Monica Puig is the perfect example of why our human brains love underdogs.

Few people probably expected Monica Puig to get the Olympic gold.

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

Puig represented Puerto Rico in women's tennis at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Rio, Puerto Rico hadn't won a gold medal in, well, any Olympic sport in more than 60 years. Puig was an unlikely bet to get one this year too. In the ranks of the top tennis champs in the world, Puig wasn't even in the top 20. Going into the Olympics, she was ranked 37th.


Ahead of her? A number of seriously intimidating opponents, including Garbine Muguruza, who won the 2016 French Open just a few months earlier.

Puig was, in short, the classic underdog.

Puig had to defeat Germany's Angelique Kerber  in order to win gold. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

Nevertheless, she entered the court and held her own. And she didn't just hold her own. She won, and kept on winning. Eventually, she ended up matched against Germany's Angelique Kerber — the tennis champ ranked second best in the world.

It'd be hard to look at that lineup and not feel a little spark of support for Puig starting to flare in your heart. The first game swung in Puig's favor, 6-4. In the second, Kerber came back 4-6.

It was down to the last game. The final game. Thousands of Puerto Ricans gathered together to watch. Even Catholic Masses were delayed as the entire island rooted for their underdog champion.

And what happened? Puig took it 6-1 and, with it, Puerto Rico's first gold medal.

Rooting for the underdogs is something humans love to do.

Maybe there's an alien species out there somewhere who hates "The Karate Kid." But if that's the case, they can stay on their own planet ... because here on Earth, we root for the little guy. It's what we do.

A lot of studies have confirmed this too. In their incredibly comprehensive 2007 paper, three researchers from the University of South Florida, led by professor Joseph Vandello, found that we truly do love underdogs, whether that's in sports, politics, or other areas.

Why? Maybe it's because we feel like underdogs have more heart.

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

Vandello and his colleagues found that when people sat down to watch a competition between a favored-winner and an underdog, they felt like the underdog tried harder.

Watching Puig go up against the odds-on favorite, we can't help but attribute some sort of Disney-esque, Oh-Captain-My-Captain pluck to her. And we can't help but like the person who tries harder and fights for what she thinks she deserves.

Plus, there's the fact that we just fundamentally want to live in a fair world.

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images.

We want the person we think is trying harder to win. If they don't, it feels unfair, and human beings naturally just hate it when the world isn't fair. Heck, even monkeys hate it when the world isn't fair.

So what do we do? We root for the underdog. Vandello suggests we might do this because it subconsciously feels like our support could level the odds, but it might also simply be our desire for an affirmation that the world really is fair, just, and true.

And then there's the emotional payoff.

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

We get more bang for our emotional buck by rooting for the underdog. After all, if we root for the favorite and they win, well, we kind of expected that, didn't we? Even if they had a huge chance of winning, Cobra Kai winning the tournament would have felt kind of ... boring, wouldn't it? (Also, what are you doing rooting for Cobra Kai?!)

On the other hand, it's a huge deal when the underdog wins. It's surprising! It's amazing! There'll be books about it! Public radio hosts will argue about how it happened! And in the middle of all that will be us — the true, die-hard fans, basking in the feeling of "I always knew they could do it."

And if we compare the two, it turns out that the emotional high of the underdog outweighs the higher odds of the top dogs. So, from an emotional perspective, investing in the underdog is just smart betting. And if they lose, well, it was a long shot anyway, so we can console ourselves with that.

Whatever the case, there's one thing that's undeniable: Seeing Puig claim gold this year was amazing.

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

Her opponents played well and they deserve accolades of their own — after all, you don't get to the Olympics without exceptional training and hard work. But there's still something amazing about seeing the little guy win.

Puig wasn't the only underdog to claim victory this year in Rio. Singapore's Joseph Schooling beat out world favorite Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly. Hoang Xuan Vinh took Vietnam's first ever gold in the air pistol. Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi dominated in judo.

Maybe that spark of underdog support is a weird quirk of human nature. Maybe. But my brain can't help but smile when I see Puig up there with that giant gold medal. Because really, truly, I believe she deserves it.

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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.

Several years ago, you wouldn't have known what QAnon was unless you spent a lot of time reading through comments on Twitter or frequented internet chat rooms. Now, with prominent Q adherents making headlines for storming the U.S. Capitol and elements of the QAnon worldview spilling into mainstream politics, the conspiracy theory/doomsday cult has become a household topic of conversation.

Many of us have watched helplessly as friends and family members fall down the rabbit hole, spewing strange ideas about Democrats and celebrities being pedophiles who torture children while Donald Trump leads a behind-the-scenes roundup of these evil Deep State actors. Perfectly intelligent people can be susceptible to conspiracy theories, no matter how insane, which makes it all the more frustrating.

A person who was a true believer in QAnon mythology (which you can read more about here) recently participated in an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, and what they shared about their experiences was eye-opening. The writer's Reddit handle is "diceblue," but for simplicity's sake we'll call them "DB."

DB explained that they weren't new to conspiracy theories when QAnon came on the scene. "I had been DEEP into conspiracy for about 8 years," they wrote. "Had very recently been down the ufo paranormal rabbit hole so when Q really took off midterm for trump I 'did my research' and fell right into it."

DB says they were a true believer until a couple of years ago when they had an experience that snapped them out of it:

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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.

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With 16 years of sobriety under his belt, Dax Shepard has served as a beacon of hope for people in recovery. With a reset of his sobriety clock last week after confessing to a slip with prescription painkillers, he still is.

The actor has been open about his addiction to alcohol and cocaine, and that transparency and honesty has undoubtedly helped many people through their own recovery journeys. But recovery from addiction is not always a one-way, detour-free road. Even people who have been sober for years must be diligent and self-aware or risk relapsing in ways that are easy to justify.

That's the scenario Shepard described in his recent podcast, in which he announced that he's now seven days sober. For people who struggle with addiction, it's a cautionary tale. He didn't take a drink, and he didn't touch cocaine. His slide into addiction relapse happened with prescription painkillers—Vicodin and Percocet. He started taking prescription pain pills after a motorcycle accident in 2012, moved to taking pills with his dad who was dying of cancer, and then came a gradual spiral of justifications, lying, gas lighting, and other addictive behaviors that enabled him to abuse those pills without acknowledging he was doing so.

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If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

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