Do you struggle to let loose? Here are 10 great ideas from Claire Barnardo that show you how to really relax…
When did life get so busy? Sometimes it can be hard to find time to unwind, but with a little imagination (and forward planning!) there’s really no excuse not to. Here are our top 10 ways to chill out:
- Give a foot massage
Getting a foot massage might sound more relaxing, but giving one not only makes someone else happy, but helps you to relax as well. Don’t forget to use some soothing lotion, and check out our top tips for giving foot massages below.
- Go for a walk
Exercise is one of the best ways you can loosen up. It’s not only fun and gets you moving, it also has tons of physical benefits. Plus your mood improves because of all the feel-good hormones. So get moving – even if it’s only a short stroll around the block…
- Run a bath
There’s nothing more relaxing than lying in a hot bubble bath (with a scented candle burning). It’s the perfect way to de-stress and let your mind wander and unwind from the day’s activities. Try lavender drops in the water for a good night’s rest.
- Have an (unlimited) coffee date with a friend
Make a date to meet a friend for a lengthy cup of coffee (or a pot of tea). Chatting things over without any time limits is a great way to chill out (and share worries). Especially if it includes a few laughs!
- Play a board game with your family
Get everyone together and play your favourite board game. Whether it’s 30 Seconds, Charades or a game of cards, games are an ideal way to check out of the day-to-day drill and enjoy each other’s company.
- Read a book
Escape into another world through the pages of your favourite novel. You’ll not only be using your imagination, but exercising your mind too. There’s no better way to relax than a good book on a comfortable chair (or bed!)
Research shows that people who meditate greatly reduce their stress levels. Plus it results in improved memory, decreased anxiety and generally makes you feel much more positive. Even a short five-minute meditation can have a good effect on your mood and your stress levels – and if you start with a guided meditation it won’t be too difficult to switch off. The easiest meditation of all? Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed, sit comfortably and focus on your breathing – in and out, in and out.
- Pay it forward
Try being kind as a form of relaxation. Whether it’s smiling at a stranger, letting a car go before you in traffic or planning a special treat for a friend, being nice can make you feel good too. Remember that charity begins at home, so try starting with your family.
- Go gardening
You don’t need flowerbeds to enjoy the relaxation of green fingers. Even trimming a houseplant or potting a new pot plant will take the edge off. Studies show that the sensory experience of gardening is what really calms the mind and puts you back in touch with yourself.
- Close your eyes
Instead of pushing yourself from one deadline to the next, try taking a short nap to recharge. Even a 20-minute sleep can help to refocus your brain and energy. What are you waiting for? Time for some zzz…..
Need to make more time for your family this year? Why not do it in style and have some fun too? Claire Barnardo leads the way…
4 Top tips:
- Time it
One of the greatest gifts you can give your family and friends is your time. Simply add it to your schedule: an hour or two over the weekend to make memories together.
- Plan it
Don’t leave finding a child-friendly, cost-effective play option till the last minute. Do your research and plan ahead of time so play time is actually spent playing!
- Price it
There are lots of cheap and free ways to have fun. Using your creativity can turn a simple picnic into a magical adventure for the kids.
- Weather it
Always check what’s in store weather-wise if you are heading outdoors for the day so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
Do you remember how much fun games were when you were young? They still are! All you need is your imagination and a few bits and pieces to make staying at home together an absolute treat. Try out these old favourites:
- Play dough
- Tent building
If you’re in town, then look no further than these gems for a free and fun outing:
Green Point Park, Cape Town
If you haven’t already been, then you are missing out on one of the most fantastic parks in the country. It’s the perfect place for a good stroll, whether you’re pushing a pram or riding a bicycle. Or plan a family picnic and take along your own games – there’s plenty of space. There’s also an outdoor gym and play parks with top equipment, so all you need to do is get there and play time is yours!
- At: Granger Bay Boulevard, Green Point
Emmarentia Dam, Joburg
If you’re looking for the urban version of outdoor fun then head to Emmarentia Dam for the day. Right next to the Joburg Botanical Gardens, the dam is not only a dog’s best find for a walk and a swim, but also the perfect place for families to picnic, braai and relax. Or just sit and watch the windsurfers and canoeists on the water.
- At: Olifants Road, Emmarentia
Durban Botanic Gardens, Durban
If you haven’t been to the Botanic Gardens for a while, you’re due a visit! The park has always been the perfect spot for a family picnic, with its lake full of ducks for the kids to feed and the orchid house for the older kids to explore. And as always, the tea garden is perfect for an afternoon cuppa or a toasted sarmie.
- At John Zikhale (Sydenham) Road
Don’t forget to pack!
- Snacks and juice
- Books for the car ride
- Change of clothing (you just never know!)
- Camera: for those priceless moments
Staying young at heart is easy with these great activities. Charis Le Riche gives us some ideas…
Though you might not be able to turn back the clock, you can always feel – and act – young at heart. Here’s how to lighten up and be more youthful.
Nothing makes you feel younger than having a good laugh. Laughter also helps you feel less anxious, less tense, boosts your immune system, protects your heart and can even make you look younger. Be sure to surround yourself with cheerful, happy people and seek out opportunities to have a good giggle together.
