The Benefits of Martial Arts for Kids

Martial arts are beneficial for kids in many different ways.

Have you been thinking about enrolling your son or daughter in a martial arts class? Martial arts are a great option, even for kids who don’t have much interest in other sports. Whether your child is interested in practicing karate, Taekwondo, Jiu-Jitsu, or Tai Chi, it’s a practice that they can learn a lot from and benefit from in many, many ways. Today, I’m going to cover just a few of them.

6 Ways Martial Arts Benefit Kids

#1. It gets them moving.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity affects almost 14 percent of two- to five-year-olds, more than 18 percent of six- to 11-year olds, and more than 20 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds in the United States, and many more are overweight. This puts our nation’s children at risk for all kinds of health problems, from diabetes to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Luckily, a little movement can go a long way toward combating obesity in children.

One of the biggest benefits of martial arts for children is that it gets them moving, and it does so in a way that they actually enjoy. Part of the reason for this is that martial arts don’t require that kids be overly athletic in order to participate. Practicing martial arts gives kids a full-body workout that includes both strength training and cardiovascular training, as well as balance and flexibility.

#2. It teaches them to set and work toward goals.

Some kids are natural-born athletes and do well in many sports, even if they’re completely new to them. However, martial arts don’t work that way. Every child, no matter their athleticism or natural ability, starts on the same level in martial arts, and they all must work toward goals in order to move to the next level or belt.

Goal setting is extremely valuable for kids. It helps to keep them motivated, to learn to track their progress, and to learn to map a path for success.

#3. It teaches them how to focus.

Focus is something that can be a challenge for kids these days. With smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and more, there are lots of things to distract kids. But with a regular martial arts practice, kids can learn how to push the distractions aside and direct their attention toward their practice.

In martial arts, children must focus on the task at hand in order to get it right, which also means that they need to be able to fully listen to their instructor. This is especially beneficial for kids who might have a limited attention span or difficulty focusing on one task at a time.

#4. It builds confidence.

Confidence is huge for children, because it helps them face life’s obstacles head-on and gives them the self-esteem they need to jump into learning new skills with both feet. Kids who are more confident are also more secure in who they are and are more likely to have a growth mindset. They also tend to be more willing to try new things and aren’t afraid to ask for help when they need it.

The more time children spend participating in martial arts, the more confidence they’ll gain. Kids don’t start out in karate as a black belt; it takes consistent effort and practice to get there. When kids start reaching their goals and seeing the fruits of their labor, it builds confidence and self-esteem.

#5. It teaches them to respect authority.

Disrespect is all too common in kids these days. Disrespect impacts family life and undermines parental authority, but it makes almost every other aspect of life, including academics and athletics, more challenging as well. It can be a tough issue to correct, but the good news is that martial arts can really help.

Respect is a critical aspect of martial arts. In martial arts, kids not only learn to respect their instructor; they also learn to respect their peers as well as themselves. And, many martial arts programs take a child’s behavior outside the classroom into account, only moving kids up through the ranks when they can demonstrate respect and discipline in their home and school lives.

#6. It builds conflict-resolution skills.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that martial arts teach and reinforce violence, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While martial arts does teach kids to physically defend themselves, what kids really learn from martial arts is to resolve conflicts in peaceful ways.

Through martial arts, kids learn to temper their immediate reactions to things, which helps them react in healthier ways than hitting or yelling. It teaches kids how to listen more and to put themselves in the shoes of their aggressors, helping them to resolve conflicts in ways that aren’t physical.

As I said, these are just a few of the many ways that your child could benefit from practicing a martial art. If you’re looking to help your child reap these benefits, start your search for a local martial arts center with Top Rated Local®.

Our local business directory not only provides you with a list of dojos in your area, but it makes it easy to compare martial arts centers side by side and read reviews from across the web. It also provides a quick snapshot of a martial arts center’s reputation overall with the Rating Score™.

Whether you’re looking for in-person or online classes, start your search for a martial arts center near you with Top Rated Local today!

How to Stay Safe While Out Shopping

Want to stay safe while you’re out shopping?

The coronavirus pandemic has made a lot of simple things much more complicated, including shopping. But, whether you need a new pair of socks or to replenish your pantry, it’s something we can’t avoid doing forever. The good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to stay safe while you’re out shopping. Here are just a few of them:

#1. Do curbside pickup when you can.

The best way to stay safe while out shopping is to avoid it altogether! Luckily, that’s easier to do now than ever before, with so many stores adopting curbside pickup. It used to be that only a select few grocery stores offered curbside pickup, but now you can find it at just about any store. Even some beauty salons and nail salons have put together curbside at-home kits that you can use to keep up your beauty routine at home.

With lots of retailers, you can now order online, and they’ll bring it out to your car. But, if the store in question doesn’t offer online shopping, don’t hesitate to call and ask if they’ll do curbside pickup. Many will gladly do so and will accept orders over the phone.

#2. Have a plan.

In order to minimize your time out in the public, you want to avoid browsing while you’re in the store. You should have a plan in place before you go out shopping, which means that you should put together a list of what you want/need ahead of time.

One of the best ways to ensure that you get out of the store as quickly as possible is to organize your list by aisle, and put your list in order by what you’ll pass in the store first. Of course, this requires you to be familiar with the store you’re going to, which can also help to save a lot of time.

