More than eye color, a full head of hair, height, wrinkle free skin, or tight bod - the trait that actually makes a person want you is mindfulness.
Yep! Just simply being present is one of the most attractive qualities a person can exude.
It seems like a growing number of people are reporting to have ADD or ADHD - and whether it's self-diagnosed or official - I would say everyone on the planet has some level of attention deficit.
In our fast-paced, jam-packed modern day we're actually practicing to have short attention spans. Between being able to fill idol time in a grocery line with a simple glance at the phone or getting completely engrossed in watching the news where you've got the people telling you something, you can read the breaking news headline at the lower third of the screen, the stock ticker across the top, the weather in the corner, and commercial invasions - GAH! - our attention is getting more and more used to constant [and stressful] stimulation. And sadly, our attention is also getting less and less tolerant of slower, intimate kind of stimulation like talking to a real life human being.
Bring this sense of urgency and ravenous need for entertainment that mirrors that sense of urgency into a dating setting, and the person across from you is going to feel it. For some people, it may come off as very obvious nervousness or distraction. But for others, it may be a very subtle but equally palpable energy that says,
"Part of me is not really here."
Luckily adopting a simple mindfulness practice can actually rewire your brain and recalibrate your nervous system so that you're able to slow down, relax, take in your experience in an enjoyable way, and be received positively by others.
If you're not familiar with mindfulness, our favorite definition is by Jon Kabot-Zinn who actually coined the term.
This trait becomes especially attractive in the context of dating according to research and countless reports from our clients [and in our personal experience as well].
Why is that?
Well, generally, when you show up as mindful and present, you unconsciously communicate many qualities that are attractive because these qualities imply that you would make for a healthy, long-lasting partner.
Study after study reveals that people who practice mindfulness have better health, greater happiness, more acceptance and compassion toward people and situations, higher emotional intelligence and stronger ability to regulate their emotions. Mindfulness even has implications for how you show up in bed as well. If you are able to be present during sex - you're able to feel more pleasure, reach orgasmic states, and climax; and you'll also be attuned to your partner’s pleasure with sensual accuracy. Because being mindful means you are aware of yourself, others, and the environment around you - your date can also relax into feeling like you are a safe person to be around, solid for parenting and protecting children as well.
On the other hand, not being mindful is a huge turn off. Studies show that even the most physically attractive people who do not have a disposition of mindfulness are not ultimately considered to be attractive as a mate.
When you come off as aloof and distracted, this shows that you’re not fully listening. To the other person it feels like you probably don’t care. It also unconsciously indicates that you wouldn’t be able to sense and prevent potential threats in the environment. When you come across as in your head, judgmental, and/or triggered emotionally - these qualities indicate that a relationship with you will be a pain in the ass to maintain.
So what does mindfulness on a date look like?
Below we’ve created two columns to give a sense of being mindful vs. not being mindful on a date. In the “Mindful on a Date” column, we’ve also put what we’re calling the attractor factor - or the reason this mindfulness disposition might be attractive to your date.
MINDFUL ON A DATE
Creating an intention reset when I go from work to a date by taking off my work hat to show up fully with this other person. It may be as simple as taking a few breaths in the car.
Attractor factor: I show up as real. I demonstrate a healthy ability to transition.
NOT MINDFUL ON A DATE
Going straight from work to a date keeps me speaking the way I do with clients, I’m in my head, I’ve got “to-do’s” close to the surface of my mind which may pop in and distract me, etc.
I arrive on time or communicate if I am going to be even a minute late because I honor this person's time and feelings even though we've never met.
Attractor factor: Time management, respect, consideration, empathy
I know I'm going to be late, but I don't even think I'm going to like this person so it doesn't really matter if I'm a little late. They'll figure it out. It's no big deal.
I turn off my phone as soon as I am with the person. If I have a possible emergency call that I am expecting, I tell my date that I will have the phone on vibrate for that reason.
Attractor factor: Shows that this time of connecting is the most important thing right now.
I check my phone at random times either out of habit, because I think I'm not interested in the person, or to fill in idle time to avoid silence.
Noticing negative self-talk and deliberately choosing to soothe my nerves and self-doubt.
Attractor factor: I show up grounded and confident.
Getting caught up in negative self-talk so that I’m catching some of what they’re saying, but I’m mostly thinking “They’re too good for me.” “They think I’m fat.” “I don’t make enough money.
Noticing judgements about the other person and deliberately setting them aside for now or speaking to them directly. For instance, my date rolls their eyes when saying something about their ex, and I say: “It seems like you still feel resentment. Is that true?”
