How do our brains enable us to sense the changing of the seasons?

Spring is in the air as we emerge from the dark, wet winter months in Cape Town.  But how do our brains enable us to sense the changing of the seasons, and how are our biological rhythms formed?

 By Dr Samantha J. Brooks Ph.D.

One may think that it is only women who have a biological clock, but in fact we all have brains that govern – and are governed by – daily, monthly and yearly cycles. Neuroscientists know this because when participants are placed in isolated circumstances during research studies, the usual sleep-wake cycles, monthly fluctuations (applicable to both men, in the form of testosterone production, and women, in terms of oestrogen cycles) and yearly hibernation patterns remain, despite the changing external circumstances. For example, we all know how groggy and jet-lagged we feel after a long-haul flight, particularly when we travel West to East as our brain tries to adjust to the change in light to dark cycles. And if you’ve ever moved from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere, it takes a while for the brain to catch on to the fact that winter is now in July, and the height of summer is in January! How then, do our brains cling to an internal body clock, even when the external surroundings change?

CLOCK genes help to regulate the systems within the brain that determine our sleep/wake and annual cycles, and can be found in most organisms and animals on earth. They are self-sustaining regulators or biological pacemakers for physiological and psychological processes such as core body temperature, blood sugar, blood pressure, food intake, cognitive performance and mood. In terms of brain areas, the supra-chiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus receives information from the eyes about darkness and light. This may partly explain why shift-workers such as nurses, doctors, late-night shop keepers and long-distance lorry drivers are most prone to disturbances in their biological rhythms, moods, and even food intake (people with irregular working patterns are more likely to gain weight). Other brain areas include the pineal gland, which secretes the hormone melatonin in to the blood stream to paralyse muscles, particularly during the dark night hours.  CLOCK genes also influence the growth of brain cells, and as such may be related to how well we create new neural pathways through learning. If we are flexible and can learn to adapt quickly, then jet-lag and out-of-hours shift work may not become a problem for too long.  The issue with jet-lag and out-of-hours work is that in the longer term, it can lead to cognitive deficits and neurological dysfunction, to the point where memory and hand-eye coordination deficits become dangerous to the person and to those around. The changing of the seasons, while a bit discombobulating, happens at a slower pace than jet-lag for example, and coincides less with cognitive deficits.

Nevertheless, we must try to remain flexible during the changing seasons, so that our circadian rhythms do not become irregular for too long and so that we can better adjust to new external circumstances (e.g. moving from dark winter months to bright, summer days).  Irregular circadian rhythms can lead to various psychiatric disorders, including major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, stress dysregulation, eating disorders, drug addiction, and alcoholism, as well as age-related cognitive deficits including Alzheimer’s disease. The transition from winter to summer is always easier than from summer to winter, but still for some it can be a distressing time, as the body has to readjust to an altered external routine. The good news is that there are mainstream methods available to strengthen our ability to be cognitively flexible, so that our brain can quickly adapt to a new external situation, whether it be a new time zone, hemisphere, country, job or season. One method that has become popular in recent years is mindfulness therapy, which teaches a person to reconnect with the sensations arising from the body (physiological and emotional) and to not focus, or ‘latch-on’ to changing external factors. One popular mindfulness technique is called ‘the body scan’, which can easily be done at home and encourages people to focus on the feeling of different body parts, from toes to the top of the head. Such a practice can really help to direct attention away from the altered external reality, and towards the body’s natural rhythms. 

So as we approach summer once more in Cape Town, try to follow some mindfulness links on the internet, which will help to stave off any readjustment issues one might have to the changing seasons. And by doing so, our minds and bodies will be in tip-top shape to enjoy another glorious summer in our beautiful city.