If you’re not 100-percent sure which items are found in which aisles, you can still make your trip faster by organizing your list by type. For instance, if you’re going to the grocery store, list all of your produce together, all of your dairy together, all of your frozen goods together, etc.

#3. Try to avoid using your fingertips.

High-touch surfaces, like door handles, can harbor lots of invisible germs that can be transferred to your face when you touch them with your fingertips. If the door to the store is not propped open or doesn’t have a sensor that will automatically open the door for you, you can often avoid touching the handle with your fingertips by using your elbow or hip to push the handicapped button. You can also use these alternatives when pushing the door open.

#4. Wear a mask when out in public.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all Americans wear cloth face coverings when out in public, especially in crowded indoor areas, like retail stores and grocery stores. This is meant to keep others around you safe, which is important because COVID-19 can be transferred before symptoms start to appear.

#5. Stay at least six feet away from others.

When you’re in the store, make it a point to steer clear of other shoppers. If there are arrows in the store indicating which direction you should walk in, make sure to pay attention to them and follow them. If an aisle looks crowded, wait for a few minutes for it to clear up before you go down it. Or, if someone is standing in front of something you want to grab, let them make their selection and walk away before you to get what you need.

Maintaining your distance while out shopping is one of the most important steps you can take to keep yourself, and those around you, safe. The downside, though, is that it can make your shopping trip longer because you have to wait for a clear path before you go down a certain aisle or grab certain products. That’s why it’s always good to give yourself a little more time when you’re going out these days.

Another important step you can take to ensure that you can keep your distance while shopping is to avoid going out when the store you’re visiting is crowded. If you’re unsure about when that might be, don’t hesitate to call and ask about the store’s busiest hours.

#6. Look before you touch.

In order to avoid spreading more germs than you have to, you should refrain from actually touching things as much as possible while out shopping. A lot of people like to browse with their hands, handling each item, reading the packaging. This, unfortunately, leads to a lot of unnecessary handling of products that end up getting put back on the shelves.

To avoid this, look with your eyes instead of with your hands. If possible, compare similar products ahead of time online so that you have an idea of what you want before you go to the store.

#7. Wash your hands.

The advice not to touch your face is sound, but it is much easier said than done for many of us. If you’re anything like me, the second I tell myself that I won’t touch my face is the second my nose starts itching like crazy. That’s why good hygiene is so important during this pandemic.

When you get in the car after shopping, eliminate the germs that may be living on your hands by using some hand sanitizer. And, when you get home, after you’ve put your groceries or other goods away, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Want to shop at a local retailer near you? Start your local business search with Top Rated Local®. Top Rated Local is not your average local business directory. When you search for local businesses with us, you’ll be be able to easily compare retailers side by side by looking at their Rating Score™ — which is a quick snapshot of what a business’ online reputation looks like overall — as well as read a business’s reviews from across every verified review site it’s listed on. Get started today!

At-Home Dental Care Tips

Staying at home doesn’t have to mean neglecting your dental health.

In many states, preventative dental care has fallen to the wayside as dental offices have worked to keep their patients safe and prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, even if you can’t get in to see your local dentist in person, it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep your teeth healthy and beautiful from home.

How to Keep Your Smile Healthy From Home

#1. Brush properly.

Most people are well aware of just how important regularly brushing their teeth is for dental health. In fact, it’s the most basic thing you can do to keep your teeth and mouth healthy. But, how you brush your teeth is just as important as how often you brush, and believe it or not, it’s easy to get it wrong.

The correct way to brush your teeth is by holding the brush at a 45-degree angle and brushing in a gentle, circular motion. Plaque is loose and soft and doesn’t require aggressive brushing to remove. If you brush your teeth too aggressively, or even too frequently, you can end up damaging your teeth and gums.

It’s also important that you’re brushing your teeth for long enough to get them thoroughly cleaned. Two minutes is the ideal amount of time to brush your teeth. If you don’t brush long enough, your teeth won’t get properly cleaned, and if you brush too long, you could damage your teeth and gums, just as you could by brushing too aggressively.

And, don’t forget to brush your tongue! After all, it’s where the majority of the bacteria in your mouth live. It also prevents bad breath, which is always a good thing.

#2. Invest in the right toothbrush.

Not all toothbrushes are made equally, and to get the best results when brushing your teeth, you need to use the right tools for the job.

An electric toothbrush is a great option if it’s in your budget. One study found that, when compared to manual toothbrushes, electric toothbrushes have the power to reduce plaque up to 21 percent more and gingivitis 11 percent more.

If using an electric toothbrush isn’t an option for you, not to worry. You can still clean your teeth thoroughly with a manual toothbrush, but again, it’s important that you select the right one. For best results, you’ll need a soft-bristled toothbrush. Hard-bristled brushes aren’t gentle enough and can damage your teeth and gums.

#3. Rinse regularly.

Brushing your teeth after every meal or snack is unnecessary and, as I mentioned, can end up hurting your teeth and gums more than helping them. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to freshen up your mouth throughout the day after meals and snacks.

Rinsing regularly is a good way to get rid of any food particles that may have been leftover in your mouth. When debris is left in your mouth, it combines with bacteria to create tartar. All it takes to remove it is a simple rinse of warm water after eating.

It’s especially important to rinse your mouth out after eating or drinking anything that’s acidic. If you brush too soon after eating an orange or something else acidic, you can actually hurt your teeth by brushing the acid into them.