Attractor factor: Building trust, connection, and compassion."
Having my “red flag glasses” on, so that when my date rolls their eyes when saying something about their ex, and I assume that they had a shitty divorce and feel contention toward each other STILL which means this person is bad at relationships and is a negative person in general.
Oscillating my attention from myself to them to the environment to myself to them to the environment.
Attractor factor: Attentive and comfortable to be around.
Losing myself by putting all my attention on the other person. This could come across as too intense [maybe even a bit creepy]. I also will lose track of my intuitive senses.
Taking moments to breathe and feel my body. This allows me to be genuinely impacted by what the person says so that I can be relating with them. So, when they say something funny - I’m able to respond with authentic laughter.
Attractor factor: I feel genuine to my date.
I know on a cognitive level that they said something I’m supposed to laugh at, so I laugh; but it sounds fake.
When I am present to my own body and emotional experience, I am able to communicate from that place and be more vulnerable.
For instance, when my date says that their mother died last year, I allow their experience to touch my heart; and because of that, my facial expression reflects deep empathy, I place my hand on my chest, and say, “Oh, I feel tender hearing that. How are you feeling now?”
Attractor factor: Demonstrates high emotional intelligence and empathy.
Just focussing on asking questions and answering questions, which creates more of an interview style date.
For instance, when my date shares of their mother’s passing, I say “OK. How long ago was that?” The other person says, “Last year.” I say, “Right. Was she sick?” And they say, “Yeah, cancer.” And I say, “So your dad’s still around?” and on and on. No relating here. Just information exchanged.
Being aware of balance in the conversation by saying, “I notice I just went off about my travels. I’d love to hear an adventure you’ve experienced.”
Attractor Factor: Shows consideration, respect, self-awareness.
Talking about myself nonstop out of nervousness or trying to prevent an awkward silence.
When I notice that my date has had the floor for a while, I could say, “I’d love for you to ask me some questions.”
This allows the person to become more mindful moving forward. Perhaps they were excited or nervous and didn’t even realize.
Attractor Factor: Shows respect for the other person, self-respect, direct communication, trust building.
Not speak up and go home thinking the person was an asshole and telling my friends, “All he did was talk at me the whole time.”
Being able to maintain eye contact in a balanced way.
Attractor Factor: Eye contact shows I have a high capacity for intimacy.
Averting eyes with discomfort, looking down, getting distracted often and looking at other happenings and people when my date is speaking.
I balance eye contact with also being able to look around and take in the environment when it feels good.
I may even say, “Wow! Look at how the water is perfectly beaded up on those flowers.”
Attractor Factor: Responding to things I’m experiencing in the environment gives my date an understanding of other sides of me, my depth, how I think, and how I look at the world.
I have a fixed stare or only pay attention to our conversation without being able to take in other dimensions of our experience together.
This level of presence allows me to attune to my date. I can start to sense with surprising accuracy how they are feeling as time goes on during the date even though we just met. This allows me to sense that they have energy and are having fun, so I suggest, “Hey - want to check out this really cool spot a few blocks that way?”
Attractor Factor: Insight into another’s internal experience and sensitivity to their needs.
When I’m not attuned to my date - I won’t be able to pick up on subtle shifts in energy, which can lead to me making up assumptions, crossing boundaries or not picking up on nonverbal cues that they’re interested in me.
I take moments to genuinely connect with the hostess, server, passersby, or whomever else may cross our path.
Attractor Factor: Demonstrates respect and a loving heart, healthy social skills.
I’m so in my head or focussed on my date that I don’t make eye contact or attempt to connect with the server. I forget to say simple things like “hi” and “thank you.”
I’m able to see opportunities to improvise and be playful. For instance, we’re walking down the street on a fall day, and because I’m present, I notice a pile of leaves, so I fill my arms and throw them on my date’s head. Then we go back and forth throwing leaves, flirting, having a really fun moment.
Attractor Factor: Shows creativity, humor, and spontaneity. Implies larger problem-solving capabilities in the future.
I miss opportunities to be creative and only connect on a one-dimensional verbal level.
Obviously this is just a few examples of how it could look because every moment on a date is an opportunity to be mindful or not.
Looking to get started on your mindfulness journey?
We recommend starting with a simple app called "Insight TImer." Every morning simply set the timer for 3 minutes and focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, return to paying attention to your breath.
And stay tuned for an upcoming blog that describes in more detail the process, neural adaptations, and positive effects on your life.