Nature Journaling is really simple. It involves taking a notebook and a pen or pencil with you outdoors, and taking observations of the world around you. It can be done anywhere - from an exciting holiday destination to your own backyard.
There are many reasons why the world’s best explorers, inventors and naturalists all kept journals.
Here’s what nature journaling can offer us all:
How often do we come across something outside that makes us say ‘oh wow!’ It could be a metallic blue wasp or a blood red moon. We engage with it for a microsecond then go back inside and rarely think about it again.
When we make a journal entry about that encounter, we capture it on paper and it becomes a historical record. That moment will never be forgotten because of the record. Our memories are often unreliable and can fade rapidly. Nature journaling captures observations, feelings and questions while they are fresh. The act of writing and drawing helps to cement that encounter into something memorable and meaningful.
Certain practices within nature journaling spark our curiosity in a purposeful way. We all know that feeling in our bodies when we’re intensely interested in something. We’re upright, clear headed and there’s that burn where we have to find out more. When we’re wired with curiosity, we’re engaged and focused.
Our memory and learning is enhanced in this state. We can purposefully cultivate the feeling of curiosity through nature journaling.
Prompts we use in our journals can activate the brain’s ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated things. Being able to think outside the box like this is the essence of a creative thinker. Such thinking can be practiced through nature journaling.
By journaling using drawings, words and numbers, we intentionally activate different parts of the brain. Being able to jump between varied ways of thinking is brilliant for creativity, learning and keeping the brain active and sharp. Nature journaling makes you exercise parts of your brain that you may not often use in your work or daily life.
The act of going outside and making an entry in your nature journal is a guaranteed way to slow down. We have to stop, be quiet and observe to be able to notice what interests us, and then sketch and write about it.
It’s spending quality time with devoted attention to something we could consider mundane (like a weed or a snail) that transforms the ordinary, into the extraordinary.
Nature Journaling can be a way to enter a ‘flow state’ - that feeling of being so totally absorbed in something that there is a distortion of time and loss of self-consciousness.
We develop a relationship with something when we slow down and give it our time and attention. We then start to care about it.
Having our backyards and local parks or greenspaces dotted with plants and animals that we have deeply observed through nature journaling makes us feel more at home and connected to our surrounds. It’s that same sense of comfort and familiarity as being around family and friends. Feeling like this can really enrich our lives.
There are no right or wrong ways of nature journaling, and every person’s journal style will be as unique as that person’s interests, their location and their observations. The creative freedom to follow what sparks our curiosity is what is so attractive about nature journaling as a practice - it truly is something for every-one, every-where.
At the same time, ‘Nature’ is such a big canvas that it can be hard to know where to start. Additionally, knowing how to construct our journals at the beginning can be challenging. It’s easy for people who like writing to just write, or those who like drawing to just draw. While beneficial to some extent, this ends up reinforcing our strengths and habits of mind, rather than developing new neural pathways and ways of perceiving the world.
Our workshops teach techniques that are used by naturalists to improve the quality of their observations and experiences. They are fun and engaging to use and exercise different parts of the brain. You’ll come away with a template of best practices to use again and again on your nature journaling adventures.
It’s also fun to do this with other people as we can learn so much from seeing other journal entries and sharing our stories and observations with others.