#4. Keep your toothbrush clean and replace it regularly.

Germs and bacteria can grow on your toothbrush while it’s sitting on the counter between brushings, which are then introduced into your mouth when you brush. Gross!

Luckily, you can avoid this by simply disinfecting your toothbrush before each use. This can be done by letting your toothbrush sit in antibacterial mouthwash for about 30 seconds. If you don’t have antibacterial, you can soak your toothbrush in a mix of a cup of water with two teaspoons of baking soda mixed into it for several minutes, or you can soak your toothbrush in white vinegar overnight every week.

In addition to ridding your toothbrush of germs and bacteria, it’s also a good idea to replace it regularly, as the bristles can wear out over time. The general rule is that you’ll want to replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three months.

#5. Floss every day.

Plaque, which is the leading cause of gum disease and tooth decay, needs to be removed from your teeth twice a day. Unfortunately, not all plaque is easy to reach. The plaque that grows in between your teeth can be some of the toughest to get rid of since it can’t be reached with a toothbrush alone.

Flossing is the best way to eliminate the hard-to-reach plaque that grows in between your teeth, and it should be done at least once a day. If you can’t stand the idea of flossing, a water flosser or powered air can be a decent alternative.

#6. Drink plenty of water.

Drinking lots of water throughout the day is not only good to keep you hydrated; it’s also a key part of dental health. When your mouth is dry, it can actually lead to an increase in the accumulation of plaque and increases your risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease.

When you drink plenty of water, it also leads to an increase in salvia, which is your body’s first line of defense against plaque and decay. And, if you drink water that contains fluoride, which is commonly found in tap water, it will also help to strengthen your teeth.

If you’re in need of in-person dental care, find a dentist near you with Top Rated Local. Every state has its own policy in place, and many are loosening restrictions, so you may be able to get an in-person appointment. Barring that, though, many dentists are offering online consultations to address patients’ questions and concerns.

With Top Rated Local, you can read a local dental clinic’s reviews from across the web and easily compare them to other dentists in your area. Get started today.

Tips for Getting a Great Workout From Home

You don’t have to go to the gym to get a great workout.

Although fitness centers are now opening in some states, many more will be closed for at least a while longer. Even if the fitness centers near you are open, you may not feel quite comfortable frequenting one yet, and that’s OK.

Just because you’re not going to a gym or a fitness center, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on fitness! Anyone can get in a great workout from home. It presents different challenges than working out at the gym, but with a little know-how, you can be just as successful from home.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

#1. Get what you need.

You can get in an effective workout with no equipment at all, but, depending on your goals and what you want to do, you may want to invest in a little bit of equipment to help you get started. Bodyweight exercises are awesome, but simple equipment, like dumbbells or free weights, can open up the possibilities even more.

Not sure you want to invest in workout equipment for your home? Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to traditional equipment that are already in your home:

  • Chairs – Want to do tricep dips but don’t have a bench? A sturdy chair is a great alternative. You can also utilize a chair for incline pushups, side skaters, leg raises, and more.
  • Canned goods – Who needs free weights when you have a pair of soup cans?
  • Wall – There are so many different exercises that you can do by using the wall, including wall sits, wall planks, and more.
  • Laundry detergent bottle – Have a full bottle of laundry detergent? Use it to build strength, like with soup cans. The handles make it easy to hold for your workout.
  • Stairs – Who needs a stair stepper when you have the real thing? Walking or running up and down the stairs is a great way to get your heart pumping.

Some fitness centers in states that won’t allow them to reopen at this time are also offering equipment rentals, so you might be able to get some of your favorite equipment at home without having to actually buy it. It never hurts to call and ask!

#2. Put together a plan.

Now that you have the right workout equipment (or the appropriate at-home alternatives), you need to put a plan in place! If you go into your workout without having a real idea of what you want to do or what you want to accomplish, you’ll end up wasting a lot of your time trying to figure it out.

Just like you would focus on certain muscle groups in a workout at the gym, you can do the same thing at home, alternating the muscle groups you focus on each day. This will help to ensure that you’re working out each area of the body. In addition to building strength, make sure to include cardiovascular exercises and exercises to improve flexibility and balance.

Don’t change up your workout routine too often. If you do, you probably won’t make much progress in it. Instead, stick to the same routine for a while, adding more weight or more repetitions each week or as you progress.

#3. Carve out time in your schedule.

Some people find going to the gym easy because it’s a part of their regular routine. When you can get your workout in on your way to work, on your way home from work, or even on your lunch break, it’s easy to fit it into your day.

With coronavirus, though, many of our typical routines have gone out the window. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t establish one at home, and when you do, make sure that you carve out some time for your workout.

If you’re anything like me, then you won’t do your workout unless you have time dedicated to it. By making it a part of your schedule, even if it’s just for 30 minutes, you’ll ensure that you make time for fitness each day.

#4. Find a buddy to keep you accountable.

Staying motivated in any fitness routine is challenging enough as it is, especially when you’re first starting out and haven’t started to see any results yet. But, just like at the gym, having someone to hold you accountable can go a long way.

If you’re living with a spouse, partner, or roommate, take the opportunity to challenge each other and hold each other accountable. You can even work out together, which will make it more fun and enjoyable for everyone.

