Five Ways to Make Your Black Friday More Mindful

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year—about half of all Americans crack open their wallets as the holiday retail season begins. If you're among those hitting the mall (or opening your laptop), why not feel good about it?

Here are five ways to transform shopping into an opportunity to practice mindfulness and bring more positive emotions into your life.

Find small ways to connect.

Shopping has been a bonding activity between friends and family members ever since Wilma and Betty’s trips to Macyrock’s and Gimbelstone’s. But making positive connections with complete strangers—exchanging a smile with someone else who’s hopelessly lost in the bowels of a big box store, or offering a cashier a warm thanks—has a surprisingly powerful impact on well-being and even physical health. According to positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, “Those pleasant yet fleeting moments of connection that you experience with others expand your awareness in ways that accrue to create lasting and beneficial changes in your life.”

Use the pauses to practice being in the moment.

Black Friday can entail a lot of enforced pauses, whether in traffic or in line. “Whenever I find myself stuck in a mile-long holiday line, I pause and practice,” says Angela Wilson, a Kripalu presenter and expert in mind-body stress-reduction. “Check out the scene around you. How do the people look? Even notice the merchandise. Really take it all in. Then notice your breath, how you feel. Can you make a little more space for how the world looks around you, no matter whether it looks calm or totally harried?” If you’re shopping at home, pause while the images load to gaze out a window, take three deep breaths, and notice the world outside the screen.

Savor pleasure wherever it arises.

According to meditation teacher Sally Kempton, the human brain is wired for pleasure—and we can find it in many different pursuits and at many different levels. Shopping might not be the deepest of those, but it does offer plenty of opportunities for savoring—from your mochaccino pit stop to the sense of satisfaction you feel when you’ve crossed something off your gift list. Sally writes, “Whether you are tasting something delicious, or enjoying the company of your friend, or throwing yourself wholeheartedly into a task or cause, or enjoying the flow of creativity, you can make any of these pleasures an avenue into the stillness of true Self.”

Use gift selection as a way to focus in on your most intimate relationships.

Relationship experts Charlie and Linda Bloom say that there are five main ways people like to receive love: touch, quality time, words and affirmations, acts of service, and gifts. Since this is gift-giving season, take a moment before you insert your credit card to consider your partner’s preferred method of receiving, and how that would best translate into a material object or an experience. (A weekend getaway? A coupon for five foot rubs? A personal letter?) Even couples who have been together forever get gifts wrong all the time; we tend to choose presents for others that we’d want to receive ourselves. But gift-giving is one area where the Golden Rule isn’t always applicable. Harvard psychology professor Ellen J. Langer says that gift-giving encourages us to think about others and what they’d really like.

Take advantage of the fact that we’re hardwired for generosity.

Getting great deals is fun, but it turns out that giving to charity feels even better. In one study, participants who chose to give a donation, rather than receiving money for themselves, experienced increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with positive reward. So, if you get the opportunity to give a little extra for a good cause, go ahead and do it. It really is better to give than to receive—and, lucky for us, Black Friday is always followed by #GivingTuesday.

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