21 things even a pessimist can be thankful for.

Thanksgiving must be really hard for pessimists.

Holiday shade courtesy of "Arrested Development."


It's the one day when we're all supposed to happily focus on the good things that exist in our lives and the world, but all you can think about is how it's not supposed to be this warm in November but "thanks, climate change," and the food that we're eating is covered in pesticides and preservatives, so we're all going to die from it, which is actually very fitting since that's what the Pilgrims brought to America anyway — disease and death — and speaking of death, are we really going to keep calling it the death tax, or are we finally going to get real about inequality once and for all, and...

And I get it. Those things are bad. No argument there.

But gratitude has proven positive emotional and psychological impact — and all the realist, half-glass-empty people deserve those benefits just as much as anyone else!

So here are 21 things from 2015 that even a pessimist can be grateful for.


1. The White House proudly displayed the LGBTQ flag colors.

Rainbow Brite would be proud. Photo by Mladen Antonov/Getty Images.

When marriage equality became the law of the land on June 26, the White House lit up in a rainbow to commemorate the occasion. The White House. Was a rainbow. That happened.

2. To help children with cancer, MIT engineers created a robot stuffed animal named Huggable.

Huggable wasn't invented just to give us all the feels. He was made by MIT engineers this year to help children in cancer hospitals deal with the emotional and psychological trauma of battling the disease. But it's just one of many examples of how us humans continue to use science, creativity, and compassion to make people's lives better.

3. People aren't taking injustice lying down.

Fight for 15 protesters spread their message. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images.

Everywhere you look, people are standing up and fighting back. From college campuses to multinational corporations, from protests and boycotts to marches and campaigns, it's clear that people are recognizing their power. And that means they haven't lost faith and still believe they really can change the world. "Oh, they're just naive," the pessimist in your head says. But not so fast. Their activism is actually working. See #1, #11, and #17 as proof.

4. A lot of Americans have finally stopped denying science.

According to a poll by the National Surveys on Energy and Environment, fewer people than ever are denying the existence of climate change. Or — to put it more glass-half-full — 70% of Americans believe that climate change is real, and that's more than ever before!

5. This guy is a teacher.

His name is Chris Ulmer. He's a Florida special education teacher, and a video of him complimenting his entire class, student by student, went viral last week.

Image via ABC News/YouTube.

But he's not the only amazing teacher out there. Not by a long shot. Despite all the horrible stories and statistics that exist about our education system, there are still thousands of passionate, smart, creative, and compassionate people working their butts off to make children's lives better every single day. They don't get a lot of attention, but they are out there. And those kids are probably going to grow into better adult humans because of them. So yeah. Thanks, teachers.

6. This.

(OMG, the widdle paws and eyes and tongue and nose and ears!)

7. Social media is being used to connect people around the world to fight for justice and equality.

For all the selfies and silly trends that give social media a bad rap, it's undeniably been a game-changer for positive social change. Several items on this very list happened a lot sooner thanks to social media than they would have if sites like Facebook and Twitter didn't exist. It's easier now than ever for people to make their voices heard and actually have influence.

8. "America's Next Top Model" has finally been canceled.

Tyra Banks, smizing. An art form that she taught with passion on "ANTM." Photo via David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself. (On the off chance you actually liked the show responsible for giving a man a facial hair weave, you can be grateful for the 22 — TWENTY-TWO (!) — cycles you already had.)

9. STEM is finally starting to love (and respect!) the ladies.

There's undoubtedly still a ton of reasons why being a woman in a male-dominated field is hard, but here's something that should help: A study this April found that women are now favored for tenure-track positions in university science departments. They are twice as likely to be hired as an equally qualified man. Take that, patriarchy!

10. The Black Lives Matter movement.

Remember when everyone said it was just a hashtag? Wrong. All across the country, young people are standing up to fight racism — winning tangible victories (University of Missouri, anyone?) and forcing presidential candidates to take note. They will not let racism go unchecked on their watch. And they're just getting started.

