By Sharon Boone

From Bright Smile Beautiful You 

Summer is a prime opportunity to explore the great outdoors and try something new. Here is our list of activities -- big and small -- that will quickly lift your spirits and relieve stress.

Don't Hit the Snooze
Waking with the sun means getting your day off to a more leisurely start. Instead of grabbing a muffin on the go, you'll have time for a healthier breakfast. Research shows that people who enjoy a balanced morning meal are more likely to lose weight. Early risers also avoid the where-are-my-keys and have-you-seen-my-other-silver-sandal a.m. stressors. 

Smell the Flowers
Cultivate an orchid in your office window, or keep a vase of cut flowers in your bedroom. Studies show that having flowers around triggers happy emotions and heightens feelings of life satisfaction.

Exercise Outside

Ditch the treadmill and spin class for an actual outdoor trail. If you already run outside, try a new activity, like a yoga session on the beach or a fitness boot camp in the park; the change can reinvigorate your fitness aspirations. Experts say that adjusting to a change in scenery and terrain can boost brainpower. If you can, schedule early-morning workouts to take advantage of pollen-free air and lower temperatures. 

Pucker up
Not that you need to find an excuse; experts at the Academy of General Dentistry say engaging in a passionate lip-lock doesn't just improve your love life, it can also boost oral health. Deep kissing can increase the flow of saliva, which helps keep teeth and gums healthy.

Go in the Water
According to the Centers for Disease Control, water-based exercise can boost your cardiac health, increase muscle tone and improve your mood. But don't just stick to swimming laps. Rowing-based activities such as kayaking, canoeing and the latest craze from Hawaii, stand-up paddle boarding, work the core so you whittle your middle as you row, row, row your boat.  

Skip the Dryer
The smell of sheets being hung to dry in the summer sun can transport you back to the innocent days of childhood. Bonus benefit: Line-drying clothes cuts carbon dioxide levels and energy costs, making it environmentally -- and wallet -- friendly.

Spend Time With Yourself
Make this the year you get comfortable spending quality time on your own -- whether it's taking in a matinee, stopping at your favorite lounge for a cocktail or vacationing on your own. Once you've mastered coolly taking control of your environment, you'll find it easier to approach any situation.

Smile More
Showing your pearly whites may help reduce symptoms associated with stress and anxiety, according to Mark Stibich, a consultant at Columbia University who holds a doctorate in health behavior change. Smiling also makes you appear more confident and can make you appear younger, since the muscles used to smile lift the face -- no plastic surgery needed!

Sharon Boone is the former lifestyle editor at Fitness and has been on staff at Essence, Glamour, Seventeen and Woman's Day. Her work has also appeared in Health, Natural Health and InStyle Weddings. 

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