Trump is lying to us, but our brains are part of the problem. Here's how.

When President Trump chose to trust Putin over the United States' own intelligence agencies on live TV, it was arguably the most abnormal moment in a presidency rife with them.

Trump's statements in Helsinki have received swift and, so far, sustained condemnation. But the summit is just one in a series of Trump controversies that would have ended another presidency. And despite how shockingly and indisputably out of the norm Trump's comments were, the public may struggle to grasp their enormity and could soon move on, if history is any guide.

What's behind the collective tendency to normalize Trump's out-of-the-ordinary behavior and policies?


Blame your brain.

Our brains are really great at adapting to stimuli, both positive and negative.

The hedonic treadmill theory (usually used to conceptualize why happiness fades) suggests that there is no happy or tragic event that humans don't end up quickly adapting to.

Get a job that pays you five million dollars a week? You'll be happy for a bit, but soon the newness will become normal and you'll settle into a routine.

Lose a a job? Get broken up with? Yes, it hurts. But eventually, you adjust to the new normal.

The same thing happens when a sitting president tells blatant lies on a continual basis. It feels huge at first — remember the outrage over Trump's crowd sizes? — but after a while, it's just the order of the day. The disingenuous use of "alternative facts" and "fake news" becomes commonplace and banal while the stakes for outrage and action are raised even higher.

Here's a fun fact: Our brains don't let us be as smart as we think we are.

Hold up one second! I don't mean you're unintelligent. But the reality is that our brains are not objective arbiters of truth; they're always tricking us in order to make sense of reality.  

As humans, categorizing and making sense of things is essential to our survival, but research shows that we're not so great at making these kinds of discernments. Just think about how quickly you've seen people whose intellect you respect fall for "fake news" as long as it was coming from their camp.

The fact that our minds are intent on making things normal isn't inherently a bad thing. But it can be a huge problem when our politicians use it against us.

Normalcy is important for the human race's continuance — otherwise we'd be plagued with anxiety over every little change. But as the BBC pointed out, humans are "so protective over the concept of normal" that we sometimes allow complacency to take over, allowing even the most terrifying ideas to seem "not so bad" until it's too late.

In an article published by The New York Times shortly after Trump's inauguration, Yale psychologists Adam Bear and Joshua Knobe, who study normalization, wrote that people have a hard time separating "how things out to be" (ie, the ideal) from what's actually going on (the average), thereby blurring the two into "a single undifferentiated judgment of normality." This, they argued, allows Trump to commit more egregious actions with less blowback.

"Our research suggests, for example, that as President Trump continues to do things that once would have been regarded as outlandish, these actions are not simply coming to be regarded as more typical; they are coming to be seen as more normal," Bear and Knobe wrote. "As a result, they will come to be seen as less bad and hence less worthy of outrage."

Now more than ever, we can't let our brains trick us out of seeing reality.  

Perhaps rushing out into the street to scream "this isn't normal" every time the president does something disgraceful isn't the best course of action — who would get any work done? — but it's imperative that we don't allow it to happen without pushback. And that means being cognizant every time any elected official acts in bad faith and hopes to get away with it.

As Margaret Sullivan wrote in The Washington Post, Americans must see the press conference Trump and Putin gave as a "moment of truth," as well as a call to action.

Journalists have already started answering that call. When Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answer NBC reporter Hallie Jackson's questions at a July 18 press briefing, The Hill's Jordan Fabian yielded his time to her so she could follow up — and it's up to all of us to follow suit.

Trump's behavior has never been normal. It can't be treated as such any longer.

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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.

Of the millions of Americans breathing a sigh of relief with the ushering in of a new president, one man has a particularly personal and professional reason to exhale.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has spent a good portion of his long, respected career preparing for a pandemic, and unfortunately, the worst one in 100 years hit under the worst possible administration. As part of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Fauci did what he could to advise the president and share information with the public, but it's been clear for months that the job was made infinitely more difficult than it should have been by anti-science forces within the administration.

To his credit, Dr. Fauci remained politically neutral through it all this past year, totally in keeping with his consistently non-partisan, apolitical approach to his job. Even when the president badmouthed him, blocked him from testifying before the House, and kept him away from press briefings, Fauci took the high road, always keeping his commentary focused on the virus and refusing to step into the political fray.

But that doesn't mean working under those conditions wasn't occasionally insulting, frequently embarrassing, and endlessly frustrating.

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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.