9 quick science-approved things you can do to make your mornings better.

Mornings are tough...

Whether you're one of those mythical "morning people" who actually set their alarm as early as possible just to, I don't know, listen to birds or whatever, or if you're one of my fellow not-morning people whose a.m. routines involve marathon-smashing the snooze button before finally dragging yourself out of bed to sloppily make a pot of coffee and stare at the mirror, wondering if today is the day you finally give up on being an adult and run off for life as a house cat—


—well, they're tough.

Did you know there are a few science-approved things you can do to make your mornings less of a drag?

These nine simple tips only take a few minutes to complete and could mean never spending another morning falling asleep in the shower:

1. Take a few minutes to actually make your bed.

If you're not already a bed-maker, it probably seems like a huge waste of time. Why straighten sheets and fluff pillows that you're just going to mess up again anyway?

Honestly, the pattern on that pillow is stressing me out more than anything. Photo via iStock.

It turns out, making your bed correlates with being happier and even more successful. According to a survey of 68,000 people, 71% of bed-makers consider themselves happy, while 62% of non-bed-makers said they were unhappy.

Now, it's impossible to know if bed-making really makes people happy or if happy people just tend to make their beds more. However, we do know that clutter tends to beget stress. If your bed looks less cluttered, it's possible that it could lower your stress levels.

Not to mention, making your bed probably only takes about three minutes and gives you an easy morning win to check off your to-do list. Which means you're starting your day more relaxed, you've already done something productive, and you're ready to go out into the world and continue being productive.

2. Tidy up. Even a little bit.

Along the same lines as bed-making, if there are a million dishes in your sink from the day(s) before, that clutter is probably creating subtle stressors in your brain.

Also, unclog your sink. Seriously. Photo via iStock.

If you can find a minute in the morning, do some of the dishes. Or clean up some living room clutter. Maybe sweep out a single room or take out the trash. Reducing clutter and completing a task (no matter how small) will give you a nice sense of satisfaction to kick-start your day.

3. Drink a glass of lemon water.

Don't worry, you don't need to replace your vanilla soy latte or go on a questionably effective cleanse to make this work for you in the morning. Before you leave the house in a beeline for the closest Starbucks, drink a 16-ounce glass of water with a little bit of lemon juice in it.

Plus you'll get SO MANY Instagram likes. Photo via iStock.

I know it sounds kind of hokey, but lemon water is pretty amazing and a perfectly simple way to brighten your morning routine. According to The Huffington Post, the benefits of lemon water include but are not limited to: hydration, a nice dose of vitamin C, freshening your breath (by killing bacteria), clearing your skin, and helping with aches and pains by reducing uric acid in the joints.

Lemon water won't compliment your shirt or walk the dog for you, though, so while it can be a nice addition to your morning, it's not going to solve all your problems.

4. Raise the blinds and let the sunlight in.

Yes, I know. Its early in the morning and the world probably isn't ready to see you yet. But raising the blinds lets in some natural light, and there are a lot of benefits to that.

"There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day — particularly in the morning — is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism," Dr. Phyllis Zee, a neurology professor at Northwestern University, told WebMD.

Not recommended: sleeping with lipstick on. Photo via iStock.

Natural light also helps your brain sync up to the Earth's natural rotation, which can have major health benefits. According to one study, people with more exposure to natural light slept longer and better at night. They also got more exercise and reported a better quality of life.

So at the risk of shrieking in horror at the sunlight and your neighbors shrieking in horror at your bedhead, open up the blinds and let the light in. The benefits outweigh the risks.

Even if you don't have any windows to open, you can get an alarm clock that lights up with the sunrise.

5. Eat something high in fiber and grains.

While it can be tempting to start every day with a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, starting your day with a heavy, greasy breakfast can slow you down a lot.

Just try not to spill your berries all over the F***ING DECK, DAVID.

Having a lighter breakfast instead can have a ripple effect that boosts your entire day. Try a bowl of berries or something else high in fiber and grains. If you give your body some heavy-duty nutrients in the morning, you'll feel more awake and your body will totally thank you later.

6. Meditate.

Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, increase creativity, and even reduce blood pressure. Also like a million other things.

Meditate and have a ball! (I know. I'm sorry.) Photo via iStock.

Meditation is easy: Just breathe, focus on the sound of your breath, and sit still quietly. You don't have to do it all day, either. Meditating for three to five minutes in the morning is a perfect way to start your day with a stress-free, take-on-the-world attitude. There are even great apps you can use that help you meditate quickly on the go — what better way to spend a long commute than with a little mental R&R? Just don't do it if you're driving, obviously.

7. Text something nice to someone.

I know, it sounds silly, but seriously. Try it.

Sending someone positive thoughts or words of encouragement is a quick and easy way to make yourself feel happy. Being kind is a great way to live a happier life, and mornings are when we could all use a little pick-me-up.

"Hey Brian! Hope you're doing well. Thanks for buying me this giant sweater." Photo via iStock.

It's mutually beneficial. Not only will it make your morning brighter and make you happier, but you'll probably be helping someone else get their morning off to a great start too.

(Also this is way better than drunk texting. Much less regret and significantly fewer awkward connections with your ex).

8. Set aside a few minutes to read.

The benefits of reading are innumerable and well-known, ranging from improving your vocabulary to promoting creativity and memory. Starting your day with a little bit of reading gets you those benefits first thing in the morning.

Reading stimulates your brain, which wakes you up. Not to mention it also helps take your mind off of the stressors of the upcoming day so you can go into it feeling relaxed and prepared.

This guy looks all business. But he's actually reading Garfield. Photo via iStock.

Whether you're reading a chapter of your favorite book, the newspaper, or even an entry from your favorite blog, reading in the morning is good for you. Reading at any time is good. Reading is good. End of statement.

9. Stretch it out.

Don't stretch out your morning, you'll be late to work — but stretching your body before you head to the office is a great, easy way to get ready to face the day.

Stretching promotes flexibility, blood flow, and posture, and it can help you recover from injuries. It also has many mental benefits, including stress reduction and calming the mind.

This can be a few quick stretches before running out the door or a full-on yoga session with Becky.

She's probably a Becky, right? Photo via iStock.

Either way, stretching in the morning is a great way to be physically and mentally prepared for the uphill battle that is the rest of your day.

A better morning is completely up to you.

Some of you may choose to keep rolling out of bed with 10 minutes to spare before you run out the door, but taking even a few moments to try some of the things on this list can have a huge impact on the rest of your day.

Mornings set the precedent for the entire day, and (as time is linear) entire days are what make up your entire life. So even if you can only fit one of these good habits into your morning routine, I encourage you to try it out. It could make your whole day, and maybe even your whole world, just a little bit brighter.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

So it's incredibly important for people with testicles to check themselves regularly.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.