Dr Samantha Brooks is a UK neuroscientist working with University of Cape Town, specialising in the neural correlates of impulse control from eating disorders to addiction.  For more information on neuroscience at UCT and to contact Samantha, see

Save like a Comrades runner for your home deposit

Saving for the deposit on a home is like training for the Comrades Marathon – the earlier you start and the more regularly you run, the better, so that your body has time to adjust to the strain and build up the necessary muscle and stamina.

So says Rudi Botha, CEO of BetterBond, SA’s biggest bond originator, who notes: “Everyone knows that the best time to start training for next year’s Comrades is just after this year’s race, and getting ready to buy a home is the same – it takes time as well as discipline.”

At the moment, he says, the main obstacle to ownership for many young people is the lack of a deposit. “It is true that lifestyle changes have a part to play in young people buying their first homes much later than they used to. Millennials like to travel more than their parents did, for example, and tend to stay single longer. Many are also only starting to work at a later stage, but the biggest reason for the delay is that they don’t start saving for a deposit soon enough.

“People in their 20s now often have study loans to pay off, car payments to make and credit card debts on top of the rent and other monthly living costs, so there is usually not much salary left to save every month, but if they want to be homeowners – or even just to buy an investment property – we believe they should start saving that little bit anyway and putting the power of compound interest to work.”

The way this works, Botha explains, is that those who start saving now could accumulate a R50 000 deposit in five years by paying R720 a month into a normal bank savings account that pays around 6% interest a year.

“But if you wait to start saving for a deposit until two years before you want to buy, say, you will need to save almost R2000 a month in that same bank account to reach your R50 000 goal. That will obviously put much more strain on your household budget and might well cause you to postpone or even abandon your home purchase plan.”

On the other hand, he says, you might decide to go ahead without a deposit, and apply for a “100%” home loan, not knowing how much extra this is going to cost you in the long-run.

“It is of course quite possible to get 100% loans, especially if you are a first-time buyer purchasing an affordable home. However, your credit record has to be excellent and you will have to pay a premium interest rate – usually about two percentage points more than the prevailing prime rate – so the total cost of your home over the 20-year life of the bond will be much higher.”

For example, Botha says, the total cost of a R500 000 home bought with a 100% loan taken over 20 years at an interest rate of 12% (the current prime rate plus two percentage points) would be R1,322m, while the total cost of the same home bought with a R50 000 deposit and a 90% home loan at an interest rate of 10% would be R1,043m.

“In other words, you would save around R280 000 just because you took the time to save up that deposit – and your monthly home loan instalment would be more than R1000 lower.That’s a winning strategy worthy of a gold medal.” 

Issued by etc

Anne-Marie Bamber is Norgarb Properties dedicated Home Loans Consultant. She has over 15 years’ experience in assisting clients with their Home Loan needs and has placed many happy families in their dream homes.

Contact her today for no cost stress-free home-buying.
Anne-Marie Bamber
Home Loans consultant
Tel: +27 (0)21 851 3568 | Fax: +27 (0)21 441 1494 | Cell: +27 (0)82 071 1665

Work from home

Work from home is on the increase as opportunities for remote work grow thanks to advances in technology. The benefits are immense, from saving on overheads (if you run your own home business), to the freedom to work to your own schedule. Here we’ll take a look at some of the legal aspects as well as what makes a home office a productive and inspirational work space.

The legal side of doing work from home may contain some red tape which needs looking at; depending on the size and nature of the work you will be doing.

Doing small scale work such as remote work for a company or freelancing, generally won’t need any special permission. However, starting up your own small business may need some planning and permission, especially if your business includes an increase in visitor traffic or noise. Whether renting or owning your own property, residential zoning means leases and title deeds often contain clauses which prohibit business use. If renting you can check your lease or ask your landlord for permission. If buying your own home, check the title for information on restrictions as you may need to get permission, especially when a residential mortgage is in place. Another bit of red tape would be your neighbours. If your business in any way adds risk or prohibits them from enjoying their own property they are well within their rights to take you to court. Obviously if you plan on making any alterations to your home for your work, then planning permission will be needed.

