What is Nature Journaling?
Nature journaling is the practice of drawing or writing your unique observations of nature. Keeping a nature journal has helped me to connect more closely with nature. You too can deepen your connection with our natural world by starting your own nature journal. The practice of observing and recording your experiences with nature is just as important as the end result.
Why Should I Start Nature Journaling?
I find that nature journaling calms the mind and allows me to live in the moment where all my senses are engaged and focused on my observations. My nature journal consists of many things, such as sketches and drawings both from memory and direct observation, musings and reflections, collected items and specimens, just to name a few. The possibilities of what you can do with your nature journal are endless.
Keeping a nature journal can become part of your self-care practice. We all know that there are amazing benefits in keeping any type of journal. Benefits like better mental clarity, boosts in both confidence and emotional intelligence, self-discipline, more creativity, and increased problem-solving skills.
There are many studies proving a real connection between nature and improved mental health. This one, in particular, caught my eye: The mental health organization, MIND, published a study that found depression was reduced in 71% of participants after taking a walk in nature. When compared to walking around a shopping center where 22% of participants were more depressed than before the walk. And 94% of the participants said that nature walks benefited their mental health.
I have noticed this myself over and over again when being in nature, whether it’s working in my garden or walking in the woods. I ALWAYS feel my mental state much improved afterward.
The trick is to dive in but that is not as easy as it sounds. Here are a few thoughts to help you get started and keep at it.
What Nature Journaling Supplies Do I Need?
The answer to this ranges – from not much more than some paper and a pencil – to purchased journals, gel pens, colored pencils etc. I keep mine very simple. I use a three ring binder with an outer plastic sleeve where I slip in drawings, sketches, etc. The pages I designed myself and printed onto heavier weight paper, hole punched and inserted into my binder. Below are some other suggested supplies:
- A sketch book. Your sketchbook/nature journal/nature notebook can take any form you wish. …
- Things with which to write and draw. … I love Prisma color colored pencils. They have such a huge range of colors. Or simply a good ‘ol sharpened number two pencil or a fine point pen for writing.
- Field guides… Did I mention I have a field guide obsession? I collect them and cannot resist them when I find them. I have field guides to birds, trees, edible plants, wildflowers, rocks etc… I always take one when going on a nature study. I highly recommend Peterson Field Guides
- Binoculars and a magnifying glass. … this is a must! Before I got my pair, I would be out in the field and often wished I had them. Now, I always bring them along.
- Camera. …most smartphones nowadays have excellent cameras for capturing nature. If you have a traditional camera that you like, bring that along.
- Plastic bags and gloves. … something to pick up specimens or to tape into your journal later.
- Tape measure. …I have a tiny one that I use to help me record the height and length of natural objects.
- A nice bag or backpack to carry your supplies. I often use a vasculum to collect specimens. Here’s an eco-friendly backpack I like a lot.
- Something to sit on…If you plan on sitting on the ground, having a small blanket, sheet, or fabric to sit on will make you more comfortable. I personally like sitting directly on the ground and feel more like I’m somehow absorbing the earth’s energy.
- Water, bug spray, sunblock, good footwear, and a hat.
How To Begin Writing A Nature Journal
- Observe the world around you and provide descriptive words and details for mountains, rivers, streams, flowers, trees, creatures, and the way these parts of the natural world interact with each other. Consider your place within the larger picture.
- Write about what you are feeling during these observations. Give nature a voice and describe what natural elements such as wildflowers, birds, or moss would say if they could speak to you.
- Begin writing. Write often. Be spontaneous, don’t worry about getting it perfect and don’t edit. Let your writing flow.
- Write as if writing a letter to yourself or to a friend, keep it casual and go with the flow. Create a narrative account, write a story for yourself.
- Write a poem or a few lines of prose. You don’t have to be a writer or a poet to do this.
- Draw pictures with words; incorporate drawings into your journal; incorporate photographs or press a leaf or a flower between pages of your journal.
- Read other nature writers or books about connecting with nature.
Nature Journaling Ideas & Prompts
Sometimes it’s hard to get started, especially with something new. If you’re considering starting a nature journal, here are some ideas and nature journal prompts to get you started.
- What is your favorite time of year to be outside? What makes it special?
- Can you write a story from the perspective of a bird? How does a bird see the world differently?
- Weather-Watching: Record the weather at three different times of the day or the week. What didyou notice? Can you draw it?
- Think about your favorite place in nature. What makes it special? Can you draw or write about how you feel when you visit that special place? Is there something special, like a pine spill or leaf you can glue in your journal to remind you of that special feeling?
- Draw a leaf that you find or make a leave rubbing. Now, try one with a different leaf. What is similar about the two leaves? What is different?
- Can you find an ant and trace its path?
- If you can go outside, draw any tracks you see. Record any other signs of animals you find, as well.
- Take a walk around the block. How many tree species do you see? Can you make a map of your block or neighborhood, and include the different trees?
- Write a poem about your favorite time of year. Imagine you are a falling leaf ~ tell it’s journey of exploration.
- If plants started speaking, what would they say to you?
- How does your mindset change in nature?
- What is your favorite flower? Write about it’s personality.
- What is your most significant memory that has to do with nature? Write a story about a life with NO nature. What would it be like?
- If one plant was going to heal the world, what would it be? If you could ask plants one question, what would it be?If you were a part of nature, what element would you be? What element of nature calls out to you?
- Imagine having to live off of the land alone, where would you go?
- Would you rather live in the middle of the forest or on an island?
- Why does nature inspire people so much?
- Close your eyes + observe your surroundings by sound alone. Do the same thing with scent, what do you smell?
- Take 5 minutes + write down every adjective you can think of to describe the world around you.
- Do you consider yourself someone who loves nature? Why or why not?
Here’s the thing…you DO NOT have to be an artist to practice nature journaling! It’s about the process, NOT the product. Just do the best you can. If you really want to improve your artistic talents, read a book about nature sketching, or watch a tutorial video. There are tons on YouTube. But seriously, it doesn’t matter how great your artistic abilities are. It’s really about observing and connecting to our natural world…nothing else really matters.
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