But, you don’t have to live with someone in order to hold each other accountable. Find a friend who also wants to get in shape, and check-in with them every day via Zoom, Google Hangouts, or even just text messaging to keep each other motivated.

#5. Watch your form.

One of the biggest challenges of working out on your own is watching your own form. That’s especially true for strength training exercises, like squats, lunges, deadlifts, etc. It’s easy to fall out of the right form, particularly if you try to lift more weight than you’re ready for.

The bad news is that performing exercises incorrectly could potentially result in an injury, which will only set you back in your fitness goals. At the very least, doing exercises wrong could make them less effective than they could be.

The good news is that there are plenty of resources available online to help you learn how to perform each exercise properly. And, to make sure that you’re sticking to the right form, it’s always a good idea to work out in front of a mirror when possible.

If you’re looking for a fitness center or a gym near you, or you’re looking for an online consultation from a personal trainer, start your search with Top Rated Local®. At Top Rated Local, you can read a fitness center’s reviews from across the web, and you’ll get a quick glimpse of their overall online reputation with the one-of-a-kind Rating Score™ system.

There’s a reason why Top Rated Local has become the go-to local business directory for people across the U.S. Start your local business search today!

How to Find a Local Business You Can Trust

It’s never been more important to support local businesses, and it’s also never been more important to find a local business you can trust.

Local businesses across the country are facing an uphill battle at the moment, and they are more in need of your support than ever before. But, with the number of coronavirus cases growing by the day, you also want to know that you can trust any local business that you hire.

6 Tips for Finding a Local Business You Can Trust

#1. Check for any necessary licensing or accreditation.

Most industries are under some form of regulation, and many different businesses require some sort of licensing or accreditation. This includes everything from roofers and plumbers to nail salons and massage clinics.

Any time you’re working with a local business that requires a license or accreditation, you should, at the very least, make sure that they have them. If the business isn’t properly licensed or accredited, you shouldn’t even consider working with them.

If you’re hiring a local business to do something inside your home, it’s also essential that you ensure that they are properly insured. This not only prevents them from liability, but you, as well.

#2. Look them up on Google.

You don’t have to hire a private investigator to learn what kind of organization a business is. In fact, you can learn a lot about a business simply by looking it up on Google.

You’ll find the business’ website, Facebook page, local listings, etc. but you can also look for any news that’s been associated with the business in question. For example, if you’re looking for a local restaurant that you can safely support amidst the pandemic, a Google search could help you learn about any previous health code violations they may have had.

#3. Read reviews.

The number one way to learn about what actually working with a local business is like is to go straight to the source — it’s current customers. Here are a few things you can do to get the most out of reading reviews:

  • Read multiple reviews – Individual experience is just that — individual — so reading just one review may or may not be reflective of what the typical customer experience is like. Reading multiple reviews allows you to look for common themes and learn about the customer experience overall rather than just one-off experiences.
  • Read recent reviews – Businesses change all the time. They hire new employees, offer new products or services, and adapt to meet the changing needs of their customers. Someone’s experience three years ago may have very little bearing on the typical experience at the present moment, so make sure that you read recent reviews.
  • Read positive and negative reviews – Don’t just read a business’ five-star reviews or one-star reviews. Read a mix of reviews so that you can get an idea of what the best- and worst-case scenario looks like.
  • Read reviews on multiple sites – A business’s reputation on Yelp isn’t always indicative of its reputation on Google or Facebook, or vice versa. In order to really learn about a business, you need to learn about their online reputation overall, which means that you need to read reviews from more than one review source.

#4. Pay attention to how they respond to feedback.

If a business has a one-star review or two, it’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t be trusted. We all make mistakes; it’s just a part of life. But, it’s how a business responds to those mistakes that can tell you a lot about what working with it is like.

When someone has had a poor experience with a business and gives them a one-star review, it’s a red flag if the business doesn’t respond because it indicates that they either don’t care that their customer didn’t have a good experience or that they don’t pay attention to the feedback they get online.

When a business does respond to a one-star review, on the other hand, it can tell you a lot about what kind of business they are. Did they get defensive and petty when they responded to the negative feedback, or did they own up to their mistake and try to make it right?

A business that can’t accept feedback and doesn’t take responsibility is not the kind of local business you want to work with.

#5. Find out how they treat their employees.

Not only should you ensure that any local business you work with treats its customers well; you should also look at how a business treats its employees, especially right now.

With coronavirus, the last thing that anyone wants is to work with a business that isn’t properly protecting its employees, particularly if those employees work directly with customers. It’s more important than ever to ensure that a local business you work with encourages employees to stay home when they’re sick and keeps employees safe by enforcing social distancing requirements while at work.

#6. Learn about safety precautions.

These aren’t typical times, which makes finding a local business a little more complicated than it typically would be. Whether you’re hiring someone to work in your home or you’re visiting them at a store or an office, you want to know that they have your safety in mind. Make sure that you ask about what the business is doing to keep people safe.

Start your local business search with Top Rated Local®.

When you’re looking for any kind of business near you, whether it’s a barber shop, roofing company, or restaurant, start your search with Top Rated Local. With Top Rated Local, you can read a business’s reviews from across the web, and you’ll get a quick glimpse of a business’s online reputation, overall, by looking at its Rating Score™.

Find a local business near you with Top Rated Local today!

