What is Emotion Surfing?

It sometimes seems that people are often segmented into two groups- cat people or dog people, salty or sweet, left Twix or right Twix (this is really a dividing question). We can all agree that there are certain things that people will always be divided on. One thing at PP we agree on is that people are not divided by mentally tough or mentally weak. We believe that you can improve your abilities and “willpower” simply by changing your environment and habit.


The point of this article is to go through how to appropriately understand and react to emotions. While working toward mindful acceptance it is important to be able to go through the gamut of emotions to understand why you are feeling certain ways and how to effectively process these emotions.


If you’ve ever been surfing before, you know how important it is to be aware of everything going on around you. Knowing how your weight is distributed on the board, how tall or low you should be, and who / what is around you has you constantly moving, adjusting, shifting to find a sweet spot. When you are going through your emotions, it can often feel the same way. You need to learn how to accept and understand the things that are affecting your thoughts and feelings.


The surfing metaphor works on many levels. The ability to roll with and accept the emotion instead of trying to react to it, is very similar. If you try to fight the wave or completely control the ride you will fall. If you are constantly fighting your emotions or reacting to every one of them, the same thing will happen. As you observe and accept what the wave is doing it will allow you to ride it better and then adjust appropriately. When you can know your emotions, understand why they are happening with skills like Recognize and Name, you can now react to them accordingly after going through the appropriate channels and thought processes. Learning to turn into the emotions and accepting ALL of them and the potential discomfort can lead to better personal growth and change.


As people become more comfortable with turning INTO their emotions and accepting them, it leads to the understanding that they can process more than they thought. As they develop and use this skill it leads to a decrease in distress both acutely and chronically. That means that people who use emotional surfing and mindful acceptance are better able to handle distressing emotions or thoughts as they are happening and then long term they have less distressing situations and thoughts overall. 


Let’s keep rolling with the surfing analogy. Another commonality is that emotions come in waves. As I wrote about before, there will always be another one coming soon. They are almost always short lived and when you continue using this emotional surfing skill and become better at it, you shorten the time with each emotion even more. The other huge benefit of emotion surfing is that it helps with minimizing the negative effects of emotions. Things that are less useful like emotion suppression, ruminating, or only performing emotion driven behavior, happen infrequently because the individual is able to better handle the situations.


How does this help my diet and performance?!


Now that you are better able to handle and deal with emotions and distress you are less likely to make poor eating decisions. Some of the most common things studied when looking at people with disease resulting from being overweight are the strong relationships between stress and overeating (1, 2). We have also covered this in our Stress & Hormones article. When you work on your ability to handle stress it improves many aspects of your performance and health via your biochemistry.


Take aways-


  • Being able to handle your emotions greatly increases your ability to handle stress.
  • The greater you can handle and minimize stress the better you can eat, train and enjoy life.
  • Working on skills like mindfulness, mindful acceptance, and emotional surfing can all lead to huge improvements in your health and performance


 References – Do you know why we chose these references? Find out how to do your own research here:


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