nature journaling

Nature Journaling: An Essential Guide (+8 Tips To Start)

Start a nature journal to boost your mindfulness and reduce stress. Here’s my ultimate guide to nature journaling – with essential tips and ideas.

Did you know that just looking at the color green speeds up healing and relieves stress? This is why hospitals and medical buildings are often painted green.

And there’s no better way to reconnect with nature – and get your daily dose of greenery and fresh air – than nature journaling.

Nature journaling is a powerful tool in these times when it’s so easy to spend hours scrolling your smartphone.

And reconnecting with nature is crucial if you live in a big city surrounded by smog and concrete.

If you’re stressed or always rushing against time, a nature journal does wonders to quieten your mind. It’s so worth making time for it.

What is nature journaling?

A nature journal lays on a stool in front of an enormous apple tree, with a pile of apples surrounding on the ground.

Nature journaling is the act of recording your observations and experiences in the great outdoors – whether that’s at a national park or on your sunny balcony.

A nature journal includes your writing, sketches, questions, notes and impressions on anything in the natural world.

Use it to describe your morning jog on a rainy October and sketch the changing leaves.

Use your nature journal to deepen your connection to nature. Make it personal and creative – your journal isn’t meant to be perfect.

What does a nature journal look like?

Two pages from the journal of naturalist John Muir, showing writing and a sketch of a plant.
The journals of American naturalist John Muir.

There are dozens of different ways to keep a nature journal. Your journal will look different depending on where you live, if you prefer writing or sketching, etc.

Personalize your nature journal and make it uniquely yours and let yourself experiment on the page. You don’t have to follow any specific templates.

Follow your interests and don’t worry about making your nature journal Pinterest-worthy.

What are the benefits of nature journaling?

A woman wearing a cap and flannel sits on a rock in a part at autumn with a nature journal.

A nature journal boosts your awareness of the nature that surrounds you and the seasonal changes that are easy to miss in the bustle of everyday life.

A nature journal teaches you to be more observant, to slow down and to notice all of nature’s breathtaking details.

Yes, even if you live in a nondescript suburb.

Once you start writing, you’ll be surprised how much natural phenomena you will notice – from birds migrating to leaves changing color.

Here are some benefits of nature journaling:

A journal lays open showing sketches of a rabbit and an owl.

  • Reduces stress and anxiety: nature journaling lets you spend time in nature, which does wonders to calm and relax a frantic mind. It also motivates you to spend time outdoors – which is proven to combat depression.
  • Promotes relaxation: nature journaling lets you focus on the present moment and engage with your surroundings. It gives your mind a break from worrying.
  • Boosts mindfulness: nature journaling teaches you to be more present and appreciate the wonders of the natural world. And this skill carries over into other spheres of your life. You’ll ultimately improve your mental health and outlook.
  • Improves your powers of observation: noting down your impressions of nature sharpens your focus and improves your memory.
  • Boosts your creativity: nature journaling lets you express yourself. And no, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to draw.
  • And it’s fun! Nature journaling is a great phone-free outing for families and friends. Couple it with a picnic and drinks for an afternoon of catching up (and sharing laughs over bad sketching attempts).

How do you start a nature journal?

A dark navy nature journal lays in the grass surrounded by yellow leaves.

Use your nature journal to sketch the leaves, animals and trees in your area. Take notes on what you observe and how the seasons change.

Include personal reflections on how the surrounding landscape makes you feel. A nature journal can be just as thoughtful as a traditional diary.

If you’re in the city, explore your local parks and nature reserves. Take your journal along to sketch and study the flora and fauna native to your area.

Nature journaling ideas

A journal lays open with an ink sketch of a branch of berries.

So what do you actually put into a nature journal?

Nature journaling can feel very awkward if you’re not much of a writer or if you can’t draw very well (or at all).

Here are some ideas to get past nature journaling block:

  • 1. Describe your surroundings in detail and paint a picture with vivid language and description. Focus on tiny things that you’d otherwise miss and use all your senses. How do your surroundings feel? What’s the weather like? What can you hear and smell?
  • 2. Make a sketch of basic shapes you find in nature. Start with a sketch of a single leaf or the curves of a tree branch.
  • 3. List any plant and animal species that you can identify. Use your journal as a springboard to learn more about the wildlife in your area.
  • 4. Write out any inspiring quotes and poems about nature. I love this one:

“Your attention is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to the world. It is a celebration. It is a song of connection. It is a prayer to the wonder of what is around us.” – John Muir Laws

  • 5. Track the seasons and the changes they bring – or just observe the landscaping at your local park.
  • 6. Dive deeper into a particular topic. Focus specifically on wildflowers in the spring or look for signs of winter life during the cold months.
  • 7. Experiment with a new medium like watercolors or manual photography to capture natural landscapes.
  • 8. Join a nature journaling group – or get a few friends together and start your own. There’s nothing like a shared interest to bring people together and deepen friendships.

Nature journaling for beginners

A journal lays open with writing and sketches of birds, next to a white coffee cup.

Start small and keep your expectations realistic. Don’t expect to write the next Walden Pond or pen super-realistic sketches.

Set an achievable goal to get started. Aim to fill up 3 pages of your nature journal every week.

And remember why you started.

I love nature journaling because it gets me to spend more time outdoors and lets me practice my watercolor sketches. I always remind myself of everything I get out of nature journaling – and how it benefits the rest of my life.

Remember how journaling benefits you and it’s much easier to keep going and make it a habit.

And use nature journal prompts! They will get you inspired when you don’t know what to write.

Some of my favorite prompts for a nature journal:

A nature journal lays open on a table with candles, showing colored sketches of orange and yellow leaves.

1. How many plant and animal species can you identify in your surroundings?

2. Close your eyes and describe the sounds that surround you. Can you hear birds chirping, the sound of distant cars honking, the flow of a stream?

3. Describe a pattern you find in nature. Look at the shapes of the clouds, the ripples in a pond, the lines on a single leaf.

4. Find a spot you visit regularly. Each time you visit, describe something new that you didn’t notice on your previous visit.

5. Sketch a still life at home whenever you can’t get outdoors. Make an arrangement of flowers, fruits or vegetables and create a simple sketch or quick watercolor. This boosts your confidence for when it’s time to sketch in nature.

Slow living in the city

A couple in a park sit in the grass and laugh. They are surrounded by groups of other people and are sitting under a branch filled with white flower blossoms.

Nature journaling is a great way to spend more time outdoors and enjoy nature’s healing powers. It’s especially important when you’re living in a big city that throws you out of touch with nature.

Read the ultimate guide to slow living in the city for more essential tips to slow down and combat stress in a busy city.

Journaling techniques

A tray lays on a bed with a cup of tea, a sprig of flowers and a dark green journal. There is sunlight streaming in through a window.

There are dozens of different ways to journal.

Whether you want to start with a simple one-line-a-day journal or get organized in a bullet journal, use this guide to journaling techniques to find the best method for you.

More resources:

51 Inspiring Quotes About Journaling (To Get You Writing!)

72 Powerful Journal Prompts for Self Discovery (To Get You Inspired)

10 Simple And Powerful Journal Prompts For Daily Use

100+ Incredible Journaling Ideas (For Anxiety, Clarity And More)

72 Powerful Journal Prompts for Self Discovery (To Get You Inspired)