Also make sure to check whether your home insurance will need changing as you don’t want to end up not being fully covered should something happen. You may also want to look at public liability insurance to cover third parties.

One last bit of red tape is special licenses. If your home business is related to child care, food production, or hotel/B&B business you will need special health and safety licenses in order to legally operate.

Now the fun part – creating your very own work-from-home space! The great thing about not working in a corporate office or a tiny cubicle is that you can design your office and hours to suit your personality and your needs. If you already own a home, find a spot that is seldom used or turn the spare room into your office. If you are looking for a new home and know that you need to set up an office, you’ll want to keep that in mind. Look for a home that has an extra room, make sure it is light and airy, easily accessible without causing too much disruption to your everyday family life, and can be expanded if you will need that option later on.

Once you find your ideal spot, here are a few essentials you’ll need to think about to set up your work space:

 A separate office space - to avoid unnecessary distraction; especially important if you have children! If space is limited you could even convert a closet in a room into a desk and workspace which is easy to close off when you are not working.
 A routine and clear boundaries – It is all too easy to be distracted by housework or a quick catch-up with your friend, but to work from home productively you need to be strict with yourself. Setting up clear boundaries with those around you, and a routine which works with your day, is the best way to achieve success.
 A good computer or laptop – one that is reliable and has efficient memory and speed for your work requirements. You may want to look at one with a working camera and mic if you’ll be attending remote meetings.
 A good WiFi set-up - if you are doing remote work for a company you will need access to files and work being sent. If running your own business going digital is far easier than mountains of paperwork.
 A productive work space – This is entirely personal. You may choose a standing desk, a desk with a pilates ball, or a standard desk and comfortable chair. You will want a calendar nearby where you can jot down appointments or deadlines, or even just make notes. And of course you’ll need easy access to files/books/stationery.

Other items depend entirely on your business needs. You may want to install a printer/scanner, you may need shelves for files or reference books. You may want to put up a clock so that you have a clear view of the time. You could paint a wall with chalk paint and write down notes and plans as you go along. Whatever you decide, it’s best to sit down first and write down what your business will require and what you would like to include in your space. In the end, plan a work space that will allow you to work efficiently as well as create a sense of joy for what you do every day. Happy working!

Norgarb Properties Agent Andre Ter Moshuizen who specialises in the Claremont area, shares some household tips and handy home hints with you every month. Read more of his articles here. []

Andre Ter Moshuizen: 082 602 1367 | |

Hacks to help you during an interview.

6 Psychological hacks

to help you
during an Interview
Written by Madge Gibson

When it comes to job interviews, how you act is almost as important as what you say.

While you’re concentrating on answering questions, your body is revealing subconscious clues about what you’re thinking and feeling (embodied cognition).

Here are a few hacks to support you during your interview.

1. Warm up
Arrive a few minutes early and visit the bathroom. Take a few deep breaths and shake off any lingering tension. Wash and then warm your hands, either under hot water or under a hand dryer. Sounds bland but dry, warm hands inspire confidence. Cold, clammy hands are a big turn-off. As are hot, sweaty hands.

Putting yourself in the right mindset from the start will help you focus and calm your nerves.

2. Mirror their movements
Mirroring is a social phenomenon where people unconsciously mimic anothers posture, gestures or words. When you notice subtle mirroring occurring between two people, it indicates that there is an unconscious comfort, trust or rapport between them. It’s a good thing.
Applying this technique consciously can be a helpful tool to build rapport, but it needs to be done very subtly or it will backfire.

If you’re sitting down, you could mimic the other person’s seated posture. Or look at their hands, are they crossed or uncrossed? Do the same. If they gesticulate with their hands during conversation, you could also use your hands. Do they sit very still and formal? Then keep your movements to a minimum. Don’t copy everything they do, just choose one or two aspects.

Note: mirroring is about empathy and attunement, not mimicry. So tune in.

