Thanks to years of research, it’s very clear that both time spent in nature and a regular journaling practice are amazing for our physical and mental health. So when we hear the term “nature journaling” it sounds like a magical combination; an activity that could leave us feeling more clear-headed, calm, and energized than ever.
But what is nature journaling, exactly? What’s the point of it, and what do you write (or draw) in a nature journal? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is nature journaling?
Nature journaling is the act of writing or drawing in response to nature. So, for example, say you take your journal out on a hike. Spending a few moments sitting down and writing about the sounds you hear, the flowers or trees you smell, the animals you see, the color of the sky, or even how your body feels — such as the grounding feeling of your feet in the earth, or the beating of your heart — can help you enhance your experience and appreciation of nature.
Nature journaling doesn’t have to be limited to words. If you love drawing or you have a regular art journaling practice, you can try sketching the birds and flowers you see or the overall scene in front of you.
Nature journaling can be a reflective practice, too. If you’re someone who likes to journal before bed, instead of recalling the details of your day, recall the nature you observed or immersed yourself in. A hike isn’t always accessible or realistic (especially in the cold winter months), so reflecting on a walk you took, or even writing down the details of a tree outside your window, can be a soothing and beneficial form of nature journaling.
An stunning example of what you can draw in a natural journal, via @bohemianraspberryart on Instagram.
What’s the purpose of nature journaling?
Nature journaling serves a handful of purposes. Nature journaling is a soothing practice for adults, and helps to calm the mind and improve attention to detail. When we really stop to observe nature in all its glory, we realize how much beauty, and how many small details, are really there. Nature journals not only help us capture moments in new and unique ways, but they help us remember them.
Nature journaling can be beneficial for kids, too, and often teachers will incorporate nature journaling into their curriculum. When kids start nature journaling from a young age, it can help improve their attention to detail, enhance their artistic and writing skills, and foster a strong relationship with nature. So if you have kids, nature journaling could be a fun practice for you to do with them. It’s a bonding activity, sure, but it will also benefit both of you in a myriad of other ways.
What do you write in a nature journal?
Here are some ideas for what to put in a nature journal:
Write about how nature makes you feel. Describe how your body felt when you spent time in nature. Did you feel more relaxed or calm than usual? Did you feel your heart beating in your chest after a long, uphill climb? Did you feel the wind on your face? Did it make you feel a sense of awe or purpose, or even fear at the vastness of the world and nature as a whole?
Write about what you see around you. Writing down exactly what you see and including as much detail as possible is an excellent use of a nature journal. Describe the colors of the leaves (this is especially powerful in the fall), the color of the grass, the flowers on the ground, the sky, the little critters that scamper nearby.
Write about how your senses interact with nature. When you really tune in, you’ll realize that nature activates so many of your senses. There’s so much to see, touch, and smell. How does the bark of a tree feel against your fingertips? What smells do you take in on your afternoon walk? If there’s something edible when you’re outside in nature (for example, berries in the summer), how do they taste? Try writing all of that down.
Draw what you see. If drawing feels more natural to you, by all means, go for it. Draw an animal you see, a particularly magnificent tree, a beautiful flower. And add color! You don’t want to forget all the vibrant colors you saw.
Add actual nature to your journal. While you should not harm the environment around you — for example, picking flowers that aren’t yours is generally a no-no — collecting little souvenirs from your time in nature, such as leaves you find on the ground, can make great additions to your nature journal.
Add quotes about nature. People have been writing about the beauty and wonder of nature since the beginning of time, so naturally there are so many beautiful quotes about nature out there. Filling your nature journal with quotes about nature can be inspiring, and every time you look at them you'll likely be reminded of he beauty and joy that nature brings.
Make a list of what you observe. Sometimes, a simple list can be a powerful journaling tool. So as you sit out in nature, list what you see, hear, and smell around you: A caterpillar crawling, the smell of a blooming flower, the sound of birds chirping are just a few examples.
While nature journaling isn’t for everyone, many people find it to be a fulfilling, joyful, calming practice that brings them closer to nature and themselves.Looking for other forms of journaling? Give Shadow Work Journaling a try.