At-Home Hair Care Tips During a Pandemic

Some states have already loosened restrictions on barber shops and hair salons, and some will reopen shortly. But, regardless of whether your state is allowing in-person hair services or not right now, you may not feel comfortable visiting face to face, and that’s OK.

You may not have the skill to cut or color your hair at home as your stylist would, but there are lots of things you can do on your own, from home, to keep it healthy and beautiful.

How to Keep Your Hair Healthy During a Pandemic

#1. Don’t wash your hair more than you have to.

Washing your hair every single day is a recipe for frizzy, dried-out tresses. Shampoos contain detergent, which strips hair of its natural oils, which actually contain the essential nutrients your hair needs to be healthy. And, unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle, because the more you wash your hair and strip it of its natural oils, the more oil it will produce and the greasier your hair will look between washings.

Luckily, though, you can train your hair to be washed less often by gradually increasing the number of days you go between washing it. And, since most of us are stuck at home anyway because of the pandemic, it is a great time to start training your hair.

It’s not just the shampoo that’s a problem when you wash your hair; it’s also the water, itself. When your hair is wet, it swells from the inside, which forces the cuticle up and can lead to frizz and breakage. If you can’t stand the idea of letting nature take its course with your hair between washings, using a dry shampoo is a better alternative than giving in and doing a full wash.

#2. Wash and condition correctly.

When you do wash your hair, make sure that you do so correctly. Since your scalp is what actually produces oil, the root system is where it builds up and where the shampoo should be focused when washing your hair. The ends, on the other hand, are the weakest and most brittle part of the hair shaft, and should be avoided when washing.

Stick with shampooing only the roots of your hair to avoid overdrying the ends. As you rinse the shampoo out of your roots, it will pass through the ends. That’s plenty of detergent for the ends of your hair.

When you condition your hair, concentrate on the ends of your hair, starting at about chin-level. If you condition your scalp, it can clog up the hair follicles and disrupt its natural oil production. Plus, as the ends are the driest, most brittle part of your hair, they need the extra protection and moisture most of all.

#3. Take a break from the heat.

Heat can do serious damage to your hair, and that’s true whether you’re talking about letting the sun beat down on your hair, styling your hair with heat, blow drying your hair, or using hot water to wash and condition your hair.

Heat can damage your hair in many different ways. It dehydrates hair, which can make your hair look less bouncy and leave it more prone to splitting and breakage. Protein damage is another effect of excessive heat on hair, and it can damage the shine, elasticity, and texture of your hair. Last but not least, too much heat can affect the pigmentation of your hair, causing it to fade.

To protect your hair from heat damage, wash and rinse your hair with cold or luke-warm water instead of hot water. Also, if there’s ever a time to forego styling with heat in favor of protecting your hair, it’s during the midst of a pandemic when you’re quarantined at home. And, when you’re out in the sun, keep your hair covered.

#4. Avoid brushing your hair when it’s wet.

When your hair is wet, it’s weaker, more fragile, and more prone to breakage. In other words, when your hair is wet, it’s at its most vulnerable. Furthermore, when you brush wet hair, there’s more tension, which means you have to pull harder and your hair will be more likely to get damaged during the process.

So how do you safely smooth out your hair after washing it? The first step is to carefully squeeze the water out of it with an old t-shirt, which is actually gentler on your hair than a towel. Then, let it air dry naturally, and comb it using a wide-tooth comb.

If you don’t want to wait for it to dry fully naturally, make sure to protect before blow drying with a heat protection spray. And, keep in mind that allowing it to air dry, for even a few minutes, will help to save it from damage, so delay just a little before you reach for your blow dryer.

#5. Treat yourself to a scalp massage.

A little self-care can go a long way these days, and a good old-fashioned scalp massage is a great option because it’s both relaxing and great for your hair, in many different ways.

Massaging your scalp every once in a while stimulates blood circulation, which boosts growth. It strengthens the roots systems and transfers the natural oils that keep hair healthy and vibrant. It also strengthens hair, making it more resilient to damage caused by brushing and styling.

Throughout the day, give yourself a quick scalp massage using your fingertips. For more conditioning power, massage a little coconut or argan oil into your scalp before washing your hair.

Find a barber shop or beauty salon near you with Top Rated Local® for an online consultation or an in-person appointment, whatever you feel most comfortable with.

Tips for a Greener Lawn

Want to have the best lawn on the block?

Thanks to coronavirus, most people are home and walking around their neighborhoods a whole lot more. One of the side effects of staying at home has been a new attention given to neighboring lawns.

Everyone wants their lawn to be the envy of the neighborhood. Here are a few quick tips to help you maintain the best lawn on the block.

How to Keep Your Lawn Green and Beautiful

#1. Keep your grass a little longer.

If your primary goal is to mow as little as possible and you don’t care what your grass looks like, the shorter you mow your grass, the better. But, if your goal is to have a lawn that’s healthy, beautiful, and green, you need to leave it a little longer when you mow.

Cutting your grass too short isn’t healthy for it because it provides no protection for the root system and leaves it exposed to the elements. On the other hand, when you leave your grass a little longer, it keeps the root system healthy and protected, and it shades the soil, which helps to prevent over drying from sun exposure.

In addition to leaving the root system exposed, cutting the grass too short can put stress on it, limiting its ability to grow deep in the soil and leaving it exposed to weeds and pests.

Ideally, you should leave your grass around three inches tall. It may mean you have to mow more often, but it’ll help your lawn stay healthy and green.

