Sweaty palms, shaky hands, racing heart, knotted stomach—no, this isn't the middle of a HIIT workout. It's five minutes before a first date, and you're probably nervous AF. There's something about a first date (especially a blind date or an Internet date, where you're meeting the person IRL for the first time ever) that can send you into a total tizzy. Picking out a confidence-boosting outfit and cranking out a workout can flood your body with "I got this" feels and feel-good endorphins, but those shouldn't be the only to-dos on your first date prep checklist.
Turns out, meditation might just be the number-one thing your mind and body need to get set for the roulette that is the modern dating world. Here, all the reasons you need to make meditating the most important thing on your pre-date checklist (OK, that, and jamming to Beyoncé).
1. It'll calm all those ~nerves~.
"Before a first date, your mind can start running wild," says Amy Baglan, founder of MeetMindful, a dating app that connects people dedicated to living mindfully. "This distracted mental chatter is what that Buddhists call the 'monkey mind.'" Try sitting and meditating for 10 minutes. "It can do wonders to calm that restless energy and get you back to a balanced state so you can show up as your authentic, amazing self," she says.
Mild nerves (you know, ~butterflies~) are to be expected. (Surprise—they're actually good for you too!). However, being disproportionately anxious for the situation can legitimately ruin the date: "First dates become increasingly awkward the more anxiety a person has," says Jill P. Weber, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and expert for Mindsail, a smartphone meditation app. "Overthinking and overanalyzing is a libido killer and takes you far away from showing your real self." So if you're crazy anxious, the date will probably go worse, and you'll start freaking out even more—sending you into a scary downward spiral.
If you're worried the date will resemble something on Dates from Hell, using visualization during meditation can help, says Sanam Hafeez, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University. "It's a great way to play out how you want the date to go before it happens." It's easy: Just close your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes, breathe, and imagine yourself meeting a great person, having interesting conversations, and feeling good.
2. You'll be focused on the here and now.
"Meditation helps to center yourself in the present," says Hafeez. Taking a few minutes to meditate will send you into the date with a mind clear of clutter (like the remnants of a stressful workday) and keep your thoughts on the person and conversation in front of you (not on your ex, or that horrible date you had last week). It'll help nix worries about how you're coming across to your date and whether or not you will feel a connection, says Weber, so you can actually enjoy the moment while it happens ~organically~.
BTW, when you're meditating, the goal isn't to stop thinking. "The point is to make a space in your life to connect with yourself in a different way that involves less thinking and more awareness for your internal experiences," says Weber. "Don't self-criticize each time your thoughts take you on a different course or you become distracted... but do become aware of where your thoughts are taking you." (Here are all the tips you need for how to meditate.)
3. It'll open your mind and heart.
Not only does meditation help keep you from showing up to the date a sweaty, shaky mess, but it'll prep your mind and heart for the possibility of really connecting with another human. (And guess what? There are even meditations specifically for helping you open your heart.)
Being mindful makes you more aware of your emotions and how you are feeling. If you feel better, you'll attract better things into your life—and that includes people, says Hafeez. You probably already knew that karma comes back around, but positivity does too. "Being mindful of our thoughts allows us to pivot from negative, pessimistic, worrisome thoughts to positive, optimistic ones that elevate us from feeling anxious or depressed to hopeful and enthusiastic," she says.
And this impact goes way beyond the first date: Fostering mindfulness encourages you to gain clarity and handle things that once felt like a roadblock—or worse, a dead end, says Baglan. "Mindfulness can help in dealing with trust issues, solving problems as they arise, deepening intimacy, and breaking old patterns of behavior. It doesn't happen overnight, but with work and presence you can experience an expansive shift in your dating life."
4. You'll be more in touch with what you want and need.
Being more mindful or self-aware can help you be less self-conscious in the first place—which means it's that much easier to show up to a date repping the real you, says Weber. It helps you zero in on who you are on the inside—and who you're looking for on the outside.
Mindfulness can help you pinpoint what type of person you want to attract, says Hafeez. "When you can focus more on what you want instead of what you do not want, what you do want enters your life," she says. "Our thoughts create our reality." (Just another reason that positive self-talk is king.)
Being in touch with what you want can help you see through that cocktail (or four) and honestly decide whether this person is worth date number two.
5. It'll chill your date out too.
The telephone might go both ways, but it just takes *one* mindful person to shift the situation in a positive direction. "If the person who meditated feels clearer and more at ease going into the interaction, that energy can impact the other person, putting them at ease," says Hafeez. The key: Have a positive expectation so you appreciate the date, versus spending the entire time looking for reasons you're not a match, she says.
And, as you might guess, if both people show up with this amazing mindset, sparks are almost guaranteed to fly: "We've seen that couples who both have a meditation practice tend to have a richer connection with each other," says Baglan. "At the end of the day, meditation is not meant to be a silver bullet for fixing dating problems, but it can certainly help you show up ready for a deeper, more enjoyable experience."
Time to get swiping on Tinder, add "meditation lover" to your Bumble bio, or hop on MeetMindful. Your Prince or Princess—and meditation partner—might just be out there swiping (and meditating) for you too.