Nothing against the other seasons, but summer is the one that inspires us to be our very best. Temps rise and suddenly all of our good intentions go from being things we intend to do to things we actually do.
Routines are simplified, layers are shed, and fun and healthy decide to hold hands. That's why we've pulled together these 14 little moves to get you off to a good start this summer, when the living is easier—and lighter. Enjoy!
Line dry your clothes
Nothing brings back the lazy days of summer like clothes drying in the warm wind. Instead of giving your wardrobe a manufactured fresh-air scent, you'll be giving them the real thing. To keep wrinkles at bay, give your clothes a good snap before hanging them on the line; finger smooth each item while hanging.
And did we mention that line drying lightens the environmental load, too? Drying just two loads of laundry on a clothesline every week instead of using an electric dryer saves energy equal to the amount needed to run your fridge for four months, says Elizabeth Rogers, author of The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time and founder of ShiftYourHabit.com.
Add some sunny yellow
"Yellow is happy, optimistic, clean, upbeat," says Leslie Harrington, PhD, executive director of The Color Association. But, like that perpetually cheerful co-worker, yellow can be exhausting, so go easy. Try a vase of daisies in the entryway to see how you respond to the shade before you make a more permanent commitment. Another option: Paint just one wall bright yellow; we like Benjamin Moore's St. Elmo's Fire (a zesty citron yellow) and Sundance (a paler hue).
Give your Spanx the summer off
Park the body shapers until the leaves fall. If you feel the need to look better in that sundress, stand up straight, tuck in your buttocks, and suck in your belly—you'll do wonders for your posture and your silhouette. (To get rid of bloat, see below.)
And while you're retiring your Spanx, push anything with a heel to the back of the closet, trade in your heavy leather handbag (the one that resembles a small piece of luggage minus the wheels) for a canvas tote, and send everything that's black on a three-month vacation.
Perk up your playlist
Enough of that easy-listening music or edgy new rock. 'Tis the season to fill your MP3 player with tunes that transport you to summers past: The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City," Martha and the Vandellas's "Heat Wave," The Beach Boys's "I Get Around," Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do," Rod Stewart's "Maggie May"… ah, the list—and the beat—goes on.
Where to find recipes that help you feel virtuous for making healthy choices and keep you wonderfully satisfied? Health.com-recipes, of course. The antidote for "stressed": Homemade Peach Ice Cream or Blackberry-Blueberry Shortcakes. Looking for some heat? Szechuan Spicy Eggplant is calling your name. If you crave something crunchy, try the Spicy Pickled Okra.
Get over a grudge
Every time you think about how you were done wrong, your blood pressure can go up, says relationship expert Michelle Callahan, PhD, author of Ms. Typed. Because moving on is about forgetting as well as forgiving, try this: "Write down every detail of what happened. Then have your own personal ceremony of getting rid of it. Seal it up, pack it away, burn it, whatever you want," Callahan says. You'll feel lighter immediately.
De-bloat your bod
You're working out and counting every last calorie—but you're not losing. What gives? Certainly not the needle on the scale. Try these smart-eating tips from nutritionist Christine Avanti.
• Look for hidden salt. Even so-called virtuous foods like bran cereal, diet dressing, low-fat cottage cheese, and salsa are often loaded with sodium. Aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science recommends.
• Get your daily potassium. P-rich foods (bananas, papaya, tomatoes) will help regulate your body's fluid levels and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, research from the British Journal of Nutrition shows.
Skinny up your favorite summer cocktail
Substitute the triple sec in that margarita with sugar-free syrup, make that gin and tonic with sugar-free tonic—or try this antioxidant-rich sangria recipe from nutritionist Christine Avanti, author of Skinny Chicks Don't Eat Salad.
Get a bright summer smile
Your pearly whites can look dull next to those summery whites you're wearing, but here's a bit of good news: Affordable at-home whitening formulas can help lighten your smile—yellow teeth, in particular—up to three shades. Health Expert Network dental pro Michael Apa, DDS, recommends Crest Whitestrips Advanced Seal ($45). Or find a whitening special at your local dentist (some offices are sure to offer bargains during this slow economy, Dr. Apa says), and follow up with at-home products.
Punch up your pop
Summer, with its contrasts of hot and cool (think: the sizzling sun and sand versus a chilly ocean or lake), is a perfect time for a spiced-up frosty treat. Try this: Drizzle juice of half a lime onto a watermelon ice pop; sprinkle with cayenne pepper, to taste. It'll knock your socks off (although we hope you're not wearing any)! The lime-and-cayenne combo can add zip to a dish of fruit, too.
Loosen up—and laugh!
Forget that long to-do list and be more spontaneous. "Having open space in our calendars and lives is fundamental to our ability to relax and be happy," says Mike Robbins, motivational speaker and author of Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken.
This summer, instead of letting your too-long list make you feel like a slacker, decide which tasks must be done that day (no more than 10 allowed), and bump the rest to a not-doing-now list. Then go to the movies! Skip the doomsday blockbuster (how much fun is that?), and laugh your way through something light like Pixar's Up.
Go light on the news
All the bad news coming at you—online, on-air, in print—only fuels anxiety. In fact, alternative medicine guru Andrew Weil, MD, says it can make you downright depressed and promote a negative view of life.
Can't bear to be uninformed? Then take it in the way you soak up sunlight: Limit your exposure to certain times of the day. Also, turn off those TV or radio shows that are 90% screaming and focus on print that gives you more control over what you dive into.
Chill without the calories
Light, guilt-free ways to indulge in summer temptations.
• Light: Glaceau vitaminwater multi-v (lemonade); 8 ounces, 50 calories
• Lighter: SoBe Lifewater Agave Lemonade; 8 ounces, 40 calories
• Lightest: Snapple Diet Pink Lemonade; 8 ounces, 10 calories
• Light: Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino Light Blended Coffee; tall (12 ounces), 130 calories
• Lighter: Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Light; tall (12 ounces), 110 calories
• Lightest: Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino Light; tall (12 ounces), 90 calories
Jazz up your walk
There's nothing better than a summer walk —except a summer walk that lets you enjoy the great outdoors and hike your calorie burn. The secret: Add intervals (short bursts of high-intensity exercise). Celeb trainer Gunnar Peterson, who has worked with Jennifer Lopez and Penelope Cruz and is the author of G-Force: The Ultimate Guide to Your Best Body Ever, suggests this jazzed-up combo, which can burn as many as 300 calories in 40 minutes at high intensity.