By Amy Spencer 

Maintaining optimism while you’re dating is no small potatoes. It is, rather, something that opens up an abundant smorgasbord of opportunities for love. That’s because the way you view your dating life can actually affect the neural activity and even the structure of your emotional brain — which changes everything from your body language to how you perceive people (and how they perceive you, too). By thinking optimistically about your love life, you can change your dating experience entirely. So what’s the best way to start? Try taking positive actions in your daily routine. Here’s how:

Start your day right for a better date
The first thoughts you have in the morning can set your mood for the whole day — which will affect your date later on. You know what I mean: If you’re brushing your teeth thinking, “This day is going to suck,” well, you’re not giving it much chance not to fail. Give your lunch or drinks date a better chance of success later on by deciding to have a good day now. Say it out loud if you’re the type (“This day is gonna rock!”) or be more subtle: Take a deep breath and smile for 10 seconds as you climb into your car in the morning. Your day and future date don’t just happen to you — they’re what you make of it.

Play the “Wow! I’ve never met anyone who…” game
Instead of judging your dates from a good vs. bad, right vs. wrong perspective — “He’s shorter than I thought,” “She’s too serious” or “He wears such weird shoes” — assess them from a fresher, fuller point of view. Look for aspects about your date that are new to you by finding a way to say, “Wow! I’ve never met anyone who…” Maybe you’ve never met a scientist, or someone who owned a pet pig, or a Peace Corps veteran. Seeing what’s new in your date will remind you that there are many different types of people out there. This means your chances of finding someone fascinating and compatible with you are so good that you’ll soon be saying, “Wow! I’ve never met anyone so perfectly right for me…” instead.

Bring up a hopeful fantasy topic
Dating can be serious enough; you’re looking for The One to spend the rest of your life with, right? So give yourself a break from being so serious and get to know your date by going the fantasy route instead. (I don’t mean that you should be playing Magic: The Gathering.) Try asking questions like, “Where’s your ideal vacation?” “What dream job would you take if money wasn’t holding you back?” and “What would you do with $20 million in lottery winnings?” You’ll be surprised how much you can learn about your date’s real-life world view and internal motivations by asking such whimsical questions. And the lottery is the epitome of optimism, after all: you don’t play thinking you’ll lose; you play because you believe you actually have a chance at winning, just like in love.

You learn something new every day
One day you might learn where to avoid a new pothole on the street, and another day, how adding lime can make even some non-Mexican beers taste better. Now, look at your dates from the same angle: What lessons are you learning from each and every person? Walk into your date open to learning something new; that way, even if you don’t feel fluttery love butterflies you can walk away knowing more about life, yourself, or a hobby you previously knew nothing about. And the mood you’ll radiate with your interest and engagement in what your date is saying will have a positive effect on both of you.
Be positively honest
When your date asks what you’re looking for, be honest. Maybe you want a serious relationship, or just a fun fling. Or someone to fulfill that role of “activity partner” for a month while you suss out the romance potential. Whatever it is, say so! When you can say out loud what you want honestly, and without hesitation, your date will know you’re the real deal and you’ll feel better than ever about yourself.

Cynics, make a “gripe” goal
Don’t toss your hopes out too quickly after a bad date; instead, set a goal for your griping and stick to it. For example, tell yourself, “In five dates, I’ll decide how I feel.” That way if you do have a bummer date, you know you have to get through four more of them before you’re “allowed” to gripe about it. Psychologically, this is a kind of delayed gratification: You refuse to dwell on the moment because you have your mind set on the future instead. And if you make it to your “gripe” goal, your friends get to hear about five funny bad dates that you can use for sympathy, laughs and a chance to recharge your batteries!

Use the word “love” three times
(Enter the sound of tires screeching here.) No, I’m not suggesting you should say “I love you” on your first date! Rather, find three things you do love to talk about and share them with your date. Save the crappy workday woes and bad breakup story for your friends. By focusing on what you love — say, cinnamon raisin bagels, Dan Brown books and meteor showers — you’ll feel more positive about your life, which will make your body language and smile both vibrant and genuine. It’s that relaxed, happy version of you that’s going to draw the right person straight into your heart and into your life.

Amy Spencer writes for Glamour, Real Simple, and New Yorkmagazine, among other publications, and is the author of Meeting Your Half-Orange: An Utterly Upbeat Guide to Using Dating Optimism to Find Your Perfect Match.

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