Brain Bulletin #88 - Blame It On the Watermelon

in Brain Bulletin

Too much stress, over a long period of time, is not good for your brain. Stress raises cortisol levels in your brain which, given enough time, can lead to cell death.

Richard Saunders puts it this way, "Brain cells create ideas. Stress kills brain cells. Stress is not a good idea." Indeed.

There seems to plenty of stress to go around these days. And, you can blame it on the watermelon. At least that's what Judith thought.

My last Brain Bulletin was about how good watermelon is for your brain. (In case you missed it: This Summer Brain Food Treat is Easy to Forget ) The next day, I got this email from Judith:

Blame It On the Watermelon ~ unknown

"So I was enjoying my first watermelon of the season with my two boys today, and I realized that they had never had real watermelon, only the seedless variety. It hit me like a ton of bricks, a revelation if you will. All of today's problems can be traced back to the invention of the seedless watermelon.

Now you may think this statement strange, or perhaps attribute it to the meanderings of a feeble mind. Nevertheless I assure you that the statement is correct. Be it terrorism, the plight of the homeless, the ever-widening rift between rich and poor, the seeming disappearance of family values, or something as mundane as rush hour traffic. All are directly attributable to the seedless watermelon. In fact, I challenge anyone to come up with a single modern day problem, social or otherwise, that isn't directly related to the seedless watermelon phenomenon. Let me explain.

In the pre-seedless watermelon age, life was simpler. We would sit up on our sun decks, or in our backyards and enjoy a good old-fashioned slice of watermelon. We'd take our time, picking seeds out with a spoon, tongue, or even an old stick. Take a big juicy bite, and slowly, with intense concentration, tongue-wrangle all the seeds into that space between our teeth and our cheek, seeing who could hold the most. Basking in the full sticky sweetness on our lips and gums, the cool watery freshness in our mouth and throat. Then with glee we'd spit the seeds out. Machine gun style, like Al Pacino. Or perhaps Clint Eastwood style, one by one real deliberate-like. We'd take pride in our distance, or marksmanship, perhaps even holding competitions with friends or siblings. Occasionally war broke out and it was every man for himself. Afterward we could line the seeds up, or watch as they clung tenaciously to picnic bench or windowpane, betting on which would fall first. As we ate, our elders would tell tall tales of young boys who'd mistakenly swallowed the seeds, only to have their belly burst 3 months later as a vine grew inside him. Of course we didn't believe the stories, but we'd double- and triple-check before we swallowed just the same. And we would enjoy the watermelon, and we would enjoy our friends and family, and we would enjoy the heat, the breeze, the day, idling away eating our watermelon. All this made possible because the seeds slowed down the moment. Because of those little black seeds we were forced to take our time, notice the details, and in the end, really enjoy the experience, the whole experience, not just the fruit. And sure, we'd curse and swear at the darn things and jokingly say, someday they'll invent a watermelon without seeds, and everyone would laugh, knowing full well in our hearts that we loved the ritual perhaps even more than the fruit. Besides, a watermelon without seeds? Well that would be impossible.... little did we know.

And then someone, probably that kid in grade eight that no one liked, actually made it happen. And the watermelon lost it's magic, and our lives lost meaning.

Now I can eat my watermelon so fast and with such ease that no concentration is required whatsoever. It's so easy I can eat it while driving down the freeway. Why, I need not even taste it. How can we enjoy the fruits of our labour when it's already washed pre-cut and even seeded!? I especially feel for the little ones, now they can eat their watermelon in 30 seconds flat and run on in to catch the next cartoon, in their air-conditioned townhouse. No more feeling the heat, enjoying the juices as they refresh the body and soul. No more listening to tales of burst bellies, of giggling over our own fears. No more arguments over who spat farthest, fastest or mostest. No more learning that good things take time and effort. The beautiful ritual has been reduced to a quick, efficient intake of vitamin C and vital fluids, then back to the everyday. No more magic. And herein lies all the problems of the modern day world. Bigger, better, faster, and right now. This is what our children learn from the seedless watermelon, and this has become the ethos of our world.

Bigger, better, faster and right now.......Bigger, better, faster and right now. We have no time for the unemployed or homeless looking to do some odds and ends in exchange for food. Bigger, better, faster and right now. No time to regale our children with tall tales, and anyway, the cartoon network can do it better, not to mention bigger, faster and at the immediate flick of a switch. Bigger, better, faster and right now. Why car-pool, bike or transit? That brand new SUV is bigger, better, faster, and at zero down and no payments for 90 days, we can have it right now!

We've lost sight of the details. We've lost the precious moments. We've lost the magic. We've lost our childhood, and our children may never have one. But hey, at least we don t have those darn black seeds in our watermelon! My point exactly.

We lost something when we lost those little black seeds. Perhaps it was nature's way of counterbalancing the hectic pace of life, and now we're the ones that are lost.

I blame it all on the seedless watermelon." (end) 

Stress is often the result of an overloaded, hurried brain. This article is a timely reminder that brains benefit from 'down-time'.

It's summer here in Vancouver and I've taken some time off. I have noticed an immediate uptick in my health, vitality, and happiness. I'm also thinking better and my memory has improved.

Here a few suggestions to try:

  • Unplug more often. Try and go tech free for one hour a day.
  • Get out into nature more. Walk. Hike. Bike. Sit in a park. Be still.
  • Deal with 'stuff' directly. Focus on finding a solution.
  • Stop complaining. Change it, or change the way you think about it.
  • Breath deeply. Especially when you notice you're stressed.
  • Spend time with co-workers away from work.
  • Listen to calming music. My favorite is baroque.
  • Easy on the caffeine.
  • Drink more water. Dehydrated brains don't do well.

One more thing:

Did you know that a 20 second hug causes your brain to release oxytocin? (Oxytocin helps your mood by suppressing anxiety and depression.)

Hey, "you can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." 
- Jon Kabat-Zinn

Congratulations on learning something about your brain today. The Brain Bulletin is committed to help to do just that. If you missed any Brain Bulletins you can find them in the Brain Bulletin Archive: Brain Bulletin Archive

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My favorite book this month "Your Brain on Nature - The Science of Nature's Influence on Your Health, Happiness, and Vitality" by Eva Selhub and Alan Logan. It's inspired me to get outside more.

I have slowed the pace down this July. I spoke at the B.C. Executive Forum hosted by Cascade Aerospace and presented 4 public seminars. Lots of time cycling, yard work, hiking, family time. I've been 'overhauling' my presentations as well.

In August, I'm looking forward to presenting twice in Sweden, a full day session in San Francisco, and then back to Vancouver to present "Engaging the Brain" at Southpointe Academy.