Nature journaling offers a unique pathway to intertwine our human narratives with the ever-unfolding stories of the natural world. In a world that moves at a relentless pace, it’s easy to overlook the exquisite wonders that surround us—the delicate unfurling of a fern, the vibrant flash of a bird’s wing, the whisper of wind through leaves.
Nature journaling, a practice that seamlessly blends art, science, and mindfulness, offers a remedy to this oversight. It beckons us to slow down, to pause, and to immerse ourselves in the beauty and intricacy of the natural world.
In this guide, we’ll explore what “nature journaling” truly entails, from its foundational principles to the myriad of inspirations it can offer.
What is Nature Journaling?
Nature journaling is a journaling technique that combines observing and documenting the natural world through a combination of writing, sketching, and sometimes even painting. Keeping a nature journal involves spending time in nature, carefully observing plants, animals, landscapes, and other elements of the natural environment, and recording those observations. Some people also include additional information such as dates, weather conditions, and personal reflections on their experiences.
The primary goal of nature journaling is to cultivate a deeper connection with nature and develop a greater understanding and appreciation for the natural world. By keeping a nature journal, you can slow down, engage your senses, and be present in the moment while exploring and interacting with nature.
What should you include in a nature journal?
In a nature journal, you can include a variety of elements that help capture your observations and experiences in the natural world. Here are some common components you may consider including:
- Descriptive writing: Write detailed descriptions of the things you observe in nature, such as plants, animals, landscapes, and weather conditions. Note down their physical characteristics, behaviors, and any interesting details you notice.
- Sketches and drawings: Create drawings or sketches of the plants, animals, and landscapes you encounter. These can range from quick sketches to more detailed illustrations, depending on your artistic skills and preferences. You can include annotations to provide additional information or highlight specific features.
- Species identification: If you can identify the species you encounter, record their names and any relevant information about them. This could include common and scientific names, habitat preferences, and any interesting facts or associations with the species.
- Dates and locations: Note the date and location of your nature observations. This helps you track seasonal changes and specific locations where you’ve made observations.
- Weather conditions: Record the weather conditions during your nature outings. Note the temperature, humidity, wind speed, and any other relevant details. This information can provide context for your observations and help identify patterns or correlations.
- Quotes, poems, or stories: Incorporate inspiring quotes, poems, or short stories related to nature that resonate with you. These can add depth and inspiration to your journal entries.
- Photographs, videos, or audio recordings: If you enjoy photography, you can include digital or pasted photographs of the things you’ve observed in nature. Alternatively, create videos or even audio recordings of what you experience in nature.
- Personal reflections: Include your thoughts, feelings, and personal reflections on your experiences in nature. Write about how you felt, the impact the observations had on you, and any insights or connections you made during your time in nature.
Reasons to Keep a Nature Journal
Nature journaling can be a meaningful way to foster a profound connection between the external landscape and the landscape of our own thoughts, offering a serene space where the inner and outer worlds converge in harmony.
- Deepened observation skills: Nature journaling encourages you to observe the natural world with greater attention to detail. By actively focusing on your surroundings, you become more attuned to the intricacies of nature, such as the shape of leaves, the behavior of animals, or the patterns in the landscape. This heightened observation can enhance your overall connection and understanding of the environment.
- Increased knowledge: Through the act of documenting your observations, you develop a deeper understanding of the natural world. You may research species, learn about ecosystems, or uncover fascinating facts about the plants and animals you encounter. Over time, your nature journal becomes a valuable resource filled with information and insights.
- Connection with nature: Nature journaling promotes a profound connection with the natural world. By immersing yourself in nature and engaging in mindful observation, you develop a sense of awe, wonder, and appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the environment. This connection can foster a greater desire to protect and conserve nature.
- Personal reflection and mindfulness: The act of journaling allows you to reflect on your experiences in nature and connect with your own thoughts and emotions. It provides a space for introspection and mindfulness, allowing you to fully engage with the present moment and cultivate a sense of calm and tranquility.
- Creative expression: Nature journaling is a creative outlet that allows you to express yourself through writing, sketching, and painting. It encourages experimentation with different artistic techniques and styles, promoting self-expression and the development of your own unique artistic voice.
- Stress relief and well-being: Spending time in nature and engaging in creative activities have been shown to have positive effects on mental health and well-being. Nature journaling provides an opportunity to relax, reduce stress, and find solace in the beauty of the natural world. It can serve as a form of self-care and a means of finding balance in our increasingly busy lives.
