Benefits of Keeping a Nature Journal
The practice of journalling is probably almost as old as writing. Famous journal writers include Ben Franklin and Henry David Thoreau. But anyone can benefit from it, especially from keeping a record of your time in nature. Here are 8 reasons you might want to keep a nature journal.
1. Build Your Bountiful Life
Developing the skills and habits in order to easily find beauty in the mundane things of everyday is the first step in building more joy into the life you’ve got. But just as important is documenting what you’re seeing. By describing it in words, art, or photos, you spend more time inside that little spark of beauty, enhancing it, and growing it’s prominence in your memory.
Nature may be the richest opportunity for easy to find beauty and joy. Use all your senses, and record what you see, hear, smell, and feel. It’s a great way to build those observation and recording skills.
2. Creative Outlet
A journal doesn’t have to be just a list of events, and a nature journal offers many opportunities to flex your creative muscles. Sketch, paint, describe, write poetry, press flowers, add photos. The list is almost endless. And if you don’t fancy yourself a painter? Irrelevant. You never have to show anyone, and this is a great opportunity to develop artistic talent.
3. Improve Your Observation Skills
Observation is an active form of information gathering using all your senses, and it’s a valuable skill to have. Up your observations skills by practicing observing the natural world around you, and then recording it in some way in your journal.
4. Knowledge Builder
When you are recording what you observe, it’s helpful to be able to name what you see. We all know what a robin looks like, but can you tell the difference between several species of sparrow? Can you name more than two kinds of butterfly? Grab a field guide and put some interesting facts behind your observations. Press leaves and flowers in your journal as an all-natural record. Draw what you see and jot down some notes about what you’ve learned.
5. Improved Wellbeing
If you’re going to be journaling about nature, you have to be experiencing nature. And that means you are probably being active. Whether that means a tough mountain hike, or a stroll through a city park, that exercise is good for you. In addition to the physical exercise, a good connection with nature seems to be linked to overall wellbeing. By recording your experiences, you prolong and enhance them, increasing the benefit.
I define adventure as any experience that is exhilarating, something you find interesting or exciting and that is outside of your normal experiences. You don’t have to be bungee jumping to be having an adventure. Having a nature journal is not only a wonderful way to record your adventures, but is also a great tool to help you decide on your next adventure.
7. Record Keeping
Is spring really late this year, or does it just feel like it? Have the forest wildflowers come early? Over time, you’ll develop a record of these events in your nature journal. You decide what’s important, how detailed to be. You could make daily weather observations, and have them to refer back to in following years. Record what kinds of birds are at your feeder and when. All this can be alongside your more creative forms of observation, creating a fuller picture of the world around you.
8. A Beautiful Keepsake
As you fill your nature journal, you are creating a beautiful keepsake full of memories and experiences to look back on and reflect. With your observations so mindfully recorded, you will be able to vividly recall precious moments years later. Whether you let others look through it, or keep it only for yourself, your journals are bound to be meaningful treasures.
9. You Can Make it Your Own
There are, of course, no rules for keeping a nature journal. Make it challenging enough to be an interesting growing experience, but don’t make it stressful! Every sketch doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, every haiku doesn’t have to be perfect. Journal in a way that benefits you.
For further reading and ideas about keeping your own nature journal, I recommend Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth, but with a caveat. This book can be overwhelming if you try to do everything it recommends and with the artistic skill the author demonstrates. But taken as inspiration and a source for ideas, it’s a great reference. Pick and choose what works for you.
I use photography to build my own nature journal. See my monthly galleries here.