Are you ready? Are you ready for love? Here’s how to know if you’re all set to start dating — and simple, effective steps to take if you’re not. By our Dating Expert, Kate Taylor.

You’re ready, when:

1. You feel positive about yourself, romantically

Here’s a quick test. Set a timer for 2 minutes, and write a list of everything that makes you a great partner. When the timer goes off, count up your score. If you easily thought of 5 or more, you’re date-ready! Keep your list and use it to remind yourself why you never need to settle.

Less than 5? Either you’re a really slow writer, or your dating confidence is currently at a bit of a low point. Don’t throw yourself into dating just yet; for a while, focus your attention on YOU — what you love to do, wear, eat, drink, watch, read… Fall in love with yourself, until you remember you’re a desirable, perfectly imperfect partner who brings a lot to their relationships and the world. When you are more confident in what makes you unique and lovable, it’ll be time to hit the dating scene.

2. Love is all around you (or so the feeling goes)

Have you heard the term “Confirmation Bias”? It’s a psychological expression for the tendency we all have to notice things that reinforce our own opinions, especially our emotional beliefs. You can use it as a quick way to gauge your dating outlook.

Think back on everything love-related that’s happened lately. Was it doom and gloom? Your favourite celebrity couple broke up? A news story stated that women over 50 have more chance of landing on Mars than getting married? Adele released a new album? OR do you remember a sweet couple on First Dates? Witnessing an emotional reunion at the station? A friend’s happy wedding? If your mental scrap-book is upbeat, you’re feeling positive and are ready to date. If it’s slightly bleak, start making an effort to remember the happy things. It’ll remind you that love really is all around us every day, and boost your confidence and optimism when you start dating.

3. You don’t follow your ex online, or ask for news

When was the last time you sought out information about your ex, perhaps by checking their social media, or interrogating mutual friends? If it was today, step away from the online-dating site, buddy — you’re not ready.

If it was over a month ago, step up — you’re through to the next round!

If it’s somewhere in between, keep reading. Why are you still trying to find out about them? If it’s just a habit, then set yourself a goal of getting through the next 72 hours cold-turkey. When you find yourself wondering what they’re up to, deliberately turn your thoughts towards your own life, maybe by reaching out to friends to arrange fun weekend plans. If you’re checking up because you can’t bear the thought of them moving on, you’re not ready to date. Take time to come to terms with your break-up, and work on your confidence by setting and achieving small, satisfying goals, until you can think about the future more positively.

4. You feel excited about dating

Imagine you’ve got a date tonight. How do you feel? You’re ready to date if your first reactions are along the lines of: “Awesome — I can wear my new date outfit,” or, “Eek! Slightly nervous, but I’m sure I’ll relax when I get there.” Anything else, especially negative reactions like, “What’s the point?” or, “I’ll only mess it up like I usually do,” could be a sign that your head isn’t ready yet. If you thought, “Ha — that’ll make my ex jealous,” then you’re definitely not ready. See point no.3.

5. You have free hours for dates, but not free months

Open up your calendar for me. How’s this month looking? If it’s so rammed with friends, work, hobbies and other commitments that you’ve no time even for a coffee date, then you know what we’re going to say. Error 404: Date-Readiness Not Found. Try dialling back your plans so that exciting new people can fit into your life. If you love to keep busy, channel that energy into your dating: regularly look for lovely new singles on OurTime, and start booking in some fun, low-pressure first dates. But create the space now, before you’re trying to coordinate schedules with someone else.

But, if you need sunglasses to dampen the glare of the empty days, that’s also not prime date-readiness either. The ideal time to date isn’t when you’re looking for a new person to fulfil you, or just fill up your weekends. Instead, use this single space to rediscover your own interests and passions, and fit dates in-between your plans. Having a mildly-busy schedule is ideal: you can still fit in lunches or dinner, and you have plenty to talk about when you do.

Register now to start your dating journey. Or head to our hub of dating advice, which includes tips on how to fall in love again at 50+ and how to perfect your first message on a dating site.