- Learning and growth: Keeping a nature journal fosters a mindset of lifelong learning and growth. As you continue to explore and document nature, your knowledge and skills expand. You become more attuned to the subtle changes in the environment, and you may develop a deeper understanding of ecological relationships and natural processes.
Remember, the benefits of keeping a nature journal are personal and can vary from individual to individual. The joy and fulfillment that come from this practice lie in the process itself and the unique experiences and discoveries you make along the way.
Famous Nature Journaling Examples
Several famous individuals throughout history have kept nature journals, documenting their observations, discoveries, and reflections on the natural world. Here are a few notable examples of people who kept a nature journal:
- John Muir (1838–1914): A renowned naturalist and conservationist, John Muir’s journals chronicle his explorations of the American wilderness, particularly in the Sierra Nevada mountains. His vivid descriptions and sketches played a pivotal role in advocating for the preservation of places like Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park.
- Beatrix Potter (1866–1943): Before becoming famous for her children’s books, Beatrix Potter was a keen naturalist and artist. She meticulously documented fungi and other natural subjects in her nature journals, which also included detailed illustrations.
- Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862): Thoreau’s Walden is a famous reflection on simple living in natural surroundings, but he also kept extensive journals throughout his life. Thoreau’s journals provided the foundation for much of his philosophical and environmental writings.
- Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717): A pioneering entomologist and naturalist, Maria’s detailed illustrations of insects and plants were groundbreaking in their accuracy and scientific value. The journals of Maria Sibylla Marian documented her expeditions to South America, where she studied and illustrated tropical species.
- Anna Botsford Comstock (1854–1930): An educator and nature enthusiast, Comstock’s journals are known for their combination of scientific observation and artistic expression. She played a significant role in promoting nature education.
- Charles Darwin (1809–1882): Darwin’s famous voyage on the HMS Beagle led to his groundbreaking work on evolution and the origin of species. Darwin’s journals from the voyage documented his observations of the natural world, contributing to his later scientific theories.
- Roger Tory Peterson (1908–1996): Renowned for his field guides to birds, Peterson’s nature journals were filled with sketches and notes about his bird observations. These journals laid the foundation for his influential field guide series.
These individuals, among others, have left behind invaluable records of their interactions with the natural world, inspiring generations to appreciate and study nature more deeply. Their nature journals are not only historical artifacts but also sources of inspiration for aspiring naturalists and artists today.
20 Nature Journaling Ideas to Try
If you’re new to nature journaling, you may need a few ideas to get inspired. Here are some ideas to consider for your nature journal:
1. Seasonal Snapshot
In your journal, describe the changes you notice as the current season transitions into the next. How are the plants, animals, and overall atmosphere transforming?
2. Nature’s Symphony
Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Write down what you hear and how it makes you feel. Can you identify any specific birds, insects, or other sources of sound? Make an audio recording for your journal.
3. A Day in the Life
Choose a specific plant or animal and document its activities throughout the day. How does it interact with its environment? What behaviors stand out?
4. Captivating Colors
Observe the colors in your natural surroundings. What colors do you see? Write about the emotions each color evokes. How might these colors change throughout the day?
5. Sensory Exploration
Engage all your senses. Describe the textures, scents, and sounds you experience in nature. How do these sensory elements contribute to your overall perception of the place?
6. Tiny Worlds
Get up close to a small area of nature, like the underside of a leaf or a patch of soil. Describe the miniature ecosystem you discover.
7. Natural Patterns
Identify patterns in nature, whether it’s the arrangement of leaves on a tree, the ripples on water, or the tracks left by animals. Reflect on the order and rhythm you observe.
8. A Dialogue with Nature
Imagine having a conversation with a plant or an animal you encounter. Write a dialogue that captures their perspective and your questions.
9. Embracing Change
Find a spot to return to regularly and document the changes you observe over the course of several weeks or months. How does the place evolve?
10. Inspirational Quotes
Record a nature-themed quote that resonates with you in your nature journal. Write about how it relates to your current surroundings or experiences.
11. Hidden Stories
Choose an object in nature—a fallen branch, a stone, a feather—and create a fictional story about its journey and significance.
12. Shadow Studies
Observe the play of light and shadows in your natural surroundings. Document how shadows transform throughout the day and how they contribute to the overall atmosphere.