3. Slow down
You may feel compelled to answer each question quickly, but don’t be afraid to take a few seconds to collect your thoughts. A slower response is more impactful than a rushed one. Also, consciously slowing down the torrent of words will give you greater control over what comes out of your mouth.  Keep your ‘speech pace’ calm and measured. Not rushed. You will appear more thoughtful and confident.

4. Watch your body language
A nervous habit, such as cracking your knuckles, playing with your pen or bouncing your foot, can be disruptive and interfere with the flow of the meeting. Are you smiling or grimacing? Are your arms crossed, or relaxed and open? Are you sitting or slouching? Become aware of your body language and manage it as best you can.

Similarly, be alert to the facial expressions of the interviewer, including micro expressions (involuntary flashes of expression). Your interviewer’s facial expressions can provide valuable feedback on how the interview is going. Watch for signs of boredom, keen interest or skepticism. For example, if they lock eyes with you, they’re probably expecting you to elaborate more. Picking up on these nuances will help you tailor your responses to keep the interview on track.

5. Connect with your interviewer
Finding common ground with your interviewer creates a personal bond, making it easier to connect. Think about it this way, if you were forced to meet 20 strangers at a function and it turned out one of them had attended the same university as you – you would probably gravitate to that person because you had something in common.

Try to find something that bonds you through visual clues, such as a common school, interest or sport. It’s not always possible, but when the opportunity arises, use it to your advantage.
In this scenario ‘familiarity breeds comfort”.

6. Visualize the ideal interview
Visualisation can be very helpful in preparing for important or stressful situations. Start visualizing yourself in the interview a few days beforehand. Rehearse what you want to say and how you want to feel during the interview (e.g. calm, confident and composed).

The key to visualisation success is accessing the emotions of what you’re visualising, not just watching the scenario play out in your mind. For example, if you want to feel confident, physically take a deep breath, puff out your chest, hold your head high and imagine being gloriously confident. It is the combination of visualisation and feeling the associated emotions that anchors the memory. The more you practice the better you’ll do. When you arrive, tap into the memory of your visualised practice sessions - it’ll help you get into that mindset.

* Article inspired and adapted from a post on

Article by Madge Gibson, Harfield Village Resident

Patchwork | September in the Garden

Spring seems to have sprung! Temperatures are steadily increasing and veggies are already speeding up the their growth.

Spring is the perfect time to get planting, if you have a sustainable water source. There's nothing better than home grown food!

September's plant list:
Amaranth, Bush and climbing beans, Broadbeans, Beetroot, Butternut, Cauliflower, Carrot, Chard, Cape Gooseberry, Celery, Chives, Chilli, Cucumber, Eggplant, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Leaf Mustard, Lettuce, Ginger, Globe artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, Onion, Parsnip, Parsley, Peas, Potato, Pumpkin, Radish, Rhubarb, Sweetcorn, Sweet pepper, Sweet potato, Turnip, Tomato, Watercress, Watermelon, Zucchini

What's In Season This September?

It's also good to know what fruit and vegetables are in season to eat, not just to plant. More people may use this list than the plant list. So here's the September list:

Vegetables: Asparagus, Artichokes, Beetroot, Broad beans, Broccoli, Japanese white radish-daikon, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Leeks, Garlic, Lettuce, Mushrooms, New potato, Onion, Parsley, Parsnips, Peas, Potato, Pumpkin, Radishes, Rhubarb, Swiss chard, Squash, Spring onion, Sweet potatoes, Pak choi, Tomatoes, Turnips, Waterblommetjies

Fruit: Mulberries, Avocados, Bananas, Cape gooseberries, Oranges, Lemons, Grapefruit, Naartjies, Limes, Kumquats, Guava, Paw paw, Pineapple, Kiwi

Herbs: Mint, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Fennel, Bay leaves, Lavender, Parsley, Dandelion, Nasturtiums, Garlic chives, Winter savoury, Calendula, Nettle, Rocket, Perennial basil, Sorrel, Lemon grass stems.

