Author Archives: Abigail Reese

Is Seasonal Depression Real?

I was recently going to get a manicure and I automatically thought to myself, “fall is approaching I have to get a dark color”. For the first time, I thought about why my mind went to dark colors for cold weather and why I had light colors all summer. This corresponds to my clothing as well. I have a black winter coat, black boots, black leggings, grey sweatshirts, but in the summer, I wear all sorts of bright colored clothes. It could have a lot to do with thermodynamics, but in my opinion, it’s because I wear what reflects my mood.

20140111-175511I hate winter. If I were to list the most terrible things in the world, winter weather would definitely be up there. I never question my decision to attend Penn State until October rolls around and I spend the next few months in frozen agony. Walking to class becomes a chore and so does pretty much everything else. Skiing is fun, but not nearly as fun as the sunshine! This topic reminded me of the pop quiz we had in class that related depression to TV light.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is in fact very real. But contrary to my hypothesis, it is believed to relate to daylight, not the temperature. Jessica Blaszczak, author of an article for the Psych Central said that half a million Americans are affected by the changing seasons and the darker outside light. Most people experience it during the fall into early winter and it usually goes away during spring and summer. But for others, it could be the other way around. The Mayo Clinic says it can lead to:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Problems getting along with others
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight gain

SAD is caused by several things. One of them being the change in your circadian rhythm. The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter could possibly disrupt your internal clock, causing problems for you and your body. Another reason is that your serotonin levels can drop. Serotonin is a brain chemical that affects your mood so when the sun starts setting earlier, you can become depressed due to lack of serotonin. Another chemical can also be affected: melatonin. This chemical helps make your sleep patterns and mood so it makes sense that if this drops, so does the way you feel. If you find yourself feeling down when fall and winter arrive, check out this article about ways to cope with SAD.

There are a few treatments that can help improve your mood and motivation levels if you experience SAD, light therapy being one of them. This therapy mimics outdoor light and in return, can change levels of brain chemicals linked to your mood.  Between 50% and 80% of light therapy users become symptom free (source)! If light therapy does not work, and SAD really starts to affect your daily life, further action can be taken after speaking to your doctor. You can be prescribed antidepressants that increase the serotonin in your blood, which in return, makes you happier! For those not wanting to take these steps, there are a few ways proven to help at home. You can make your home environment sunnier and brighter. Something as simple as opening the blinds can help affect your mood! It is also important to spend time outside. Even on cold and cloudy days, outdoor light can help how you are feeling. Exercise is another way because it is proven to relieve stress and anxiety which can increase SAD symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is no known prevention to be taken to avoid SAD.  It is recommended that you get ahead of it, meaning; if you know you experience some of the symptoms of SAD, start treatment early. As for me, I am already counting down the days until Spring Break in Florida!




One of the most favorite times of my day is when I get to see other students walking to class with service dogs. I mean really, how can you look at this face and not become instantly happier? UnknownI have always been intrigued as to how dogs can make us feel so much better. Click here to learn more on how you can bring one of these guys into your life!

As I said in my initial blog post, when I was in high school I did an internship/class at the local hospital. Although I can not disclose specific information, a patient was in the ER with her dog. At first I was confused because the patient did not seem to have sort of physical handicap so why would a service dog be with her? My instructor told me that service dogs can be placed in homes of people who also suffer from mental disease such as depression or anxiety. I have grown up with dogs always in my household. My whole family loves golden retrievers and my heart swells just thinking about my dog Lucy. I feel so much empathy and compassion toward her, and even though we can’t talk to each other, I feel as if I know her like I know a person. Ever since I moved into my new apartment, Lucy gets so excited to see me when I come home and it brightens my whole day, erasing any bad things that had happened.

In a scientific manner, dogs have many health benefits. As I’m sure many of you with dogs at home have experienced, dogs make you happier in general. This is because of the rise in oxytocin levels in your brain when you see or touch your dog. This hormone is basically a happy hormone because it causes you to feel good the higher your levels are. So, therefore; the more interaction with your dog, the happier you become! This reminded me of the worm studies in kids because they both have a correlation. The more time spend with your dog, the more oxytocin is released, the happier you are. Not only can they help you feel happier just by looking at them or playing with them, they also encourage a healthy lifestyle without even knowing. Having a dog can increase your likelihood of exercising because you know your dog needs it, so going along with them benefits you both. Dogs can also help you find meaning in your life by making you happy to have a connection with them. They also provide constant companionship and in doing this, reduce your stress. Just petting your dog lowers blood pressure which in return, can lower your stress levels. It is also reported that dogs have a much better sense of smell than we do. In an amazing case, Marine, a black lab, detected cancer just by using smell. This amazed me. The more I read about how helpful our dogs our to our lives, the more I began to understand that I found most of this to be true to my relationship with Lucy.