#2. Water more deeply and less often.

Watering is an important part of maintaining a beautiful lawn. But, believe it or not, it very much matters how much you water and how often you water. Watering seems like one of those things you can’t get wrong, but lots of people do.

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you water your lawn more deeply, you can get better results and actually save more water. That’s because, when you water more deeply and less often, you’re encouraging your lawn’s root system to grow deeper into the soil. Not only will this help to keep your lawn greener, but it will help it to survive during the hot summer months.

If you water only a little every day, your lawn’s root system will be shallow, and it will need regular watering to prevent it from dying during summer droughts.

#3. Get your weeds under control.

Weeds are an eyesore. That’s something that everyone already knows. But, what a lot of people don’t realize is that weeds can actually be harmful to your lawn.

Weeds need the same resources any plant needs to survive — nutrients, water, and sunshine — and when weeds grow in your lawn, they compete with the grass for those essential resources.

Unfortunately, the most effective way to get rid of weeds and prevent them from damaging your lawn is to pull them out by the root, which is physically challenging and also time-consuming. But, before you do, do a little research to figure out what those weeds are telling you about your lawn.

Different weeds thrive in different conditions, and they can help you learn about your soil, which will help you learn more about how to take care of your lawn. For instance, if you’ve got clover, your soil is likely low in nitrogen, and chickweed is indicative of overly alkaline soil.

#4. Deal with thatch.

Over the fall and winter months, a layer of dead plant matter can build up on your lawn. This layer is called thatch, and it doesn’t do your lawn any favors. When thatch builds up on your lawn, it prevents sunlight, water, and other resources from getting to the grass and soil.

As part of your spring maintenance routine, take some time to rake up the thatch that has built up on your lawn. If the layer isn’t too thick, raking should be sufficient to get rid of it and keep your lawn healthy. On the other hand, if you do have a thicker layer, you may need to aerate your lawn.

#5. Recycle your clippings.

When you mow your lawn, don’t just throw your clippings in the yard waste bucket or take them to the dump. Those clippings are valuable and can be used to keep your lawn healthy and beautiful.

Grass clippings contain a lot of nutrients that are invaluable to the health of your lawn, and when they decompose, the nutrients are absorbed into the soil. Instead of throwing them away after you mow, spread them around on your lawn. Don’t leave big clumps of clippings, as this could create the same kinds of problems that thatch can. Instead, spread it around with a rake.

In addition to adding more nutritions to the soil, lawn clippings act as a form of mulch, helping to retain more moisture in the soil.

#6. Fertilize!

Fertilizing is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to lush, green grass. Over time, the soil will start to lose its nutrients, including nitrogen, which are essential for a healthy lawn. Fertilizing helps to replenish those nutrients, feeding your lawn what it needs to grow strong and thick.

When and how often you fertilize your lawn will depend on a number of factors, including the type of grass you have. For instance, if you have a cool-season grass, like Kentucky bluegrass, you’ll want to fertilize lightly in the spring and heavily in the fall. But, if you have warm-season grass, like a Bermuda grass, you’ll want to apply fertilizer in the early spring as well as in the late summer.

Find a lawn care company near you with Top Rated Local®.

There’s a lot you can do on your own to achieve a beautiful lawn, but if you’re looking for a lawn care company that can help, start with Top Rated Local, a local business directory unlike any other. With Top Rated Local, you can read a lawn care company’s reviews from across the web and get a quick glimpse of its online reputation overall.

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How to Stay Healthy From Home

There’s nothing more important in the midst of a pandemic than staying healthy.

Keeping your distance from others is the key to avoid getting COVID-19, but staying healthy involves so much more than not getting sick.

It feels like everything is on pause right now, but the consequences of letting health fall by the wayside are the same as they ever were. And, despite the fact that our kids can’t go to school and many of us can’t go into work as we normally would, we still need to prioritize our health.

These days, when going to the gym isn’t an option and bulk shopping makes eating fresh fruits and vegetables more of a challenge, that can be easier said than done. But, the good news is that there are many things you can do to protect yourself while social distancing at home.

Tips for Staying Healthy While Staying at Home

#1. Move

You don’t have to go to the gym to get exercise. There are plenty of ways to exercise in and around your home. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Go on a walk – Walking may not seem like much, but if you walk regularly, it can be a great thing for your cardiovascular health.
Do strength training from home – You don’t need weight lifting machines or any other serious equipment to get strong from home. Simple equipment, like dumbbells, can be helpful, but you might be surprised at how effectively you can build strength with bodyweight exercises alone.
Workout with videos and online classes – Whether you’re into yoga, pilates, or plyometrics, there are a ton of workouts you can do at home by following along with a video. You could also check in with your usual fitness center to see if they’re offering online classes for members.
Move a little repeatedly throughout the day – You don’t need to get in your daily exercise all at once. Mini-workouts throughout the day can keep you active without taking up too much of your time.

#2. Eat Well

If your Instagram feed is anything like mine, it’s been inundated with pictures of homemade banana bread, cookies, scones, cinnamon rolls, and all kinds of other delicious treats. Baking has become the favorite pastime for many people, and while it might be a fun way to fill some time, the last thing Americans need is an increase in our average sugar intake. I’m not saying you can’t indulge in baked goods every once in a while, but it should be sporadically instead of on a regular basis.

