Taking a moment to focus on the positives is often underrated, but studies have shown that doing so can release dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, helping to boost our mood, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. So, while the bad news can often feel overwhelming, seeking out the rays of light could do you a world of good. Let’s recap 40 uplifting, hopeful, and inspiring stories from 2023…
1. A baby beaver was born in London for the first time in 400 years.
2. The number of UK homes installing rooftop solar panels has reached its highest level in more than seven years – with 50,700 doing so in the first few months of 2023.
3. Barcelona is putting cycle-to-school schemes front and centre, with the ‘bicibús’ initiative that enables safe travel for kids. Departing at 8.30am on the dot, children and parents gather to form a convoy, making the journey an adventure in itself.
4. Deforestation fell 29% across Colombia, and 26% specifically in the Amazon.
5. Period pain leave was passed in Spain, with a new law protecting sexual and reproductive rights.
6. In its efforts to increase representation and spread awareness, Mattel has collaborated with the National Down’s Syndrome Society to create its first Barbie with Down’s syndrome.
7. KFC partnered with charity Food Share back in 2021, to help tackle the food poverty crisis. Since then, they’ve distributed 475,000 meals to people in need via community kitchens, but have set their sights on the ambitious, and generous, goal of hitting 12 million meals by 2024.
8. Signs TV Uganda launched to cater to Africa’s deaf community with a dedicated TV channel.
9. In a much-needed update to discriminatory restrictions for gay and bisexual men, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has amended the risk-assessment questions for blood donors, so everyone receives the same regardless of gender, sexuality, or sex.
10. New research suggests plants can pass on survival ‘memories’ to their offspring, through ‘epigenetics’, to teach them about climate change.
11. In some amazing animal news, 29 species in Australia have recovered from the point of extinction. A study published in Biological Conservation at the start of the year reported that 15 mammals, eight birds, four frogs, one reptile, and one fish, no longer met the criteria to be listed as ‘threatened’ under Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
12. In August, India’s Vikram lander from Chandrayaan-3 made history as the first spacecraft to land near the Moon’s south pole.
13. Finding health help online can be daunting, leading you down a rabbit-hole of worries, especially if you struggle to find the right words to search your concern. But Google Lens has released new image recognition technology, helping people to search skin conditions with a photo instead.
14. A new device has been developed by scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology to support those with epilepsy. The flower-shaped, flexible electrode can be inserted in patients’ heads via minimally invasive surgery, allowing for better monitoring of the electrical activity in the brain which causes seizures.
15. For the first time, the UK’s main source of electricity was wind power! In the first three months of 2023, 32.7% of power was supplied by wind farms, while gas made up 31.7%.
16. The number of people smoking in the US is at a record low. A government survey revealed that only one in nine adults are currently lighting up, suggesting the habit is getting stubbed out.
17. The FDA has eliminated a law that required all new drugs in America to be tested on animals before human trials.
18. Watford and Sweden footballer Ken Sema went viral for his representation of those with stammers, after appearing in a post-match interview discussing his two goals in the team’s 3–2 victory over West Brom in February.
19. Wales has become the first nation in the UK to implement a total ban on snares.
20. In a move to counter the loneliness epidemic, the South Korean government is offering $490 to those aged between nine and 24 experiencing ‘hikikomori’ (essentially extreme social withdrawal), to encourage them to leave the house. The hope is the monthly allowance will help youngsters to go to school, university, or work, and reintegrate with society.
21. A new repair scheme in France is helping to tackle waste and fast fashion, by offering up to £21 rebates on each clothing and shoe repair, and comes with £131 million of government funding for the next five years.
22. LEGO has launched ‘braille bricks’ not just for blind people, but encouraging others to learn the language, too.
23. Did you know it takes about seven gallons of water to produce just one gallon of beer? Finding an innovative, alternative way to reduce this need, water recycling company Epic is using onsite equipment at a San Francisco apartment building to treat and brew ‘grey water’ (AKA used water from showers and sinks) into beer!
24. New data released by social development agency Coneval revealed that the number of Mexicans living in poverty fell by 8.9 million in the 2020–2022 period.
25. Scientists at Florida Atlantic University have developed a glove that ‘feels’ using AI, to help people who’ve experienced a stroke relearn how to play the piano, and reap the rewards of engaging with music
26. Visitors to Athens can use their smartphones to see what ancient Greek architecture would have looked like in its prime. The Chronos app (named after the mythical titan and Greek word for time), supported by Greece’s Culture Ministry, allows people to direct their smartphones at the Acropolis and the Parthenon for an image overlay of what archeologists believe the buildings would have looked like 2,500 years ago.
27. We all know a little kindness goes a long way, but now research in The Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that acts of kindness can actually boost our mental health. In fact, acts of altruism were better at reducing symptoms of depression than planned leisure activities. So, take this as a sign to go spread a smile!
28. A second malaria vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, has been approved by WHO.
29. With global demand for food ever increasing, a trial by the University of Illinois holds exciting potential. Researchers successfully used genetic modification in crops to speed up photosynthesis, which can result in a 20% higher yield to help feed people in need.
30. In a world-first move, California scientists have created solar panels that can be sent to space, and beam energy back to Earth 24/7.
31. A tree that was thought to have been extinct has been discovered! The Ilex sapiiformis hadn’t been seen in nearly 200 years, until recently spotted in northeastern Brazil.
32. The UN has announced that the ozone layer is on track to recover (AKA return to its 1980 state, prior to the hole appearing) by 2040 for most of the world, 2045 over the Arctic, and 2066 over the Antarctic.
33. A collaborative funding enterprise from TED, called the Audacious Project, pledged $1 billion to support organisations and projects creating positive change for our planet. For 2023, these include grants for renewable energy, global education, environmental support, and transforming the US foster care system.
34. Schiphol Airport, in the Netherlands, is banning private jets and night flights from 2025 to reduce noise and pollution.
35. British Sign Language is making conversations more accessible by adding 200 new environmental science terms for the deaf community.
36. Japan introduced its first laws against ‘photo voyeurism’, making it a crime to take, distribute, or own sexually exploitative images and footage of others without their consent.
37. In September, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced their aim to use artificial intelligence to help eradicate all human diseases by the end of the century.
38. A study by a Finnish university reviewed depressive symptoms and overall life satisfaction of 75 to 80-year-olds, 30 years apart, noting the positive improvements and alignment with its previous comparisons that found significantly better physical and cognitive functioning today.
39. British scientists developed a brain implant with the potential to restore limb movement in paralysed people.
40. Helping to prevent a potential environmental catastrophe, more than 1 million barrels of oil were removed from a decaying supertanker in Yemen.