On Black Friday, some 87 million Americans leave the Thanksgiving table early to prepare for a feast of consumerism that typically includes hours of waiting for a mere 10 minutes of shopping to buy about $135 worth of purchases. This year a courageous new campaign from the country’s largest specialty outdoor retailer, REI, asks us to rethink the way we spend the day after Thanksgiving. They are encouraging its 5.5 million members, 12,000 employees, and anyone else who wants to, to spend the day outdoors instead of rushing the aisles.

Making it easier for folks to play hooky, REI announced that it will close all of its 143 retail locations on Black Friday (November 27) to encourage people to #OptOutside and reconnect with nature, family, and friends over the holiday weekend.

SEATTLE, WA – OCTOBER 27: Specialty Outdoor Retailer REI announces Black Friday closure at 143 stores nationwide with unveiling at Seattle flagship store as part of #OptOutside initiative on October 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Suzi Pratt/Getty Images for REI)

“For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth. We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us,” Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, wrote in a letter to members and employees and posted it on the homepage of REI’s micro-site, OptOutside.rei.com.

“For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better.”

What REI has done with this campaign is unthinkable in the retail world. No other brand has ever told a consumer, ‘Put your money away and come back another day—after you’ve had some good old fashion fun!’ We applaud this effort, as it promotes healthy living and encourages everyone to reflect on what’s most important to them over the holidays. We are making it a goal to be right out there with them, doing any one (or more) of these mindful activities. Will you join us?

1. Kick up some dust on a new trail.

Take your run off road and join the 7.5 million runners who hit the trails last year. As you explore new territory near you, take a cue from Elinor Fish, a Colorado-based mindful running coach who leads a series of women-only wellness retreats, including the upcoming Costa Brava Running + Wellness Retreat in Catalonia, Spain this April:

“Running mindfully transforms the experience of running from a workout to an opportunity to tune in to your internal state. Leave your mobile device at home and rather than running for time, pace, or distance, make this run all about being present in the process of running. Use today’s run as an opportunity to notice how you’re feeling physically and mentally.

Is your gait stiff or fluid? Are your shoulders tight or loose? Are you feet striking the ground with force, or landing lightly? Is your breathing easy or labored? Are you unmotivated and sluggish or fired up and grateful to be outside? These sensations reflect your internal stress state and give you the space to process the thoughts, worries or fears that may be weighing on you.

Take this time to simply be with your body and breath in this beautiful place and notice how your body and mind transform from the start to the end of your run. These shifts are not just imagined, rather, reflect a very real change taking place at a cellular level. Your blood becomes more oxygenated, circulation stimulated and hormones rebalanced. As a result, you feel more refreshed, more confident, happier, and clearer mentally. Not every run has to be about building fitness. It’s OK to run some times to simply clear your mind and restore your energy.”


Related: 7 Ways Mindfulness Improves Your Running


 

2. Head for the hills—or just up the street.

Cheryl Strayed’s book-turn-film Wild starring Reese Witherspoon inspired a ton of people, especially women, to hike more. But you don’t need to trek for 1,100 miles like Strayed did in 1995 to reap the rewards. Taking on any well-marked trail near you (including national parks which turn 100 in August) one section at a time as part of a day-hike, weekend trip, or longer can feel just exhilarating and gratifying. To take the intimidation factor down a notch, heed this advice from National Park Foundation and REI Ambassador Andia Winslow (pictured above and below), who is also a professional golfer and senior coach at the Mile High Run Club, a NYC-based boutique fitness studio dedicated to running.


“Hiking doesn’t need to be a gear-extravagant affair. Last week I hiked in Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Forest and then just yesterday I walked from Brooklyn to the Bronx—that was a hike, too! A hike is whenever you go for a long walk to think, explore, exercise, or get from point A to point B. Here’s how to make it more mindful: Pocket your smart device, feel how the terrain changes beneath your feet, note the characters (that strange-looking tree, those kids drawing chaw rainbows on the sidewalk, etc.) you encounter along the way, listen to nature’s rhythm all around you, and walk in the wrong direction, get lost and find yourself in the end.”

3. Do what makes you feel happiest and most relaxed.

Sure, running, hiking, or biking sound great, but it’s most important to do what truly makes you feel good. For some that might mean signing up for a favorite fitness class or swinging by a yoga studio. For health coach, book author, and iHeart radio host Melanie Young, the latter is already a part of her holiday plan.

“I’ll be visiting my yoga studio for some quiet ‘me time’ after hosting 15 people for Thursday dinner,” says Young, who will be leading a Fearless & Fabulous Retreat this February in Costa Baja Resort, Mexico. “Make ‘me time’ as important as ‘we time’ for the entire weekend,” she adds. “You may be hosting guests or you may be a visiting guest in someone’s home. It’s crucial to strike a balance between opting in to be with the gang and opting out for some quiet time on your own. Whatever you do, the key is to fully focus on what you are doing and enjoy it.”

Photos by Javier Gonzalez

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