In addition to watching how much sugar you’re consuming, it’s also important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. That can be easier said than done when you’re shopping for a few weeks at a time, and fresh produce typically only lasts for about a week.

I typically shop for two weeks of groceries at a time in order to limit my exposure to others, and my own strategy has been to buy fresh produce for the first week and make meals with frozen fruits and vegetables the second week. If frozen fruits and vegetables aren’t an option, canned fruits and vegetables are another option.

#3. Take a Break From Screens

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, video streaming has increased by a whopping 61 percent. There’s also been a huge spike in hours spent playing video games. This is understandable, as our access to our social circles has been drastically reduced if not cut off entirely. However, it’s important to spend at least some of your time away from screens.

Spending the entire day looking at screens can strain your eyes and make existing vision problems worse. The blue light emitted from the screens could also upend your circadian rhythms, which could disrupt your sleep cycle. Some studies have also found that so much screen time affects your ability to be creative and productive.

Just like with enjoying baked goods, looking at screens should be done in moderation. That can be difficult for people who are working online or going to school online, but all it takes is a little mindfulness. For example, instead of ending your day watching TV, end your day reading a book or writing in your journal. Instead of checking a friend’s timeline on social media, call them and have a good, old-fashioned phone conversation.

#4. Get Outside

Getting outside from time to time is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy, and believe it or not, it actually benefits your health in many different ways.

A few ways getting outside can benefit your health:

  • Better short-term memory
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased energy
  • Better concentration
  • Increased productivity
  • Stronger immune system

Of course, you’ll want to keep safety precautions in mind when you’re outside. Stay at least six feet away from others, and stay away from crowded areas. Consider going out in the early morning or other times of the day when fewer people are out and about. Wear a mask if you’re unsure whether or not you can sufficiently stay away from others, and absolutely do not go out if you’re sick.

A lot of the local businesses that are dedicated to helping you stay healthy, like dentists, fitness centers, chiropractors, massage therapists, therapists, etc., have restricted their in-person services, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have anything to offer you. Lots of businesses in the wellness industry have started offering online services and can guide you on your journey through the pandemic.

Find the local wellness professionals you need with the help of Top Rated Local®, your go-to local business directory. On Top Rated Local, you can read a business’ reviews from across the web and gain an overview of their reputation overall. Get started today.

5 Things That Could Trigger an IRS Audit

An IRS audit is the last thing anyone wants to deal with.

Most of us have plenty on our plates right now. What with homeschooling our children, figuring out how to work from home, or putting our lives on the line as essential workers — all while navigating the world and figuring out how to stay safe in the midst of a pandemic. An IRS audit is the absolute last thing anyone needs right now.

When the Internal Revenue Service audits you, they are taking a closer look at your tax returns to ensure that all tax laws have been followed and to verify that the correct amount of tax has been paid. IRS audits can be stressful, but the good news is that they’re not all that common.

Luckily, we’ve still got a couple of months left before our tax returns are due. However, when you do decide to file, you need to know what could potentially trigger an IRS audit,

5 Common Things That Can Trigger an IRS Audit

#1. Failing to report all of your income.

The number one way to ensure that the IRS will come knocking is to fail to report all of your taxable income.

The gig economy has made doing our taxes even more of a headache because it means keeping track of more forms and more sources of taxable income for many people. But, whether your income comes from a more traditional source or from a variety of sources, it’s incredibly important that you report all of it to the IRS.

Any time you fill out a W-2 or a 1099, those forms are also sent to the IRS, which means that they already know about your taxable income. You’re not going to pull one over on them if you fail to report it; you’re just going to end up getting audited.

#2. Making math errors.

As someone who’s never been good at math, I know just how easy it is to make math errors while doing calculations for your tax return. As easy as it is to make mistakes, though, it’s important to get it right.

Calculations that don’t add up can absolutely trigger an IRS audit, but it’s not the only kind of math error that can do so. Any math error could trigger an audit, and that includes transposing the wrong numbers.

Always double check your math on your tax return and that you’ve transposed all numbers correctly, including your social security number.

#3. Overclaiming charitable donations.

Making charitable donations is one of the best things you can do with your money, and now more than ever, nonprofits and charities need support. And, when you are so giving with your money, you absolutely deserve to make deductions. However, if you want to avoid being audited, it’s critical that you claim only the donations you actually make.

Overclaiming charitable donations is one way that some people try to get around the system and take more deductions than they’re owed, which is why claiming lots of charitable donations can be a red flag for the IRS. That’s why any donations you claim need to be backed up by the charity you gave it to.

#4. Taking a home-office deduction.

Fraud is, unfortunately, very, very common when it comes to home-office deductions, which is why claiming a home office is one of the most common IRS triggers.

What qualifies as a true home office? The only people who are supposed to claim home offices are those with a dedicated space in their homes just for business. Even if you work from home — which many, many people are doing right now — you can’t claim any space you work in as a home office. It has to be dedicated to work exclusively. If you sit on the couch or at the kitchen table to do your work, it doesn’t count and can’t be deducted.

There’s no reason not to take advantage of home-office deductions if you do, in fact, have a home office. But, you better be able to back it up by having a dedicated space in your home just for business.

#5. Operating with a lot of cash.

If you’re regularly depositing or spending large amounts of cash, the IRS is going to start noticing. Thanks to the Bank Secrecy Act, which was implemented to help the IRS detect money laundering, the IRS is notified anytime someone completes a cash transaction of $10,000 or more.

