and producer.

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