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You often hear the saying the “dog days of summer” this time of year when the weather is hot, people have more free time, are feeling relaxed and even a little bit lazy. Instead of the “dog days” making us feel stagnant, why not use this time when school’s out to make some simple changes in your life? Studies show that taking care of your physical health can help improve your mental health. Try some of these ideas:

  1. Get out and take a bike ride through your neighborhood. Exercise is a great stress reliever.
  2. Use your vacation time. Take advantage of summer’s slower schedule to unwind and get away from work.
  3. Get dirty. . .and stress less! Working in your garden, or even planting flowers in a few pots, allows you to free your mind and can be a great stress reliever.
  4. Get out of the city heat and head to the hills! Take a hike through the huge variety of trails, from easy to difficult, that are just miles away.
  5. Enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables every day by visiting a farmer’s market. They are easy to find this time of year by checking in your local newspaper.
  6. Adding a handful of berries to your meal will provide helpful antioxidants that can improve your health.
  7. Get good sleep. Resist the urge to stay up late and instead stick to your usual routine. Open the windows and enjoy the fresh air for a good night’s sleep.

Too hot to go outside? Try some of these hot-weather tips:

  1. Go outside and play with your kids. Run through the sprinkler or have a water fight.
  2. Take a swim. Most local recreation centers offer indoor or outdoor pools.
  3. Clean a closet. De-cluttering your home can help de-clutter your mind, and you’ll feel better about tackling the more hectic days ahead.
  4. Use your creativity to maintain your mental health. Check out your local art center for free classes, workshops or camps. Jefferson Center’s Wellness Now program offers free classes year-round ranging from hiking to quilting to jewelry making to yoga. Check their schedule athttp://www.wellnessnowjcmh.org.