13. Nature’s Palette
Collect small samples of leaves, flowers, or other natural materials. Use these samples to create a color palette in your journal. Reflect on the diversity of colors found in even the smallest components of nature.
Focus on the study of recurring natural events, such as the blooming of specific flowers, the emergence of certain insects, or the migration patterns of birds. Document these events over time to observe patterns and changes.
15. Mystery Tracks
Discover animal tracks or traces of their presence in your environment. Record your findings, and if possible, research to identify the animal responsible for the tracks. Imagine the story of their journey.
Find a tranquil spot near water—a pond, a riverbank, or a calm stretch of beach. Write about how the water reflects the surrounding landscape and how it creates a sense of serenity. Consider how the water symbolizes both change and continuity in nature.
17. Nature and Emotions
Connect your emotions to the landscape around you. Describe how the scenery reflects or influences your feelings.
18. Nature and Memory
Recall a vivid childhood memory related to nature. Describe the scene, your feelings, and how this memory has shaped your relationship with the natural world.
19. Nature Spotlight
Choose a particular plant, animal, or natural feature and create a detailed entry about it. Research and provide information about its habitat, life cycle, unique characteristics, or any interesting facts associated with it.
20. Nature Observations at Home
Your nature journal doesn’t have to be limited to outdoor adventures. You can also document the plants, insects, or birds you observe in your own backyard or local park. How does nature interact with your immediate environment?
How to Use the Day One App as a Nature Journal
With the free Day One app, you have a digital haven for your nature musings. Digital journaling can seamlessly integrate with the age-old art of nature journaling, allowing you to chronicle your adventures with the same sense of wonder and awe except with the convenience of your smartphone.
In this section, we’ll walk you through essential instructions and tips on how to maximize the potential of Day One as your nature journaling companion. From adding photos and writing reflections to organizing your entries, we will explore the various features and tools that Day One offers to elevate your nature journaling experience.
1. Download the free Day One journal app.
With the Day One app, you’ll be able to easily add photos, videos, audio recordings, and text to your journal. Plus, all your photos and files will be protected with end-to-end encryption.
2. Create a journal for your nature journal.
Once you’ve downloaded Day One, you can customize the name and description of your journal.
Day One Premium allows you to create separate journals for different topics, so consider creating a dedicated journal for your art.
- Open your Day One app and open the side menu.
- Tap the “+ New Journal” option and create your new nature journal.
2. Take nature photos, audio recordings, or even videos while you explore the outdoors.
Using your smartphone or digital camera, document your observations.
Day One Premium allows you to add unlimited photos, videos, and audio recordings to your journal.
2. Add your observations and reflections to your nature journal.
Complement your photos and videos with thoughtful reflections to capture the essence of the moment. Here’s how:
- Within the entry editor, find a suitable place to incorporate your written reflections.
- Add a few sentences or paragraphs of your reflections and observations.
4. Note each journal entry captures location, weather, and even moon phases.
This can be helpful for tracking patterns, understanding the context of your observations, and creating a detailed record that allows you to revisit not just what you saw, but the entire ambiance of the moment. At the bottom of your journal entry, scroll up to view this metadata.
6. Turn your nature journal … into a book!
Enjoy the satisfaction of holding your nature journal in your hands as a beautiful paperback or hardcover book, capturing your memories and visual storytelling in a tangible form. Day One offers a convenient book printing feature:
- Once you’ve completed a section of your nature journal, whether it’s for a year, a month, or a specific occasion, navigate to the Settings menu.
- Look for the book printing option that allows you to turn your photo journal into a physical book.
- Follow the instructions to customize and design your book, selecting the desired time-frame, photos, and text.
- Preview the book and make any necessary adjustments before finalizing your order.
Wrapping Up: Using a Nature Journal to Connect to the Natural World (And Yourself)
Nature journaling invites us to step outside of the hustle and bustle, if only for a moment. It’s a call to reconnect, to breathe, and to listen to the stories whispered by leaves and the secrets shared by birds. So, open your senses, and embark on a journey that promises not only a deeper understanding of the world around you, but also a richer connection with yourself. Happy (nature) journaling!
About the Author
Kristen Webb Wright is the author of three books on journaling. With a passion for writing and self-reflection, Kristen uses her experience with journaling to help others discover the benefits of documenting their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In her role at Day One, she helps to promote the power of journaling so people from all walks of life can experience the transformative power of journaling.