Lifestyle

How reading is good for your health

There’s no better way to learn more about the world, go on an adventure or unwind than to spend some time reading… Here are our favourite reasons to turn the page.

Why reading is good for you:

If you’re not much of a reader, you might still be thinking of your junior school teacher telling you that you have to read a chapter every day to get smarter. But there’s actually a lot of research about how reading is good for your health…

  • It helps you de-stress. In a study* reading was found to be the best way to beat stress, even better than listening to music, drinking a cup of tea or taking a walk. *At Mindlab International at the University of Sussex
  • It keeps your brain sharp. If you choose mentally stimulating activities earlier and later in life, you’re more likely to have less trouble with memory decline as you age. *According to research published in the journal Neurology.
  • It makes you smarter. Your junior school teacher was right! As well as increasing your vocabulary, memory and writing skills, reading boosts your brain function, the same way exercise boosts your muscle function. *Research was carried out at Emory University in the USA.

Where to find a good read: For most of us, buying new books is too expensive to do every month, but there are a number of other ways to get your hands on a good read:

  1. Join your local library: Every town has one (and in fact, most suburbs have one!). Joining your library is free and easy, and you are allowed to take out anything from 2 to 5 books at a time, many of them new releases. What are you waiting for? Go and get your card today!
  2. Start a book club: If you and a few friends want to start reading more, make a plan to meet up every month and share books. You can either swap books that you already own, or put some money into a pool that lets you buy a few new books each month. Most bookstores offer a 10 to 20% discount if you register as a book club.
  3. Find a used book store: The joy of books is that they can be read over and over again – instead of forking out money to buy new books, why not pop round to a used book store and stock up for a fraction of the price?
  4. Get your fix of magazines and newspapers: Books aren’t the only way to get reading – it’s just as relaxing to sit down with a newspaper or magazine (as long as you aren’t only reading bad news stories and gossip!) There are no rules here: whatever gets you turning pages is what you should do.

Four fun games for the whole family

Here are four fun games to play indoors with the whole family – laughs included. We’ve got something for everyone, young and old.

30 second charades

This is like the board game 30 Seconds, but even more fast-paced and fun! It’s a great game for all generations to play together.

How to play:

  • Each person gets 3-4 squares of paper to write down the name of someone or something famous, i.e. Nelson Mandela or Table Mountain.
  • Divide into teams of 2-4 players (girls against boys is always a good idea!).
  • One player per round has to get the rest of the team to guess exactly what the paper says. Each team can choose as many folded squares as they can get through in 30 seconds.
  • The first time around, you can use as many words as you like.
  • The second time around, because you’ve heard all the answers once already, you can only use two words.
  • The third time around, you can’t use any words and have to mime the clue – just like charades.
  • Don’t forget to keep score of how many squares of paper you have at the end of each round… Add them up and you have your winner!

Why we love it: You can get everyone from Granny to your six-year-old cousin involved, because they get to write some of the game.

Twister

You might remember Twister from when you were a kid – but it’s just as much fun as an adult! The only difference is that the Twister mat is a little smaller these days…

How to play:

  • Choose two people to play against each other.
  • Spin the Twister spinner to decide where they have to put their hands or feet (the spinner is divided into right hand / left hand / right foot / left foot and the four colours).
  • Keep spinning until someone either falls over or lets their knee or elbow touch the mat.
  • It’s a good idea to have a dedicated “spinner” for each round, because it’s most fun when the changes happen quickly.
  • Once you have a winner from the first round, let another two people play, and then the winners can play against each other.

Why we love it: It promises to be “the game that ties you up in knots” and it is – whether from playing or from laughing as you watch other people play! 

2s and 8s

If you love the card game UNO but don’t have a pack of UNO cards handy, don’t worry! Here’s how to play it with a normal set of playing cards.

How to play:

  • The rules are simple: combine two sets of playing cards, shuffle them well and deal seven cards to each player. The top card of the deck is flipped over and becomes the first of the throw-away pile.
  • Each player takes a turn by throwing away one card that matches the suit or number of the card on top of the pile. If they don’t have any that match, they have to draw the top card from the deck, and play that card if possible, or skip a turn.
  • There are special rules about certain cards: instead of matching colours like in UNO, you match suits (diamonds, hearts etc.) Either the suit or the number / picture has to match.
  • A Jack card is either a reverse or a skip for the next player.
  • A Queen means the next player has to pick up 2 cards.
  • A King lets you change the suit and can be played at any time.
  • An Ace lets you change the suit and the next player has to pick up 4 cards. It can also be played at any time.

Why we love it: It can be a very simple card game or a very complicated one – depending who is playing and how good their strategy is.

Famous faces

Part of what makes this game so funny is that it involves sticking Post-It notes on your face… But it’s also a great general knowledge game.

How to play:

  • Each person gets five sticky Post-It notes and has to write down five famous people’s names – anyone from Mickey Mouse to Baby Jake Matlala, Britney Spears to Brenda Fassie.
  • These are put in a pile, upside-down so that nobody can read them.
  • When it’s your turn, you close your eyes and pick a Post-It from the pile, and stick it to your forehead.
  • You then get to ask 10 questions – with a Yes or No answer only – to try and figure out who you are.
  • It’s harder than it sounds!