Dogs are no doubt amazing creatures. From a personal standpoint, Lucy not only makes me happy but she has taught me empathy. How on earth could she have done this without talking to me? I don’t entirely know the answer to that but I know that if I am feeling down, she knows because she brings me one of her toys because she knows it makes her happy, so she thinks it will make me happy too. Of course, this is all just speculation, but it is something I firmly believe in.

Dogs make the world happier. Dogs make humans happier. Dogs make other dogs happier. Dogs make everything happier. 🙂


Water Bottle Magic???

Sitting in SC 200 one day, I was exhausted, hungry, and hot. I had refilled my water bottle downtown at Irvings with a lot of ice in an attempt to cool myself down. While sitting in class drinking my ice cold water, the condensation on the outside of my water bottle was dripping everywhere. All over my notebook, my clothes, and I think I even got some water on my neighbor. My notes in blue ink began to bleed all over my notebook pages. I was already in a bad mood and on top of that, my stuff was soaked. The cold water felt great though, so later on in the day while sitting in my air conditioning, I Googled water bottles that don’t create condensation so I could order an insulated bottle online.

While going through the colors of water bottles and being side tracked a few times by pop ups, an ad came up that really grabbed my attention. It was for a self-filling water bottle that creates drinking water from the air. I was so intrigued by this and I immediately thought of what Andrew had said in class, “With science, nothing is off limits.” I became so curious that I clicked on the ad to see what this water bottle was all about and if something like that was even possible because this idea struck me as very imaginative. I was extremely skeptical about this product though because after all, “We’re damned good at seeing faults in other people” (Andrew).

I first watched the video made about the Fontus self filling water bottle. I wasn’t too convinced considering it seemed as if the whole video was just a man who bikes and runs around aimlessly. When it eventually got to explaining how the bottle works, my skepticism was put on hold.


It looks convincing right? Chris Cassella, CEO & Co-Founder of the Sciencealert website (the website I found this product on) seemed like a credible man that ran a credible website. He even claims himself to be a “science communicator”. Fiona MacDonald (director of content) is an award-winning journalist who I would assume would not release false media onto a scientific based website. But, why haven’t I heard of this product before? This water bottle could be world changing because of the lack of clean water in many underdeveloped nations, so why is it not advertised more? This is when I came to the conclusion that just like Andrew said, science is truly messy and disorderly because I still had no idea if this was real or not.

I resorted to Google once again to see if others had the same reaction to this water bottle as I did. The Fontus website itself was designed well and had a copyright date of 2015 so I began to believe that this is a very new product and maybe it truly works. It is a fairly young company based in Vienna. Their team consists of industrial designers, electrical engineers, and business men and women. I went to check how much they would charge for this water bottle and instead of a listed price, it said the patent was pending. I sighed, wondering if the government would even authorize this product. At this point, I am half skeptic and half hopeful that technology has risen to this level of greatness. Maybe one day we will all be refilling our water bottles in between classes with the sun! What do you think?



My name is Abby and I am a sophomore this year. My major is HDFS with a minor in children advocacy. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a doctor and throughout high school I told myself I loved science. After I passed out in an class at the local hospital, almost failed chemistry, and cried a few times about it, I finally told myself science was not my area of expertise. I decided not to become a science major because every science class I have taken has caused too much stress and my brain unfortunately just doesn’t understand most of the concepts of math. 735419_1307064742259_fullOn that note, I still needed a few science gen eds and my advisor told me SC 200 was a nice in-between class if I wasn’t that into science, but still wanted to learn a lot. I also know Andrew’s son (shout out Matt!) so I had heard great things about it. It sounded like a class I would like since it was science based, but not in a chemistry/math way.

The part of science that intrigues me is the side that connects to the interaction with people. Such as the psychology studies I have learned about in a few of my classes. I also really enjoy learning about nutrition and the science behind eating healthy and working out and why that is so important to our body’s chemistry. I am looking forward to a new way of learning about science!