Sing out loud
You don’t have to be pitch perfect to belt out a tune, and children definitely don’t let being in tune stand in the way of their performance! Even doctors recommend singing out loud, as a means to release endorphins which make you feel good.
Build a fort
Dismantle the couches and build yourself a fort right in the lounge. There is nothing better to cheer you up on a rainy day than putting together a fort made out of couch pillows and sheets for you and the kids to play in – or maybe for a romantic candlelit evening with your partner.
Play board games
We seem to have forgotten that there are better things to do with our time than sit in front of the computer or TV screen. So switch off all your devices and get a little competitive with board games. Whether it’s 30 Seconds, Pictionary or good old Monopoly, you’ll be amazed what fun a board game can be.
Not just for kids, colouring in (and painting!) for adults is all the rage at the moment. Colouring in is a stress-free activity that will help put your mind at ease. Choose from one of the many adult colouring in books and whatever crayons or kokis you need to get your creative juices flowing and make you feel young again.
Claire Barnardo gives us 14 ways having children in your life makes you happier all round… (even if they’re not your own… And even if it’s not all the time!)
- Be young again
Spending time with kids allows you to relive your youth again: everything you did and didn’t get to do. Playing with toys, reading your favourite children’s books and playing at make-believe are all some of the day-to-day activities with a child.
- Keep fit
Have you spent an afternoon with a two-year-old recently? It’s one quick and sure way to get in shape! They will have you running around in no time.
- Laugh aloud!
Children say the funniest things all the time. They can also be quite profound and real in understanding the world. It’s cute, amusing and special all at once.
- Social butterfly
You get to meet a whole new group of friends through play dates, school, the library, and family time at parks. Being a parent is a unifying experience.
- New view
You can experience the world through new eyes and fall in love with life all over again. There are so many first experiences that you can share with a child. And this time around you get to buy the toys you really want…
- All better
A child can change the worst of adult days into something bright just by saying one sentence, or giving one little hug.
- Get creative
Kids are at their creative height the younger they are, so you can flex your creativity too. Play-doh, paint, dancing, singing, storytelling… The possibilities are endless.
Kids enjoy life in full doses. Whether it’s exploring the garden or baking, building tents or drawing, it’s all one big adventure when you’re around a little one.
Looking after a child gives you a greater sense of direction and purpose in life. You are able to be your best self around them.
They also remind you about what’s really important in life… and it’s not the laundry, or the dishes.
- Deep answers
Children are inquisitive and won’t settle for a simple explanation. They test your general knowledge and understanding constantly, which is a great way to keep your mind active.
Spending time with a child is one sure way to refine your patience and your ability to do things slowly and one at a time.
In our busy world of screens and meetings, it is a great joy to be able to focus on someone as they learn their way in the world.
- Love, love, love
Children really do make your heart grow bigger and more beautiful. They rub off a kind of joy that makes you smile more easily and look forward to things you might have taken for granted.
Kids in need of quality time
If you don’t have your own children, don’t worry: there are plenty who still need you. Why not volunteer at a children’s home, hospital or as a kangaroo carer and give back to a little person?
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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
“My friend was just diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and weirdly the thing that’s bothering him most is what people will think. He doesn’t want to tell anyone because he says they’ll blame him for becoming diabetic – because he didn’t eat healthy or exercise enough. How can I help?” Shan Moyo
First of all, I think your friend is lucky to have someone like who cares enough for him to help him work through the barriers of accepting his diabetes. Because of all the studies that have shown that diet and lifestyle have an influence on Type 2 diabetes, uninformed people forget that there are numerous other reasons for developing diabetes as well. And the Type 1 and Type 2 labels also make people more judgemental.
To some people, their personal health problems and issues are exactly that: personal. Frankly, your friend doesn’t have to share with everybody that he has diabetes, but it is a good idea to let someone close to him know, in case of an emergency. One of the hardest things that newly diagnosed people with diabetes experience and fear is that those who have known you for years start treating you like you’re different. They see your diabetes and not you. But help him look at it this way: no one today would accuse someone with AIDS of giving themselves the condition. So why allow anyone to do it with diabetes?
What can you do? Be an active reader and read your friend like an open book. Listen more and talk less. Help him come to terms with his diabetes and find confidence in managing it. Don’t let him assume that others are judging him: nobody has any power over what other people prefer to think.
Finally, if your friend is really struggling with a lot of mixed emotions, remind him that it’s perfectly normal to feel that way, and that it’s okay to need some help with the burden of managing a demanding condition. And lastly, one of my favourite quotes by Lao Tzu for him: “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
Help him to live free and happy.
– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator
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.
- Lettuce and rocket
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.
– 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.
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.
– 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
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.
– 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.
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.
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?
- Save electricity – did you know that tumble dryers use the most electricity? Use fresh air and sunshine to dry your clothes whenever possible.
- Pick up litter in your neighbourhood and encourage your neighbours to do the same.
- Support your local shops and buy fresh fruit and vegetables as locally as possible.
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.
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.