Concentrating on the present, as opposed to regretting the past or worrying about the future, is important for mental health. But it can be incredibly difficult to remain in the present without allowing your thoughts to slip backwards or forwards. I have found some ways of remaining in the present that are very helpful for me.
First, I think about what I’m grateful for. This helps me realize that as negative as my past and as scary as my future might seem, I am not destined to only have bad in my life. I am lucky to have the present situation I’m in and I should not take it for granted or waste it.
Second, I move my body/get out into nature. It is harder not to be present when my five senses are stimulated. And getting out into nature grounds and calms me in a way nothing else can. I pay attention to my breath/body. How do they feel? Is there pain or tension anywhere? Is my breathing deep and even or shallow and quick? Massages and baths/showers are other sensory experiences that connects me more deeply with my physical body, leading my mind to stay in the present, as well.
Third, I spend time with uplifting people. This is extremely encouraging and enjoying the camaraderie makes falling into patterns of depressive/anxious thinking less tempting and therefore less likely to happen. I’ll admit that even before the pandemic my social life was greatly lacking. Improvement in this area of my life will have positive effects on my mental health.
Fourth, I make a list/stay busy. Concentrating on improving my present circumstances by checking items off either a literal or mental “to do” list is uplifting and makes it less likely I’ll feel the need to “disappear” into the past or future.
Fifth, I write down my current thoughts and feelings. I write what I am currently struggling with. I check in with myself at this present moment.
These are my favorite ways of staying present. You might have other ways that work for you. It is important to prioritize our mental well-being by staying present and not allowing ourselves to get stuck in the continuous and addictive loop of rehashing the past or mentally constructing our futures.