11. Barbie is stepping into the 21st century.

Actress Zendaya and the doll made to look like her and her famous dreadlocked hairstyle. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

From introducing eight new skin colors to creating a doll with locs (above — isn't she pretty?) to inclduing a boy for the first time ever in their newest commericial, the still-popular iconic doll company is making sure that children across America might actually have play experiences that reflect real life. Now if they could only get over that unrealistic body shape and size. But I digress.

12. People are finding creative ways to do something about the refugee crisis.

It was hard to find something to be grateful for when looking at the current refugee crises around the world.

But then I stumbled on the story of the mom who is helping thousands of refugees by giving away free baby carriers to help getting children across the border and lightening the load. Or the organization that actually meets refugees at the water's edge to give them warm blankets and care for them as they get out of their boats. Remember that while the bigger picture may look terrible, you can always see goodness and kindness and love if you look a little closer. We just need the governments of the world to follow suit.

13. You're alive! YAY!

Sorry, just had to get meta real quick here. Life may not be perfect, it may not be exactly want you want it to be, and it may be downright unfair sometimes. But you being here right now means that you have another day to maybe help someone else, maybe get some help yourself, and at the very least have another opportunity to enjoy #15 on this list which brings me to...

14. Bacon. Mmmm. Bacon.

Yeah, sure, there's a chance it could kill you, but odds are it probably won't. This holiday, don't just be grateful for this fatty, salty treat. Be grateful that the odds are forever in our favor.

15. The Affordable Care Act still stands.

On the off chance the bacon strips do make you sick, be grateful the Supreme Court upheld the ACA this year. Millions of people continue to have access to affordable health insurance.

16. Diversity in media. It's getting better. And better.

2015 has actually been a really good year when it comes to increased gender and racial diversity in media.

From Aziz Ansari's "Master of None" to Amy Schumer's hit, viral-clip-ready "Inside with Amy Schumer" to Viola Davis' and Regina King's Emmy wins to ABC's "Fresh Off the Boat," now is a good time to turn on the television and maybe, just maybe, see someone other than a white man as the lead. Nothing against white men, but it's about time.

17. President Obama blocked the Keystone pipeline.

People have been fighting the pipeline for years on the grounds that it would cause major harm to the environment. Looks like the environment — and those activists — won.

18. Diseases are being wiped off the face of the earth.

"Bye, diseases!" — Marilyn Monroe (I'm guessing that's what she's saying here.)

No matter how much pink we wear or how many concerts Bono holds, it's easy to think that deadly diseases like cancer and AIDS will never go away. But guess what? We are actually beating diseases that once killed millions of people.

Guinea worm (which I know you may have never heard of but was killing 3.5 million people a year in the mid-1980s) is now set to become the second human disease in history, after smallpox, to be eradicated. Only 15 cases were reported in the first eight months of this year. Almost gone! And if that doesn't move you, poliovirus type 2 was completely eradicated this year as well.

19. Some young celebs totally get it. "It" being equality.

Move over, Raven-Symoné. There's a new crop of young female celebs, and they're using their voice and their platforms to tackle inequality head on. From Amandla Stenberg and Zendaya to Ariana Grande and Emma Watson, 2015 saw the rise of the conscious young female celeb. They talked about race, diversity, gender inequality, feminism, and well — that's a good sign for the future, right?

20. Global poverty is actually decreasing.

What? Everyone in the world isn't getting poorer? That's right. Even though the wealth gap is growing and far too many people still don't have what they need to survive, the data actually says we're doing a bit better than before.

The World Bank announced that they project less than 10% of the world's population will be living in extreme poverty by the end of this year for the first time. If nothing else, that's proof that we could maybe actually eradicate extreme poverty one day. We're making progress.

21. Love. <3

Yeah, I'm going there.

Whether it's the romantic kind or the family kind or the friend kind or the I-don't-know-you-but-let-me-help-you kind or the severely-underrated-but-really-incredible self kind, love in all its forms is pretty amazing.

If you think things in the world are bad now, Debbie Downer, imagine how they would be without any love at all.

Now go enjoy some turkey or some ham and add a small plate of thankfulness to your gigantic mug of haterade this year. It will feel good, and it's good for you.

P.S. To practice feeling good right away, go ahead and give the video of teacher Chris Ulmer and his students (from #3 above) a watch. I dare you not to smile.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.