Wellbeing: how to forge (and maintain) a healthy relationship with dating apps

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Lauren Geall
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Dating apps can be a great place to meet new people – but they can also take their toll on your mental health when used in an unhealthy way. Here’s how to protect your wellbeing while you swipe.

Navigating the world of online dating isn’t always easy. Not only can putting yourself out there feel daunting, but the whirlwind of messages, matches and rejections that are part and parcel of any dating app experience is enough to send your mind spinning.

Of course, dating apps aren’t inherently bad – they’re a great way to meet new people and find out what you want from a potential partner, and have helped to start many successful relationships

But in the same way dating apps can boost confidence and self-esteem, they can also take their toll if not used in a healthy way.

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“If you don’t have a healthy relationship with dating apps, they can exacerbate any existing mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and body image issues,” explains Fatmata Kamara, specialist mental health nurse advisor at Bupa UK

“Dating apps often leave us focusing on superficial factors rather than focusing on the depth of connection, commitment and shared values. If you use dating apps regularly, rejection can also leave you feeling low, and decrease your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.”

So, what’s the secret to building a healthy relationship with dating apps? Stylist asked Kamara to share her top tips. Keep reading to check out what she had to say.

1. Remember you are not your profile 

A woman texting someone on her phone while lying on the sofa
Your dating profile is just one iteration of your personality.

Because there’s only so much information you can include on your profile, it’s easy to see yourself as the sum of a few key facts and photos on a screen. 

But that’s not the case – and the key to maintaining a healthy relationship with dating apps is keeping this in mind.

“Your dating profile only gives a glimpse into the person you are, and this is also true when getting to know other people on dating apps,” Kamara says. “Make sure to be mindful of the fact that swiping left or a conversation fizzling out isn’t a rejection of your complete self.”

2. Allocate a time limit each day

One of the main problems of dating apps is the fact that they give us almost limitless choice – making it easy to find yourself feeling overwhelmed. 

Limiting the amount of time you spend on dating apps every day will make it easier for you to maintain perspective.

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“Setting an allocated time to interact with a dating app each day not only helps to reduce the amount of time you spend on them but can also help you to recognise how your wellbeing changes when you use these apps,” Kamara says. 

“For example, if you start to feel tense, stressed or fatigued – it’s time to take a break.”

3. Be kind to yourself

Dating is meant to be fun, but it can also get a little stressful at times – so it’s important to ensure you’re taking care of yourself, too.

“Practising self-care can help reduce stress levels, boost your mood and support healthy relationships,” Kamara explains. “A self-care routine can range from exercising and eating a balanced diet to mindfulness and meditation. However, there is no specific approach to take when practising self-care as this is something you define for yourself.

“Remember to treat yourself with kindness each day – think about how you speak to the people you care about, and then turn that voice on yourself. Your inner voice should be kind, forgiving and compassionate.” 

4. Acknowledge your feelings 

A woman texting someone on her phone
It's OK to experience a myriad of emotions while dating (both on and offline).

When we’re faced with uncomfortable feelings such as rejection, sadness or embarrassment, it can often feel easier to push them down rather than deal with them in the moment.

However, that can contribute to more problems in the long run – so it’s important that you take time to sit with your feelings where possible.

“Rejection is a part of dating – whether you meet virtually or in person – so remember it’s okay to feel hurt if a situation hasn’t blossomed how you hoped for,” Kamara says. 

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“Rather than fight your emotions, validate your feelings and reflect on past experiences where you have experienced similar feelings before, consider what you did to help ease the emotion and remember it will pass.”

5. Switch off and tune out

One of the virtues of dating apps is the fact that you can log out when you’re feeling overwhelmed – so keep in mind that it’s OK to take a break.

“If you’ve had a negative experience with someone on a dating app or if you’re starting to feel low or down when using dating apps, it’s time to switch-off,” Kamara says.

“Remove yourself from any negative conversations and distract yourself with a hobby you enjoy. Mood boosting activities, like catching up with a friend or reading your favourite book, can also help.” 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.