Why we love it: It’s a fantastic group game because there are no limits to how many people can play.

Why you need a good laugh (right now!)

Nothing beats the feeling of a great laugh. Claire Barnardo reminds us why laughter should be part of every day.

Laughter has been called the best medicine (apart from insulin, of course!). And it’s no surprise why. Bursting into laughter is an immediate stress release. It relaxes the mind and body and instantly lifts your mood. With such great benefits, there are plenty of reasons to keep laughing out loud.

Laughter and your body

It’s not only fun to laugh, it’s also great for your health. One good laugh does all this to your body:

  • Increases your heart rate and oxygen, which gives you more energy.
  • Normalises your blood pressure and improves circulation.
  • Releases lots of feel-good hormones called endorphins.
  • Activates digestive and immune systems.
  • Improves your mental state and lifts depression.
  • Reduces stress levels immediately.

Positive outcomes

Besides being good for your health, laughter also has other benefits:

  • Laughter increases your self-confidence and motivation.
  • It brings people together and creates bonding between groups.
  • Laughter encourages creativity.
  • It increases your natural wellbeing, meaning you’re less likely to get sick.
  • Laughter can help you connect with your children, and bring out a sense of fun that’s easy to forget.
  • It’s free and can be done any time!

Finding light relief

In our busy, stressful lives, laughing is not always a priority. But making time to unwind and see the humour in situations can have a big effect on your attitude. Need a quick fix? Here are some ideas.

  1. Watch a funny movie.
  2. Go to a local comedy show.
  3. Read the jokes section of the newspaper.
  4. Hang out with funny friends.
  5. Do fun or silly activities like putt putt or jumping on a trampoline.

How to start a kitchen garden

Always wanted to grow your own greens? Claire Barnardo gets you started this season.

How often have you wished you could simply pick vegetables from your own garden, instead of having to go to the shops? Well that’s entirely possible, no matter what size space you have. Not only is growing your own veggies a good health choice, it’s also more affordable and very satisfying as well. We’ve decided to get started with growing your own salad. Get into action with our starter guide!

Sun, soil and seeds:

  • Find your spot

Vegetables grow best in a sunny position. Start by preparing your soil, digging it up, mixing in compost and keeping the soil moist.

  • Know your space

You can go green whether you’ve got a garden or not. Here’s how to match your space to the right vegetable choice:

–       If you have a garden…

If you’re lucky enough to have a spacious garden then you can look at growing more rambling types of vegetables. Try cucumber, courgettes, patty pans and watermelon.

–       If you have a small patch…

For a more compact garden area, try lettuce, spinach, leeks, beetroot, bush beans and aubergine. These veggies also make good borders as they grow in a contained space.

–       If you have a window box or pot…

Chillies make beautiful pot plants, as do small cherry tomatoes. It’s also a good idea to grow tomatoes in large pots (20 litres) and train them up a trellis, or try other runner plants that do well in pots with frames, like peas and beans.

  • Sowing seeds

Planting from seed is far more affordable than seedlings. The gardener’s secret is to use about three seeds at a time. Make sure that the soil is moist enough at germination (when the seed is sprouting) and sort seedlings when they are big and strong enough to be separated. You can store leftover seeds in a packet in a dark space.

 Summer salads

  • Lettuce and rocket

Sow: September

Harvest: November

With many wonderful types to choose from, growing your own lettuce is the way to go. Find a sunny spot and prepare the soil. Sow seeds in short rows and cover with netting to protect from birds. When the seedlings are about 2cm big you may need to space them out more. Lettuce is also ideal to grow in window boxes – try variations like iceberg, cos or wild rocket for a more vibrant taste.

Hot tips:

– Continue to sow seeds each week for four weeks to have a constant supply throughout the summer.

– Make sure that you choose a spot that gets afternoon shade: full sun in the summer is too hot for lettuce.

  • Tomatoes

Sow: September

Harvest: December

Reliable and quite easy to grow, tomatoes enjoy warm and sheltered spots. Make sure you match the variety you choose to your space and location. They need good soil, regular sun, compost and water.

Hot tips:

– Sow seeds thinly as most start sprouting within two weeks.

– To keep tomatoes at a contained size, pinch out the growing tips so that the plant produces fruit.

  • Peppers and chillies

Sow: September

Harvest: January

Peppers and chillies love to grow in sunny pots. Sow seeds thinly on top of a composted soil pot, water and wait a week. You may need to transfer smaller seedlings to bigger pots as they grow.

Hot tips:

– Support larger plants with a stalk and some twine.

– Water often, especially in hot weather, as these veggies get thirsty often.

And why not make your own compost!

The best compost comes from organic waste – things that are found right in your home.

  • Save vegetable and fruit cuttings from your kitchen (everything except citrus, which is too acidic for compost).
  • Also set aside used tea bags and eggshells.
  • Add it all to your compost heap.
  • Turn the compost heap regularly.
  • Make sure it gets a lot of sun.

Great ways to make a difference in your community

Want to make a difference in your community? Claire Barnardo shows you how to get involved.

