healthy dating mental health mindful dating self-care

Self-care in dating and relationships

Bring to mind a time when you felt you were truly yourself and fully alive. How did it feel, physically mentally, emotionally? What was it you liked about yourself?

When did you last feel completely at peace and accepting of every part of yourself without judgment?

Now think of a time when you were “in the zone” socially– perhaps you were completely relaxed on holiday, or making a group of friends laugh over drinks. How did that happen? How did you feel?

Feeling like this has incredible implications for all our relationships, whether romantic, family, work, or friendships. When we are able to celebrate who we are and feel completely at ease, our approach to dating and relating to others is much more authentic and attractive. We are more tolerant, more able to listen and be open-minded, less likely to get irritated by others and less sensitive to criticism.

Don’t you wish you could spend more of your time feeling that good?

Prioritise self-care

If you are living your life rushing from one task to another, constantly juggling responsibilities and to-do lists, it’s not going to happen automatically. Self-care is something you need to schedule.

Is it exercise, candle-lit baths, ASMR, yoga, qi gong, mindfulness or other forms of meditation (perhaps using an app such as Insight Timer, or Forest Bathing), journalling, country walks, or something else that works for you? Get your favourite activities scheduled into your diary on a regular basis. Set an alarm on your phone and make a pact with a friend to do the same so you know you’re not alone. Care for yourself and then it will be easier to care for others.

Like medication, we know these things don’t have an instant effect. They need to be done regularly and there may be many positive outcomes that you weren’t expecting: as well as improving our relationship with ourselves and others, it can increase our focus, help us sleep better and make us more compassionate towards ourselves and others.

When we have a presentation at work or an interview coming up, we schedule preparation time. We make notes, carry out research and make sure we won’t be disturbed. We might practise what we’re going to say and perhaps do some voice warm-ups or relaxation exercises.

Care for yourself before a date

If we’re going to prepare for a date, it makes sense to do the same. If you feel relaxed and good about yourself, you’ll be the best version of yourself. You’ll be less anxious about making a good impression and more confident about making sure the person is right for you. You can’t fake that.

Meditation and visualisation are especially powerful methods for doing this. If you can imagine a successful date or meeting in detail, you will start to believe it is possible. We have an in-built bias towards the negative and have to work hard to redress the balance. So training ourselves to imagine positive experiences and to focus on what is good about ourselves is something we have to work at.

This two minute meditation was designed to do exactly this. Use it just before a date. Schedule it in your diary now.

Rachel is a mindfulness practitioner as well as a dating and relationships coach. Her new workbook for mindful dating is out soon. Sign up at the bottom of this page for updates and new blog posts.

Further reading and links

Finding My Right Mind: One Woman’s Experiment to Put Meditation to the Test by Vanessa Potter

Self-care in relationships: interview with Vanessa Potter

The art of relationships: interview with Rachel New

Rachel’s Dating Diary for a reflective, mindful approach to dating

The Art of Breathing by Dr Danny Penman

Self-Compassion: the proven power of being kind to yourself by Dr Kristin Neff

Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh

A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland

Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing by Tim Parks

Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Rachel New
Rachel New is a Dating Coach and regular blogger on dating. She is particularly interested in the social psychology of dating and in promoting ethical dating: treating each other well, challenging norms, keeping an open mind.