Nature & Me: Saira Holbrook Talks Outdoors & Small People

In our new series, Nature & Me, we invite guest bloggers to share their experiences of how nature has made an impact on their lives. Today is the turn of Saira Holbroook, outdoor blogger and nature journalist.

Saira Holbrook of The Wild Sheep believes nature has had a huge impact on the mental health of her family

When I was asked to write a short piece on what nature does for me, I had so much to get down that I didn’t know quite where to start! So, I grabbed my laptop and went to sit on the lawn… fresh brewed tea in hand and birds chirping overhead, it soon came spilling out!

We are ‘outdoorsy’. Along with my husband, we have two small people that thrive on our outdoor lifestyle. Having children didn’t increase our outdoor time, but we had to adapt our activities to better suit us all. As a family, we are outside at every opportunity, and partake in regular hikes together as well as wild swimming, kayaking, climbing and we also camp as often as possible. We geocache and trig-hunt, and it’s a wonder that we have the time to hold down careers and complete grown-up chores!

Nature has had a huge effect on our mental health. As a freelance writer, being outside helps me with concentration. Whenever the overwhelming stuffy feeling of a heavy workload lingers, I make myself a cup of tea and head outside to gather my thoughts. When it’s dry, I take the computer outside to work, and when it isn’t, I can be found next to the large window in my office. Nature gives us a huge sense of freedom, and the benefits on my creative flow are unmeasurable.

Whenever life throws a curveball and things are a little stressful, a long walk always helps to re-focus and calm us. Walking and hiking are our main source of exercise, so long as the weather conditions are not dangerous, we head out come rain or shine. Petrichor really triggers my creativity, and so I can often be found sat by an open window whilst it rains, or with waterproofs on splashing about in muddy puddles with my small people. My general well-being is greatly improved by spending time outdoors. This is something that we now almost take for granted. But if we haven’t been able to have the same level of outdoor opportunity, then the nature-withdrawal is very noticeable. It can affect our moods, and ‘cabin fever’ can become a real problem! Spending less time outside can also be detrimental to our sleep patterns. We all get a higher quality night’s sleep when we have been outdoors and ‘unplugged’ from technology, which is vital when there are small people in the house. When the girls were younger, we found that they’d always sleep better outside in the pram, and there have been several child studies completed to have the same findings.

The outdoors also has a profound effect on my small people. When faced with life challenges, they rationalise better when outside. My youngest has a keen interest for bugs and at a very young age, can identify a huge range of insects and explain their habitats and behaviours. If she’s over-anxious, a run around outside, or a walk through nearby woods calms her right down. I’m a huge believer in unstructured outdoor play and have seen first-hand the skills that can be gained, such as leadership and creativity. My eldest loves to write. Her favourite place is to sit at the end of our garden, in an area we have left unmaintained for wildflower and wildlife to flourish. She has found her connection there, and is able to create her stories and poems about the things she sees around her.

In a society where technology has charged in and taken over somewhat, it has been hugely important for us as a family to rebalance things and ensure that our smalls have plenty of ‘good old-fashioned fun’. I believe strongly that balance is the key, and have seen myself through the work I have done recently with several schools how important it is to have unstructured outdoor time, as well as assessed classroom time.

The Good Life Project is evidencing the impact of nature on health, wellbeing and behaviour, led by behaviourist and broadcaster Jez Rose, with support from a team of psychologists and neuroscientists. For more inspiration on how you can use nature to your benefit in your workplace and at home, take a look at our website for free resources and details of our rural skills workshops held here at the farm. www.thegoodlifeproject.info

Learn more about Saira Holbrook: www.thewildsheep.co.uk

Facebook: Facebook.com/TheWildSheep

Twitter: @The_WildSheep

Instagram: @The_WildSheep

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