To change the world you don’t need to make big gestures. Simply do one good act at a time, and you can set great things in motion and be an example to others.

  • Donate

Charity does begin at home. Start by sorting through your cupboards. Collect any clothes, shoes, or appliances that you haven’t used in the last year and that are still in good working condition. Contact your local charity organisation and donate them to a better cause. Get your kids involved and ask them to put aside any toys and books they no longer love, to give to an orphanage or hospital unit.

  • Bin it

The next step is to get involved in recycling your refuse. Remember this slogan: reduce, reuse, recycle. All you need to do is set up a simple set of dustbins at home. You can label or colour-code them according to what is stored in them: paper, glass, tin, and plastic. Make sure you rinse out the containers before you recycle them. Then when your bins are full, drop them off at a collection site in your area.

  • Helping hand

Why not volunteer your time to organisations that need extra help? Whether it’s serving food, visiting an orphanage or old-age home, or sharing your special skills, you will be adding to your community hands-on. Encourage your children to get involved in any community projects at school.

  • Plant a tree

The best way to reduce your impact on the environment is to find something that absorbs carbon dioxide and turns it into oxygen. You know what that means? Plant a tree! Studies show that it takes 16 trees to supply the oxygen for one person’s life, depending on the size and lifespan of the trees, and the lifestyle and carbon footprint of the person.

Need a quick fix?

  1. Save electricity – did you know that tumble dryers use the most electricity? Use fresh air and sunshine to dry your clothes whenever possible.
  2. Pick up litter in your neighbourhood and encourage your neighbours to do the same.
  3. Support your local shops and buy fresh fruit and vegetables as locally as possible.

Local is lekker

Here are some great ways to celebrate all things South African, by Charis Le Riche.

Food, glorious food

One thing you have to say about South Africans: we know how to cook. Not only have we mastered the art of international cuisine, but our local dishes are a hit too.

In Durban you have the humble bunny chow (a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry); in the Cape it’s the Gatsby (a super sandwich sold as a footlong roll or in quarters); for those with a sweet tooth there’s the koeksister – Cape Malay style (traditionally balls of cooked potato, fried, soaked in syrup and covered in coconut) or Afrikaans-style (deep-fried plaited dough soaked in syrup). And for those who are more adventurous, there’s a township delicacy – the smiley: a cooked sheep’s head.

Say hello in 11 languages

SA is so diverse and varied that we have 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Because of this, you’ll find that most South Africans speak at least two languages. There are unofficial languages also recognised by the constitution: the Khoi, San and Nama languages, sign language, Portuguese, Hindi and indigenous creoles. We also have our own slang that can be a little confusing to outsiders (like the use of “shame” which can be applied in any situation – good or bad), but is very useful once mastered. Especially knowing the difference between “now”, “now now” and “just now”!

Every activity under the sun

South Africa is one of the few places where you can enjoy the perks of city living and country life all in one place. You can go shopping at world-class boutiques and then hike up Table Mountain within 20 minutes. We are spoiled with some of the finest wildlife reserves full of the Big 5 and more. For adrenaline junkies, there’s abseiling, sky diving, bungee jumping and even diving with Great White sharks. While those who want something more laidback will find plenty of wine farms, festivals and markets to choose from.

Beautiful landscapes

SA offers the world in one place. We’ve got rolling mountains, pristine oceans, roaring rivers and breathtaking urban cityscapes. And we’re blessed with some of the world’s most stunning landscapes: from the peaks of the Drakensberg on the border of Lesotho and the lush Tsitsikamma forests in the Eastern Cape, to the reef of Sodwana Bay and Limpopo’s Lake Fundudzi. This country is filled with wonders like God’s Window and the Blyde River Canyon (on the border of Mpumalanga and Limpopo province), Table Mountain in the Cape and the Valley of Desolation in the Eastern Cape.

The braai and the shisa nyama

And, of course, last but not least – our passion for braais! Though most of the world enjoys this activity, calling it a BBQ, South Africans have made the braai a national pastime and we even spend our Heritage Day celebrating it (in Braai Day style). In townships there’s nothing like a shisa nyama – if you’re looking for one, keep an ear out for the sound of music, laughter and plenty of conversation.

Like every country, South Africa has its challenges. But we also have a lot to be proud of… And what better time to celebrate than right now.

How to start your own support group

Want to get involved in the diabetes community? Here’s what you can do.

5 Steps to starting your own support group:

If you don’t have a support group in your area and you want to start one, here’s what you need to do!

  1. Spread the word: tell everyone you know with diabetes in your area, post on our Facebook page and blog, and put up notices in the community and even in the local newspaper.
  2. Find a suitable space that you can hold the meetings (for free).
  3. Find a diabetes educator or a clinic sister who can be at each meeting to answer questions.
  4. Get some diabetic-friendly snacks and free Sweet Life magazines.
  5. Meet once a month to support each another.

And finally, educate others too! Sometimes getting involved is as easy as being honest about diabetes.

Let us know (in the comments) if you’ve started a support group, and we’ll spread the word on the Diabetic South Africans Facebook page.