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Try a different kind of happy hour

(MoneyWatch) Spring is here and the days are getting longer. In December, leaving work at 5 p.m. meant you wouldn't see the sun. But I'm writing this at 7 p.m. on a day in early April, and it's still light enough that I wouldn't need my headlights to drive.

There's plenty of evidence that sunlight boosts people's moods, and taking advantage of this lit time right before and after your workday ends can give "happy hour" a new meaning. Here are 7 ideas for making the most of this time:

1. Take that last meeting outside. Even a conference room with windows beats a dark interior cell. If you've got a phone call, get a headset and go sit on a bench.

2. Drive the scenic route. Open your windows and aim to drive somewhere that doesn't involve strip malls.

3. Play with your kids in the yard. Coax them out to meet you after you pull into the garage, then spend that time before dinner, baths, or homework running around in the grass.

4. Skip the gym. Run outside instead.

5. Get a table on the patio. If you've got happy hour or dinner plans, opt for the outside seating. Even if you have to keep your jacket on with the spring chill, there's something marvelous about having a beer al fresco.

6. Go for a family walk. Bonus points if you have somewhere to walk to -- a playground, perhaps, or an ice cream parlor. Ice cream is good for you if you have to walk to get it.

7. Read outside. Maybe you have a hammock you've set up but rarely tried. Maybe you spent big money on porch furniture that sits there, unused. Why not use it tonight? Turn off the TV and go for some much more relaxing ambiance.

How do you use your happy hour?

Photo courtesy flickr user geoffeg
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