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10 Healthier Ways to Spend Black Friday

First thing’s first. Let me wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to MDA’s American readers. I hope you’re enjoying the day and have much to be grateful for this year, including good Primal health! As for myself, I’m thankful for my wonderful family and supportive friends and colleagues. Likewise, I’m grateful for this amazing community – all of the engagement, encouragement, and challenge you all have offered me over the years. As much now as in the beginning, Mark’s Daily Apple is an evolving project. I’ve steered the site – and the books [1], events [2], and resources that have stemmed from it – with the direction of reader interests. Even the Primal Blueprint philosophy itself has unfolded in unexpected ways for me – ways inspired by the stories [3] and questions [4] you have brought to our collective table. Thank you, everyone, and please continue to offer your feedback.

From a personal point of view, I like beginning the holiday season with a time for thankfulness. The end of the year calls us to take stock, and it’s illuminating to do it in a spirit of gratitude.

The flip side to this holiday introspection, however, is the commercial bustle – for all its luster and lunacy. No doubt, most of us have seen or heard the ads for weeks now. The flurry even spurs its own thread of media stories, including those covering the protests this month around big box stores that will open at midnight or even 9:00 pm on Thanksgiving [5]. Apparently, the point of the day is increasingly becoming a mere precursor to the shopping that so many people consider the main event. In addition to the shameless “creep” of shopping hours, one story seemed to take the madness to a new level. A woman in California has been camping out in front of a Best Buy for more than a week now [6], waiting to be the first in line when the doors open for the Black Friday sale. A younger man joined her in line earlier in the week, explaining [7] to reporters, “I’ve got nothing else better to do.” Has it seriously come to this?

I just can’t resist – as I’m sure many of you can’t either. How many “better” things are there to do with a week of your life? (Truth be told, it could be a whole blog in itself.) For the purpose of today, let’s just talk about Black Friday. If you bristle against the commercial frenzy, what could a “Primal Friday” look like instead? Just a few modest suggestions…

  1. Sleep in [8]. Seriously. You know you want to. Imagine how much better you’ll feel than the folks who dragged themselves out of bed at 4:00 am.
  2. Volunteer your time and resources. Research demonstrates a physiological benefit to our altruistic ventures (e.g. lower stress [9], better sleep, enhanced immune function [10], and reduced pain [11]). The key is to feel genuinely emotionally invested in our volunteer endeavors. (Actually interacting with other people increases benefits as well.) Deliver charitable contributions to a local organization or volunteer to help distribute them to those in need. Bring groceries and good old fashioned funds to a local food shelf. Donate clothes and housewares to nonprofit stores that benefit area organizations. Volunteer for the day at a homeless shelter, community program, or animal rescue organization. Adopt a family for the holiday season and shop for them instead.
  3. Devote the day to making homemade cards and gifts. If you have off work, put on a totally different hat and indulge your innate creativity. Expand yourself *and* do something a loved one will appreciate. Send humorous postcards to friends [12]. Knit or carve a gift for someone special. Make wreaths or decorative winter planters for neighbors. Whip up some Primal jerky [13], gorp [14], tapenade [15], sauces [16], or infused vodka [17] for friends.
  4. Take in a cultural event. Skip the throngs at the mall and head for the concert hall, local theater, or community center. Expand your horizons, and enjoy a communal atmosphere [18] – without the stampede.
  5. Make a day for reminiscing and record the occasion for future enjoyment. Gather around to watch old family movies or slide shows on the computer. Tell your favorite stories of past holidays. Get a family photo taken or videotape some play time in the backyard. It will be a more meaningful keepsake for this year’s holiday season that whatever you could’ve bought.
  6. Invite the neighbors for a casual open house. Sure, many of them will be chasing sales in the wee hours of the morning. No matter. Throw together an informal, “post-sale” brunch or a cocktail hour spread. They’ll appreciate the hospitality – and the return to a saner way of celebrating the holiday weekend.
  7. Go in search of an exercise adventure [19]. Hitting the gym is admirable. You definitely won’t be alone, but why not do something different? Think more play [20]. How about a little intermittent euphoria [21]? Try your hand at parkour. Catch some waves. Take a polar dip (with a buddy safe on shore, please). Go trail running. Grab some family and friends for a wild game of rugby or Ultimate [22]. You know how good activity is for that Grok [23] body of yours. Treat it to some thrills as well.
  8. Seek out the light-hearted. Hit a comedy club, or curl up with some loved ones and your favorite funny movies. Research shows that laughter reduces stress [24] (unlike lines at the mall), boosts our immune function, relaxes our muscles, enhances circulation, relieves tensions [25], and decreases pain [26]. Devote an entire day to humor? How old are we? Exactly.
  9. While others are hitting overrun food courts, make truly healthy meals [27] that will keep you happily fed for a couple weeks. Mine the leftovers and fill your freezer. Make a steaming pot of turkey soup, extra containers of bone broth [28], a pan of spaghetti squash tetrazzini [29], a spicy Turkey stew, or whatever else makes good use of Thanksgiving’s delectable residuals [30]. Making everything the next day ensures the ingredients will still be fresh. (Face it – three days from now the turkey carcass won’t inspire as much enthusiasm). You’ll appreciate having the meals on hand for hearty lunches or quick dinners.
  10. Go on an outdoor pilgrimage. Climb a certain mountain in your area. Hit a challenging trail. Walk the full distance of a local urban trail. Be in the moment, in that place [31]. Allow the experience to dismiss all the buzz and distractions. Use the time to center yourself on what matters to you this holiday season. Make it the beginning of an annual tradition [32].

Finally, drink up every bit of Thanksgiving leisure. I’m a sucker for A Christmas Story movie (wrong holiday, but still), and while I love the humor (Lifebuoy, anyone?), one of my favorite parts is the end scene in which the parents sit together, quietly enjoying the tree while the kids fall asleep and the snow falls outside. Sometimes the best part of a holiday is the quiet hours after the agenda’s been satisfied and the dishes are washed. It’s somehow the part I always enjoy the most. It’s when people are most unscheduled and unfettered. The best conversations unfold. The most intimate memories are made. Why rush it, let alone skip it altogether? We rush through the holidays and miss so much in our focus on checklists and pure logistics. The best of life so often happens in the lulls, the interludes, the end of a great evening. Don’t miss it.

Thanks for stopping by today, everybody. Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy the holiday weekend!