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Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

Our first roundup of 2023 includes awesome old folks, toddlers, dancers, marine mammals and more.

music festival, toddler

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy.

Happy 2023, everyone!

We're almost a week in. How are we doing so far? Whether you're crushing your New Year's resolutions, struggling to make new habits stick or are ditching the goal-setting altogether, we hope you're making the most of the fresh energy the new year brings.

If adding more joy to your life is on the docket for 2023, you've come to the right place. We are experts in uplifting and specialize in smiles, and we love to share the best of humanity with you all.


One of the best parts of pulling together these weekly roundups of joy is seeing the wide range of things that make us smile. We've got old folks and wee ones, dancers and doggos, teachers connecting with students and a whole town changing its plans to protect a wandering walrus. Each thing is delightful in its own way, and there's a little something here for everyone.

So kick back, relax and enjoy these serotonin-boosting finds:

1. Doggo's owners have a conversation using all of his favorite words and his joy is palpable.

The tail wagging and the eyebrow raising say it all. So dang cute.

2. Gramps does the cutest 'fit check' with his granddaughter.

@pettitgrace

This is my new favorite video ever.

We love this Grandpa. What a joy. Read the full story here.

3. 73-year-old went to his first music festival and lived his best life.

@ayeejayy42

Age is just a number… #happynewyear #countdownnye2023 #insomniacevents

Good for him for not letting the number of candles on his birthday cake hold him back. Looks like he had the time of his life.

4. A teacher and an eighth grader faced off in a dance challenge between exams.

Teachers are real-life heroes every day, and Ms. Turner heroically brought it in this dance battle. Love seeing this kind of connection with students. Read the full story here.

5. A British town canceled its New Year's Eve fireworks to let its unexpected walrus visitor sleep.

Thor showed up on a boat ramp in the U.K. town of Scarborough and appeared to need some rest. Residents rallied to protect him until he moved on, including canceling their traditional fireworks display. Read the full story of Thor's visit to Scarborough here.

6. Mom tries to get her toddler to unlock the door after being locked out, and perfect toddler chaos ensued.

@gesikaaaaaa

Thank god for tiny humans #bne #lockedout #tinyhuman #mamashelper #breakingin #DoTheSmartThings #toddlercomedy #kidtok

Tiny humans are predictably unpredictable and always good for some entertainment. Read the full story here.

7. Whale watcher in California got an unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime, front row seat to a whale giving birth.

Whale-watching passengers and crew off the coast of Dana Point, California, spotted blood in the water around a gray whale and thought they were witnessing a tragedy. As it turned out, she was birthing a calf, which she then proceeded to show off. Amazing.

8. Ukrainian 'light' dancers wowed the judges and audience in 'America's Got Talent' all-stars performance.

Their story is moving and their moves are impressive. How on Earth did they create those effects? Read the full story here.

9. When one of you wants to snuggle and the other just wants some alone time…

The struggle is real … and adorably hilarious.

10. Let's all enjoy the small wonders of life like this snowflake-catching raccoon.

It's the simple things that bring the most genuine joy, every time.

Hope that brought a smile or 10 to your face! Join us every Friday for these smile-worthy roundups, and if you'd like them delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletter, The Upworthiest, here.

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Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

Suzy Hazelwood/Canva

Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

People cite convenience and taste in addition to perceived safety for reasons they prefer bottle to tap, but the fear factor surrounding tap water is still a driving force. It doesn't help when emergencies like floods cause tap water contamination or when investigations reveal issues with lead pipes in some communities, but municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and in the vast majority of the U.S., you can safely grab a glass of water from a tap.

And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

Researchers from Columbia University used a new laser-guided technology to detect nanoplastics that had previously evaded detection due to their miniscule size. The new technology can detect, count and analyze and chemical structure of nanoparticles, and they found seven different major types of plastic: polyamide, polypropylene, polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate.

In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

As opposed to microplastics, nanoplastics are too small to be seen by microscope. Their size is exactly why experts are concerned about them, as they are small enough to invade human cells and potentially disrupt cellular processes.

“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.

This is not a before picture.

When Molly Galbraith posted on Facebook a photo of herself on a beach in a bikini, her caption wasn't your usual "look at me" selfie.

"This not a before picture. This is not an after picture," she writes.

Based in Lexington, Kentucky, Galbraith is the owner and co-founder of Girls Gone Strong, a company that seeks to provide fitness solutions and community not influenced by the juggernaut, multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, and in her caption for the Facebook post, she creating a litany of what her body has experienced and withstood. "This is a body that loves protein and vegetables and queso and ice cream. This is a body that loves bent presses and pull-ups and deadlifts and sleep. This is a body that has been abused with fast food and late nights and stress. This body has been publicly evaluated, judged, and criticized."

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Cat learns to run on two feet after front leg amputations

Babies are really adaptable. The same can be said for baby animals and it's likely because they just don't know any other way of life so they just go with it. But even knowing that, it's still hard to imagine a kitten getting around with no front legs.

Cats essentially use everything from their whiskers to their tails to balance, so how would one walk without two of it's four legs? The answer is, carefully at first. Duck is a kitten that had to have both of her front legs completely amputated after she was rescued and while she was wobbly at first, she quickly adapted.

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All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.

They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.

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Family

7 secrets to raising awesome, functional teenagers.

Step 1: Ditch the myth that all teens are sullen, angry creatures.

All photos used here are mine, used with permission.

My beautiful teens.


I occasionally get asked by mothers of young children what the secret is to raising great teenagers.

My initial response is that I have absolutely no clue. My kids are who they are IN SPITE of having me as a mother. (The young moms don't find that answer too helpful.)

Really, the first thing that I will tell you is to disbelieve the myth that teenagers are sullen, angry creatures who slam doors and hate their parents. Some do that, but the overwhelming majority do not. Every one of my kids' friends are just as happy and fun as my kids are, so I know it's not just us.

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Lee Loechler's incredible "Sleeping Beauty" proposal.

There are creative, romantic proposals, and then there's this one.

Lee Loechler recently proposed to his girlfriend, Sthuthi David, by taking her to a packed theater to see her favorite Disney movie, Sleeping Beauty. Little did she know that Loechler had spent six months altering the animation of the film's most iconic scene, changing the characters to look like the couple themselves and altering the storyline to set up his Big Question. And that's only the beginning.

Watching David's face during the scene change is sheer delight, as her confused look proves that she has no clue what is about to happen.

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