There’s a lot going on in the world right now.
It’s easy to succumb to the malaise of it all and hope global warming will hurry up and wipe us all out. But we can’t. There’s an entire generation behind us waiting to make their mark on the world.
We need to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and look at the positives that deserve our gratitude.
And I’m not talking about the standard cop-outs like “my health” or “my family” or “a simple smile from a stranger.”
I want evidence-backed gratitude nuggets. Not some Hallmark bullsh*t list of feel-good-phoofery.
I’m not going to lie, I only found 8 things to be grateful for after one afternoon of researching.
I’m sure there’s more out there, but this Kobe stuff is still hitting me hard and we all need a reminder of how lucky we are to be alive today.
1. In the U.S., trips to the library are more frequent than trips to the movies
2019 had some blockbuster hits. Avengers: Endgame. Frozen II. Toy Story 4.
But when Gallup asked Americans how many times they engaged in common cultural activities, the results were surprising:
There were of course variations across populations such as:
- Women report visiting the library nearly twice as frequently as men do, 13.4 to 7.5 visits.
- U.S. adults aged 18 to 29 visit the library much more than all older age groups
- Libraries are visited most by adults in low-income households and least by adults in high-income households
In a world where it seems like everyone is glued to their phone, binge-watching Netflix, or listening to their favorite podcast, libraries are still viewed as a valuable institution for society.
Let’s keep it that way.
2. You can enjoy coffee knowing it won’t cause cancer
Remember all those health trends back in the early 2000s? I think at one point cottage cheese was considered a healthy snack.
There was even a time people thought coffee caused cancer.
Nowadays, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded the evidence of carcinogenicity of drinking coffee to be “unclassifiable.”
That’s good news for people like me who consume a good 4 cups a day.
Nevertheless, still do your own research.
IARC didn’t say coffee does not cause cancer only they “could not conclude that drinking coffee is carcinogenic based on the current evidence available.”
They did, however, deem drinking hot beverages as a probable carcinogen. They classify a hot beverage as anything over 149 degrees Celsius which is well above your average cup of Joe.
In other words, be grateful your morning coffee won’t kill you (but let it cool down a bit first, just to be safe).
3. The gender wage gap is shrinking
Every other Thursday my wife’s paycheck clears and I breathe a sigh of relief.
I’m grateful she and women like her are not only entering the workforce in greater numbers but also filling in highly skilled jobs.
Because of this, the wage gap between men and women is shrinking.
According to Pew Research Studies:
From 1980 to 2018, the average hourly wage of women increased 45%, from $15 to $22, compared with an increase of 14% for men, from $23 to $26 (wages expressed in 2018 dollars). Thus, the earnings of women as a ratio of the earnings of men increased from 0.67 to 0.85, a narrowing of the gender wage gap from 33 cents to the dollar in 1980 to 15 cents to the dollar in 2018.
As a stay-at-home dad, I can’t complain.
4. Giant Pandas are back baby!
It’s no secret humans have virtually wiped out a vast number of species from this earth.
Speaking of which, did you know there used to be giant land sloths? I’m not talking “giant” as in they were twice as big as today’s sloths, I’m talking 8-meter tall sloths just lazily walking around.
Such a shame, giraffes are no substitute for giant land sloths.
Anyway, there are still 1 million plant and animal species on the verge of extinction today.
However, thanks to efforts from organizations such as World Wildlife Fund, a few of our earthly neighbors are no longer considered endangered species:
- Giant panda
- Southern white rhino
- Yellowstone grizzly bear
- Snow leopard
Rest In Peace giant land sloth, we’ll never forget you.
5. Mental health awareness is important to teenagers
An entire generation of kids has worked their way through the K-12 system since I’ve been in high school. Needless to say, a lot has changed.
For example, today’s top concern among teen peers isn’t bullying, drugs, or alcohol, it’s anxiety and depression.
We could look at this fact in two ways:
- One, depression and anxiety are on the rise, therefore, more prevalent among teens
- Two, the stigma around mental health is decreasing
It’s probably a combination of both factors. However, this is a post about gratitude and positivity so let’s try to look at the bright side.
For years, mental health has been treated as a secondary measure for our well-being. Admitting you went to therapy was seen as a sign of weakness.
But times are changing.
I’m grateful knowing that younger generations are spreading mental health awareness. I hope those who need help won’t be afraid to seek it out.
6. We might not need to use fossil fuels anymore
You know that big bright shiny thing in the sky?
Yeah, it’s frying our planet. Which is mostly our fault thanks to heavy fossil fuel use.
However, scientists have learned a thing or two from our vigilant protector (or is it soon-to-be-destroyer?)
Fusion is the process that keeps the sun burning and spewing ungodly amounts of energy into our solar system.
Until recently, scientists haven’t been able to harness the power of fusion as a source of clean fuel for the planet.
But that’s no longer an ‘if’ anymore.
For decades, researchers have been trying to replicate this process on Earth, or “build the Sun in a box” as one physicist dubbed it. The basic idea is to take a type of hydrogen gas, heat it to more than 100 million degrees until it forms a thin, fragile cloud called a plasma, and then control it with powerful magnets until the atoms fuse and release energy.
— BBC News
Now it’s a matter of ‘when.’
Estimates put us at 2040 as the year a viable fusion reactor will begin creating electricity.
Good clean energy.
7. Overall, a lot of things are getting better
In case you need an extra boost of gratitude, the world is improving in many ways. It may not seem like it, so let’s look at the facts:
- Since 1980, global access to safe drinking water has increased from 58% to 91%
- From 1994 to 2014 global electricity coverage grow from 75% to 85% with consumption of renewable energy growing by 209%
- Today there are over 200,000 protected nature reserves, up from 9,214 in 1962
- Since 1980, the number of 1-year olds who receive at least one vaccination per year has risen from 22% to 88%.
- In 1800 only 10% of the world could read, today 85% can
- Globally the number of girls enrolled in primary school is 90%, up from 65% in 1970
- More people live under democracy than ever before
- More people have access to the internet today
- The world is growing less violent
- Child mortality rates are decreasing
- The Ozone layer is repairing itself
The only thing that would make this list complete is the highly unscientific re-emergence of the giant land sloth.
Until then, I’ll be grateful more kids are getting their vaccinations.
8. Practicing gratitude makes you healthier
Hey, just by reading this post are now healthier than you were before.
That’s not entirely true, but researchers at the University of California, Davis and the University of Miami have been looking into how gratitude affects our well-being.
They tested two groups over the course of 10 weeks: one wrote down things they were grateful for and another wrote down things that irritated them.
[T]hose who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
Of course, this type of study does not provide evidence for cause and effect.
But whoever said being grateful was bad for you?
Good luck out there.
Find the simple joys in life
I’m a bit of a pessimist, I’m not naturally inclined to see the bright side of life. It takes effort to dig a little deeper and see the positives in this world.
But one doesn’t need cold scientific facts about giant pandas or fusion reactors to receive a boost of gratitude.
Sometimes it’s the simple things in front of us which bring us the most joy.
The first sip of coffee in the morning.
Reading a book on an empty park bench.
Or carrying a tiny tomato plant onto an airplane.