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26 Dec 2020

Looking for a meaningful way to pass time this pandemic? Why not explore the Reader’s Digest magazine?


Finding a meaningful way to pass time has become a challenge in this Covid-19 pandemic, when it has become more difficult -- and less advisable -- to go out and play.


I, for one, have been faced with the weekly question of how to spend my lazy Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Should I catch up on the latest Hong Kong dramas? Or watch my favourite variety shows on Youtube?


But alternating between this drama-variety show routine has become less exciting over the weeks, as much as I -- as an entertainment lover -- would hate to admit. Perhaps it’s the exhaustion from being exposed to devices over a prolonged duration, or the fact that this routine has become increasingly associated with the concept of a ‘circuit breaker summer’ -- either way, I have been craving for something different. Something more refreshing. 


And perhaps that was what made me pick up the Reader’s Digest June 2021 issue lying on my office table. The last time I had read for leisure was probably years back, when I was not so caught up with academic readings and life itself. 


It was time to reconnect with this old hobby of mine, I thought. Maybe I’d learn to love reading for leisure again.


And I have.


The Reader’s Digest June 2021 issue, while starkly different from the showbiz magazines and mystery novels that I used to read, has been an eye-opening collection of life lessons, fun facts, and deep insights. I have not only learnt more about the world, but also how to live my life as a more well-informed and empowered individual. 


Young or Old, Find What Floats Your Boat


Touted as an “American general-interest family magazine”, it comes as no surprise that the Reader’s Digest June 2021 issue comes with a variety of sections catering to different demographic groups and reading preferences.



The Reader’s Digest June 2021 issue.


School-going children will love the ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine’ section, which -- as its name suggests -- is packed with punny jokes that garner laughs and maybe even eye-rolls of resignation, but bring joy all the same. Meanwhile, adults concerned with the latest scientific and economic trends may find themselves engrossed with the ‘Technology’ section. In this particular issue, contributor David Berreby writes about the profound impact that robots have had on job creation, and the thought-provoking question of how, when, and where to use robots that remains unanswered today.


Soul ‘Food’, Soul Good


As a fan of dramas and short stories with insightful morals, however, I was quickly drawn to the ‘My Story’ section with its wise-sounding article title of ‘Golf -- A Game of Life’. Even more wise-sounding was its abstract, which wrote:


“Golf has an interesting way of imitating life -- you have to play the ball where it lands.”


This abstract was enough to get me hooked, and so I read on. The article began with contributor Graham Morley recounting his feelings of anxiety prior to the beginning of the ‘Cock o’ The Walk’ golf event back in 2014, in which he was playing against Don, a highly proficient player. It then zoomed in on the multiple misadventures that Morley and Don encountered throughout the event, from Don having his ear pecked on by a grey noisy miner to his golf balls being picked up by crows and dropped into the lake. 



Graham Morley’s article on the unpredictability of golf games, and how to take challenges in one’s stride.


One part I found highly memorable was the sudden hail that enveloped the golf course in blankets of ice just when Don was about to putt, giving him and Morley little choice but to pause the game and seek refuge at the nearby clubhouse. Despite being drenched and possibly dispirited from all the prior obstacles faced, Morley decided to bite the bullet and hit the putt, and -- in an almost fairytale-like ending -- his golf ball rolled in, leading him to victory. 


While I did like how the story had a feel-good conclusion, it was the ‘moral of the story’ that left a greater impact on me. As concluded by Morley,


“In life, as in golf, unforeseen challenges arise but if you can take them in your stride and maintain a sense of humour, you’ll be wiser for the experience.”


Though I had never played golf, I found myself empathising with Morley and Don’s complicated  blend of emotions throughout the game -- from annoyance, shock, resignation, hope, and lastly, to surprise, when Morley succeeded in his putt. As in golf games, where unexpected events might crop up and scupper one’s shots at success, life is never smooth, and it is natural to feel like throwing in the towel when things go wrong. I certainly have at some point in time, and I believe that many of us have, too.  


But after reading Morley’s account, I have come to fully understand -- and appreciate -- the importance of embracing life’s challenges. While I admittedly have a long way to go in learning how to accept obstacles that come my way, especially in this pandemic where negative feelings of jadedness and disappointment are amplified, I am confident that I will become more well-equipped in handling these obstacles when I do encounter them.



Treasure Trove of Health Insights


Apart from Morley’s story that serves as literary ‘chicken soup for the soul’, there are also health-related articles that literally provide insights on how one can nourish their soul and maintain good health. Though I never had much interest in reading about such content, I found myself flipping to Bonnie Munday’s article titled ‘The New Truth About Cholesterol’. For years, my elderly relatives had insisted that eggs were the biggest culprit behind high cholesterol levels, often urging me to stop consuming them, and so I was curious to see if their claims were statistically proven. 


Much to my surprise, Munday’s findings proved their claims wrong. It was not so much that eggs weren’t harmless to health, but rather, consuming them in moderation had a negligible impact on one’s cholesterol levels.



Bonnie Munday’s well-researched findings on the myths surrounding cholesterol.


Munday also went a step further and explored the contentious concept of cholesterol itself, outlining that there were two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), of which the former was bad for health but not necessarily the cause of high blood cholesterol. Instead, Munday pointed out that recent research had shown the significance of saturated fats in spiking blood cholesterol levels. This undoubtedly revealed a new truth about cholesterol -- that it was not so much of a taboo substance like many had made it out to be. 


Another health article that caught my attention was ‘Is Your Child Having a Teen-Life Crisis?’ by Claire Sibonney. As a teen stepping into adulthood in a matter of months, I found the concept of a ‘teen-life crisis’ to be painfully relatable. At times, I felt wholly unsure about where my life was going -- did I really choose the correct major to study in university? What if I would never find a ‘good’ job in the future? These questions concerning my uncertain academic life and future were endless.



Claire Sibonney’s article on the emerging trend of teen-life crises.


This trend of teens worrying incessantly about their personal issues or even bigger societal ones was similarly reflected in Sibonney’s article, where parenting expert Jennifer Kolari warned of the pandemic possibly intensifying these anxieties. As Kolari had expressed,


“Teenagers are feeling isolated, particularly the ones who aren’t physically in school. And yet, some of the teachers I’m speaking to, and the kids that I work with, say that they’re not even turning their cameras on during online learning. So they’re not even seeing each other. It drives teachers crazy but the kids don’t want to be seen in that environment -- they’re all in the stage where they’re embarrassed.”


I found this to be an interesting point -- while the pandemic had led to social isolation and worsening anxiety amongst teens, it was also this anxiety that deterred students from interacting with each other in a virtual space, which would possibly trigger further anxiety. This appeared to be a vicious cycle that required certain forms of intervention. 


And so I was glad that Sibonney and Kolari spoke about the various ways in which such anxiety could be reduced. To me, the most important of them all was for teenagers to learn to understand and regulate their emotions -- something I wished I had realised earlier, when I faced massive stress from schoolwork nearing the exams but did not see it as a cause for concern. 




Overall, the Reader’s Digest June 2021 issue lives up to its name -- it is a thoughtfully curated collection of stories and articles that not only satisfies readers’ hunger for information and insights, but is also easy to digest. While some articles -- like Munday’s --might be more content heavy for younger readers, others like ‘News Worth Sharing’ are likely to become a family favourite for their easy-to-read nature and content novelty. 


But more importantly, the Reader’s Digest magazine is sure to (re)ignite a love for leisure reading amongst even the most picky or lazy of readers, much like it did for me. Short, sweet, and (somewhat) simple -- what more could a reader ask for in a magazine?


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