If you are involved in regular cash transactions that meet or exceed $10,000, you can bet that the IRS is going to pay close attention to you, particularly if the income you report doesn’t support such large transactions.

Keep in mind that structuring your transactions in order to avoid the $10,000 limit can also trigger an IRS audit and is against the law. An example of structuring is when someone deposits $9,500 in cash at one branch and then $600 at another.

Find the right accounting firm near you with Top Rated Local®!

Whether you’re already facing an IRS audit or you’d like to avoid one altogether, having the right accounting firm or CPA on your side can make all the difference. But, how do you sort through the many options online and find the right one for your needs? Start with Top Rated Local!

When you use our one-of-a-kind local business directory to find an accounting firm near you, you’ll be able to read that firm’s reviews from across the web and get a quick look at their online reputation as a whole using our Rating Score™ system.

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How to Get More Out of Reading Online Reviews

Reading reviews has become a key part of researching a local business.

When you’re doing a local business search online, say for an HVAC company or a plumber, you need a way to sort through all of the results. Depending on where you live, there might be hundreds of options to choose from. And, the only way to differentiate one local business from another is to read its online reviews.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical that you hire the right local business for your needs. With coronavirus, you want to know that you can trust whoever you hire to take your health and safety seriously, as well as that of their employees.

Reading reviews is a great way to determine whether or not you can trust a local business; however, it’s not always as straightforward as it sounds. Reviews can actually be incredibly misleading, especially if you always take them at face value.

Knowing how to read reviews is an important step toward getting the most out of them.

6 Tips for Reading and Learning From Online Reviews

#1. Read more than one review.

A single experience might sometimes be reflective of the overall experience you can expect from a local business, but that won’t always be the case. Whether the review is one-star or five, it’s not easy to learn much about a business from a single review. In order to get a true understanding of what kind of business it is, you need to read about more than one customer experience.

I would suggest reading between five and 10 reviews for a business you’re considering working with. And, make sure that you read reviews with a range of star ratings. Reading only five-star reviews will skew your view of a local business just as much as reading only one-star reviews. You need to read about good, bad, and neutral experiences to get the best idea of what working with a business is really like.

#2. Read the most recent reviews.

A lot can change for a small business in a matter of months, or even weeks. Employees come and go; management can change; suppliers and equipment can change. Someone’s experience eight months ago may not be relevant to the current customer experience a business offers. That’s why it’s important to always read the latest reviews.

Some businesses experience change faster than others. Restaurants, for example, tend to see high turnover rates and frequently change up their menus — both of which can affect the customer experience. An architecture firm, on the other hand, is much more likely to have the same team of architects as they did six months ago and probably provide the same kind of experience.

#3. Read reviews from multiple sources.

A business that has a 5.0 average star rating on Google won’t necessarily have that same stellar rating on Yelp or Angie’s List. Reading a business’ reviews on one source gives you only part of the picture. To truly understand what working with a business will be like, you need to gain an understanding of their online reputation, overall, and you do that by reading reviews from multiple review sources and local business directories.

Instead of visiting five different review sites to read up on a business, visit Top Rated Local®! Top Rated Local is your all-in-one source to all of a business’ reviews across every verified review site it’s listed on. Best of all, a business Rating Score™ — which is out of 100.00 and calculated based on the number of review sites a business is listed on, the number of reviews a business has, the rating of those reviews, and more — will give you a good idea of what their online reputation looks like, overall.

#4. Read the responses to any negative reviews.

Local businesses are run by human beings, and part of being a human being means making mistakes from time to time. But, when, for example, a plumber makes a mistake fixing the pipes in your home or a roofer makes a mistake while repairing your roof, it doesn’t exactly make for a positive experience.

Reading negative reviews is important because it helps you understand what kind of mistakes a business has made in the past and how often it’s made those same mistakes. But, it’s also very important to read the business’ response to those negative reviews. While reading the response, look for a business that’s willing to learn from its mistakes and do whatever it takes to make the situation right.

#5. Look for themes.

It’s sometimes difficult to separate an individual reviewer’s experience from the overall customer experience a business offers. This is especially true if the reviewer in question has made their review specific to their individual experience, which isn’t always reflective of the typical experience. For example, using a specific employee’s name, or talking about a specific experience.

The best way to get a real idea of what working with a local business is like, look for common themes while reading reviews. Have multiple people praised the timeliness of their service or complained about the attitudes of their employees? If one or two customers have commented on something, you can probably chalk it up to individual experience, but if five or six have, it’s worth paying attention to.

#6. Watch out for nasty personal attacks.

A few months ago, I was looking for an accounting firm near me. As I was reading one firm’s reviews, I noticed a single one-star review that was bringing its average star rating down. When I read it, I was surprised to learn that the complaint had very little to do with the business at all. In fact, this woman was upset about the way the accounting firm’s branded vehicle had been parked at the grocery store and wanted the world to know.

While I appreciate how frustrating it is when someone doesn’t stay in the lines when parking, I don’t think it has much bearing on their accounting services. Personal attacks like these just aren’t helpful to anyone who is truly interested in learning about a business’ customer experience, so take them with a grain of salt.

Reviews are great, but it’s important to know how to read them. Write reviews for the local businesses you love and use our local business directory to find the best local businesses near you! Get started today!