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5 Ways You Can Improve the World With Almost No Effort

#2. Donate Your Placenta

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Many of you only know about "stem cells" due to the controversy they cause, particularly in the U.S., where the funding of stem cell research has been criticized by abortion opponents. But if you're not sure what exactly they are or why they're important, in short, stems cells are special cells that can turn into any other kind of cell, which has massive implications for medicine (note: you are made entirely of cells).

And there are many ways to obtain all kinds of these life-saving stem cells. For example, did you know that a specific type of stem cell is produced in huge concentrations within the human body and used in a variety of life-saving medical procedures, and right now we're tossing them in the trash?

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"Sounds great!" you're thinking. "Where are they?" We'll give you a clue: You A) throw it away in terror after your baby is born and B) make a pact with everyone in the maternity ward that it will never be mentioned again. We're talking about that demon pepperoni that feeds your bundle o' joy and your nightmares after childbirth: the placenta.

Yes, before you go tossing out (or chowing down on) that bloody flapjack that popped out of your or your significant other's nethers, know that science has discovered that the placenta is actually chock-full of perfectly good stem cells that can be used for medical research and treatment. The placenta and umbilical cord contain hematopoietic stem cells, which is a fancy name for cells that can literally create blood. They're the same type of cell that's extracted from your hip during bone marrow transplants, except the placenta conveniently flops out of the body during childbirth, rather than having to be painfully drawn out with a needle.

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"Nurse, I distinctly said the BIG needle!"

The discovery is a big freaking deal, by the way, as hematopoietic stem cells can treat blood disorders like sickle cell anemia, immunodeficiency diseases like HIV, multiple forms of cancer, and more. It's been predicted that 1 in every 400 Americans will need hematopoietic stem cell treatments over the next 70 years. Thankfully, mothers are already producing a free side of stem cells with the birth of every bouncing baby.

So if you're pregnant, you're fully capable of contributing to a very necessary medical cause. All you need to do is follow this simple two-step process: 1) Find out if your birthing facility of choice accepts hematopoietic stem cell/cord blood donations and 2) tell them you want them to keep your placenta and umbilical cord. Congratulations! You have helped one person's life while simultaneously bringing another into the world. Just resist the urge to use your placenta as a spa facial or enjoy a lotus birth. (Seriously, don't click that Wikipedia link. It's like Basket Case, but real.)

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It's basically a neonatal chain gang.

#1. Smile

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"Wait, really? Smile? That's your goddamned world-saving advice, Cracked? What are you, Mr. Fucking Rogers? GO PLAY WITH YOUR PUPPETS!"

Look, if you follow Cracked on a regular basis, then you already know that it doesn't pay to be an optimist. We've already written about how the very concept of being happy is flawed at best, and how the life expectancy of optimists is generally shorter than that of pessimists. But you shouldn't bury your good mood in a shallow grave just yet. While maintaining a perpetually cheery demeanor may not benefit you personally, it works wonders on literally everyone else around you. According to science, smiling improves the lives of everyone in a real, measurable way.

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While scowling just makes people want to punch you.

In one experiment, a group of researchers arranged for 800 random passersby to be smiled at as they walked through a supermarket. Immediately following the smile, the individual would encounter someone who had "accidentally" spilled a stack of computer disks onto the ground. Researchers recorded how the unwitting volunteers responded and compared it to data from a control group that hadn't received a smile before the encounter. Even accounting for variables like gender and attractiveness as motivating factors, people who received a smile were 10 percent more likely to help the person.

Roll that around in your head for a minute. All it took was a single smile to make 10 percent of people more considerate to a person in need. Now think about all the prodding and reminding it takes before a person will even consider doing something as worthwhile as donating to a food bank. And just a few more smiles could make all the difference.

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"Smile, Corporal, and the whole world smiles back. That's when you shoot the sum' bitches."

And that's just the start. It turns out that genuine smiles have a "halo effect" that benefits anyone who sees them. This effect makes you more altruistic, increases your ability to cooperate with others, and even enhances your memory. Seeing that facial expression just makes humans work better.

When you see a smiling face, even if it's just a photograph, your brain's orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus start going bonkers. That's your brain forcing itself to remember more details about the other person, like their name, their appearance, or where you met. Think about the last time you walked down a crowded city street. What do you remember? Odds are you've already forgotten most of the neutral faces you passed, but a smiling face is going to stick out in your mind for a long time afterward.

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"Honestly, it was her smile that really stood out to me. That and the bloody, dismembered head she was carrying."

Basically, these studies prove that "When You're Smiling, the Whole World Smiles With You" isn't just a catchy song, but a verifiable scientific fact. Now go out there and grin at everyone in a 50-foot radius. It'll be like you're emitting a cloud wherever you go that magically forces everyone in the vicinity to be better people. And it costs you nothing.



Marshall Lemon is a librarian and news writer for The Escapist who likes the idea of being a part-time superhero. You can follow him on Twitter.



For other ways to save the world, check out 6 Terrible Ideas That Science Says Will Save the Planet. Or discover 5 Ways People Are Trying to Save the World (That Don't Work).

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Weirdly Specific Moments in Every Seth Rogen Movie Romance.

And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why you're dooming us all by holding in your farts.

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