The secret to a happy life

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Sometimes we all need an escape. In this respect Jana Eastwood and her family are no different to anyone else. Her kids like being outdoors and Jana likes to have some time to herself. What parent doesn’t? But Jana’s life is a little more complicated than many:

‘Over the last 18 years my life has been full of autism, ADHD, ceoliac and loads of food intolerances. All three of my children have autism at different levels/degrees but I don't think about it much anymore. It's something you get used to working around and before you know it all becomes part of the ‘norm’.’

‘But a few years ago a new challenge was given to us. Our daughter started to get ill more and more often until it seemed like she was ill all the time. Now, on top of her autism, she has ME. It’s very hard to watch in someone so young and we have to make sure she is never alone.’

Escaping the house

‘This means that the time that I do manage to get out of the house is really precious to me. I love walking and photography and National Trust membership has helped me keep my sanity as my children have been growing up. When I’m looking through my camera it’s the only time when my mind is clear of thoughts about my day to day challenges.

‘I now volunteer at Charlecote Park, in Warwickshire, because I wanted to give something back to the place that has given me so much enjoyment. As soon as I started I felt like I was part of a community.’

Recipe for a happier life

Jana’s challenges are unique to her family. But perhaps we could all benefit from her philosophy:

‘I believe everyone should have an escape from reality for a bit. Escapes aren't just about getting out – they’re about finding something for yourself that you really enjoy doing.’

Autism and the outdoors

Our places don’t only provide an escape for Jana:

‘Autism and busy places really don't go together. A lot of the time autism itself isn’t an issue, but other people’s reaction to it can be. The countryside is the only place my children have ever really been happy outside our own home.

‘We often visit National Trust places because there I don’t have to worry. When I watch my children outdoors I don’t see autism. I just see my kids being themselves.’


Many thanks to Jana Eastwood for sharing her story and photographs with us.

Find a place to escape to near you

Read Jana’s blog

More about volunteering