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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less