Happy Spring to all, and hoping the rains aren't over yet!

Gabriella Garnett
076 2199 849 |


1 – 2 onions
500gms pork sausage
50mls tomato sauce
50mls Worcester sauce
50mls chutney
400gms tin peach slices

Fry onions
Fry sausages
Add rest of ingredients including juice from peaches.

Women's Month - An Opportune Time to Focus on Safety and Security

Women's Month - An Opportune Time to Focus on Safety and Security
Compliments of Fidelity ADT

South Africa commemorates this month the important part that women played in the history of our nation. A local private security company believes Women’s Month in August is also the perfect opportunity to look at basic safety habits, to protect them from crime.

“Being distracted makes you a soft target. Criminals are always on the lookout for soft or vulnerable targets, and will take advantage if you are not paying attention to your surroundings. Being aware of potential threats is the first and most effective line of defence for anyone,” says Fidelity ADT’s District Manager (Cape Town North) Verena Hulme.

Hulme recommends cutting out distractions as far as possible and reasonable. This includes taking or making phone calls while driving, especially if you have children in the vehicle.

“Put your phone away when out and about. Speaking on the phone while putting your kids or shopping into the car, for example, means you are concentrating on the call and not keeping an eye on your surroundings. It presents criminals with a great opportunity to hijack you or make off with your belongings.”

While driving, make sure your doors are locked and any valuable items are placed under the seat or in the boot, out of sight. If you are approaching your house, be on the lookout for any suspicious persons and rather drive around the block if you don’t feel safe. It is also important to stay on the road, rather than in your driveway, when waiting for the gate to open.

Hulme adds that it’s also a good thing to change your driving routes and leaving times every now and again.

“We are creatures of habit which makes us predictable. Criminals scoping out your house will be able to know exactly when you leave and arrive and which routes you take. Keep them guessing by leaving perhaps slightly earlier or later and taking different routes to drop the kids at school, for example. The same applies to things such as your running routes and times, gym visits, and even your locking up and leaving routine.”

She says that intuition is a powerful subconscious insight into situations and people, especially ladies should trust their instincts; if a situation doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t. Hulme says that if confronted by a criminal, escape is always the best option.

“If you are able to, run away, yell for help – do whatever you can to attract attention. If the criminal is after your purse or other items hand them over or throw them in one direction and run in the other.

“When possible tell someone where you are going and the time you expect to return. Save emergency numbers on your phone and try to memorise at least one contact number you can call in the event of an emergency. Remember less is more when it comes to wearing flashy jewellery and carrying cash. If you are taking a handbag, carry it close to your body and not dangling by the straps,” she says.

By exercising these precautions, Hulme believes women can develop very good safety habits that will assist them in avoiding dangerous situations.

“I encourage women to not only use these tips but to share them with family and friends. Most importantly trust your instincts. If someone or something makes you feel uneasy, get away or get help,” she concludes.

Hulme summarised the most important safety tips:
• Trust your instinct. Women have great intuition and should listen to their instincts. If someone or something makes you feel uneasy, avoid the individual and leave the area
• Make contact with your private security service provider and ask them if they offer a mobile panic alarm service, which could be downloaded to your mobile phone
• Tell someone where you are going and the time you expect to return. Save to your mobile phone or memorise the details of the person to be contacted in the event of an emergency
• Be aware of people around you when heading to your vehicle, especially at places such as shopping centres, petrol stations, and the likes. Ensure that you take a moment to check the street before pulling into a driveway
• If you are driving, the first thing to do once you are inside your vehicle is to ensure that all the doors are locked. Never drive with a handbag or any other valuable items on a seat or in the view of anyone looking into your vehicle from the outside. Try and make your car a mobile-free zone so you can concentrate on your surroundings

Manager - Harfield Village Community Improvement District (HVCID)
Cell: 081 412 6109 E-mail: