Why summer's the best time to put on a happy face


If you're feeling a little down in the dumps, now is the time to use those sunny skies to improve your outlook on life. Partaking in life's little pleasures is even easier during the summer season, and you can choose certain activities that'll uplift your mood in an instant.

"Most people don't realize that happiness is a choice," says Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness. "Happiness is learning to live your best life by figuring out a better way to react to what happens to you. It's the culmination of all of the little actions, choices, and habits that fill our days, as well as how we think about them." So go on, get happy!

Here are six simple steps that will help!

Get Moving


It's hard to resist the call of the great outdoors when the sun is shining and the grass is green. "Take advantage of the wonderful weather and up your activity level!" Patkin says. It doesn't mean you have to run a marathon. Just 20 minutes a day will improve your outlook immensely.

"Exercise will relax you, make you feel stronger, and improve your sleep. It's also a natural anti-depressant that will boost your mood. And as time passes, you'll gain the added bonus of being happier with your physical appearance as well."

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, known as "Dr. Happy," suggests starting at home. "Jump on the bed, dance around the house, and race your kids to the car. Any type of activity will boost your happiness," she says.

Related: For more tips on living a healthy, happy life, download our FREE iPad app!

Go Easy on Yourself


Rose-colored glasses, anyone? "Most people tend to go through life as though they're wearing glasses that allow them to focus only on the negatives like failures, mistakes, and worries," Patkin says. "This summer, put on a new pair of shades with a more positive prescription that enables you to focus on all of the good things in your life too! The fact is we're all human so it's normal to make mistakes. However, it's not healthy or beneficial to dwell on them."

Play to Your Strengths


The days are longer, the schedules are more relaxed, and you're probably enjoying some vacation days. Resolve to spend some of that time developing your special abilities and talents!

"If you want to be happy, you need to recognize, use, and share your gifts. Each of us has been given special, unique strengths, and when we are using them, we're happier and feel much better about ourselves-and the world at large is better off too!" Patkin says.

Stop and Smell the Roses


There are so many moments to treasure throughout our lives, and they're often especially vivid in the summer: the sound of kids playing outside, the scent of the herbs in your garden, the feeling of sand between your toes and sun on your skin. The question is: are you really experiencing and enjoying these moments… or is your mind obsessing over the past or worrying about the future while only your body is physically present?

"If it's the latter, you're only exacerbating your anxiety and unhappiness by choosing to dwell on things you can't control. I can't stress enough how important it is to truly appreciate the present moment," Patkin says.

Bond with Loved Ones


Summer is known for cookouts, pool parties, and get-togethers. So use those festive events as a chance to improve your relationships and make them more fulfilling, Patkin says.

"Try to host at least one or two events between June and September and invite the people you love over for some fun. The truth is that it's worth putting work into improving your relationships with your family and friends all year round, because the quality of your bonds with the people closest to you can make or break the quality of your life."

Make New Friends


Spend more quality time with the people who are most important to you, but also continue to make new connections.

"You're not the only one who ventures outside your front door more often in the summer, so make a conscious effort to be friendlier to others you encounter too. Introduce yourself to the family next to you at the pool or beach, for example, and say hello to folks you pass while walking in the park," Patkin says.