Surfing the Moment


What is surfing the moment?

Surfing the moment means riding out a difficult situation when it’s not immediately changeable. It’s strategically redirecting your attention or changing your physiology.

Key Points:

  • Sometimes there is nothing we can do to solve a stressful situation. Our best option is to ride it out and not make things worse.
  • Surfing the moment:
    • Helps focus our attention away from stress.
    • Directly reduces physiological arousal due to stress.
    • Helps us tolerate our thoughts and feelings when we are overwhelmed.

Refocus your attention with your senses


  • Eat your favorite food slowly, savoring each bite.
  • Seek out food with different textures and spiciness. Eat with awareness.
  • Drink your favorite beverage and pay close attention to the taste.
  • Other: _______________________________


  • Look at beautiful art books, movies, digital images, or animations.
  • Mindfully watch nature, the sky, the ocean, or the space around you.
  • Go window shopping or people watch.
  • Other: _______________________________


  • Listen to music that grabs your attention.
  • Pay attention to nature sounds. Consider an app or sound machine.
  • Listen closely to the sounds in your immediate environment.
  • Listen to the radio, podcasts, or other audio media.
  • Other: _______________________________


  • Notice the smells around you.
  • Light a scented candle.
  • Smell soaps, shampoos, body lotions, or perfume.
  • Other: _______________________________


  • Pet dogs or cats.
  • Take a long shower or bath and focus on how the water feels on your skin.
  • Wrap yourself in a soothing blanket.
  • Other: _______________________________

Refocus your attention with pleasant or meaningful activities

  • Go to the grocery store and get yourself a treat.
  • Immerse yourself in a hobby (knit, paint, draw).
  • Go out with friends or loved ones.
  • Exercise, play sports.
  • Send an encouraging email.
  • Volunteer for a cause you care about.
  • Wash your car, clean your house.
  • Play video games, read engaging books.
  • Play with your kids or pets.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Call a friend.
  • Engage in a meaningful conversation.
  • Other: _______________________________

Impact your physiology and your emotions

  • Do intense exercise.
  • Hold ice in your hand.
  • Take a hot or cold shower, or alternate.
  • Read books and see movies that evoke emotions other than the ones upsetting you.
  • Other: _______________________________

Printable version

Printable worksheet