If you’ve recently been through a tough breakup or you’ve just spent a ton of time in the single life and have absolutely had it with the BS of modern dating, maybe it’s time for a break — but not just any break. Don’t dwell on the sad (or happy) times with your ex or daydream over your perfect guy. Instead, make your break from relationships and the dating scene the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. Here’s how:
- Replace time spent on relationships with time spent creating. After you’ve made the decision to go on a dating break, you’ll find that you have more free time than you’re used to. You’ll also have miserable thoughts to fill that time with. Avoid wondering if you’ll ever want to date again by getting busy with your hands. Maybe you’ve always wanted to open an Etsy shop; maybe you used to be really into carpentry or you once saw an ad for a watercolor painting class and though it could be fun. Now’s the time to start a new hobby that produces something physical. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes from looking at a walnut shelf or a still life watercolor and thinking, “I made that.”
- Replace texts to your ex with texts to family and your closest friends. Texts to the old flames or barely-sparks are an emotional drain right now. Instead, try to replace the time you spent putting yourself out there with time renewing old bonds. Try texting anyone that you consider family as much as you would text a prospective lover. Instead of feeling rejected or unstable, you’ll feel secure and be reminded of how much you’re loved and appreciated.
- Replace intimacy with your ex with intimacy with yourself. Now’s the time to get a journal and practice listening to how you feel and how you’re coping — no rants about the ex or how crappy dating life can be. Think of the journal as a log on how healthy you are, emotionally and physically. Record how your hobbies and family relationships are going and take stock of what you’re dreaming of and any moments of single-dom bliss.
- Replace date night with adventure night. You’re going to miss romantic evenings and even the thrills of meeting someone new. To fill this need, take yourself somewhere new as often as you would go on a date. If you want to try the new Pho place, go scuba diving or check out a new art opening then this is the perfect time to do it. Make sure that your choices are truly novel and push you out of your comfort zone. Old haunts might depress you and remind you of previous relationships, while truly new experiences will distract and excite you.
- Replace dating apps with productivity apps. You’ve probably already deleted all of your dating apps from your phone — now what do you do while you’re waiting in lines? Don’t get sucked into time wasting mobile games; put something on your phone that’s going to get you motivated. Make productivity apps your new obsession — try Omnifocus, Bloom, Priorities, Astrid or take some time and find one that will work for you.
- Replace reminiscing with dreaming. It’s going to happen — you’re going to be reminded of the good and bad times in your past relationships and your past dating adventures. Don’t berate yourself for slipping into sadness or self-pity. Do as the meditation masters do and recognize that you’re sad, take a deep breath and think to the future. Don’t think of relationship goals, either — that’s reminiscing in disguise. Think of any career goals you have, consider your next steps in your hobby and focus on your next family event. Then go and prepare for whatever just distracted you.
- Replace your ex’s media with completely new sounds. It’ll help you stay out of depressive moods if you have a new soundtrack for your dating break. Put sappy songs on the back burner and pick up a new genre. You won’t find anything familiar there. Quickly replace old TV shows with something that’s new and airing right now — the weekly prompt to watch it will keep you from falling into old patterns. The same goes for movies. If you’re planning on a marathon, make it something novel and non-romantic.
- Replace girls’ night in with girls’ night out. If your girls’ nights involve dating rants, analyzing boyfriend behavior and comparing sex lives, consider changing the tone for awhile. Suggest to your ladies that you head out to exercise together, volunteer at an animal shelter, go white water rafting or something non-dating related. You love your girls for their emotional support and you want to be there for them, of course, but if you want to get your mind off dating, get your girls out and bonding over something new. Just avoid the bar at all costs!