Beginner’s Guide to Nature Journaling

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Written By Daniel

Avid journal writer and founder of JOURNLING.

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In today’s fast-paced world, taking a moment to slow down and truly immerse oneself in the beauty of the natural world can be a profoundly rewarding experience. Nature journaling is a unique and gratifying way to strengthen this connection, while also cultivating a sense of mindfulness, creativity, and curiosity.

At its core, nature journaling involves documenting one’s observations, thoughts, and experiences in the great outdoors, utilizing any combination of writing, drawing, and video. This beginner’s guide aims to provide both beginners and seasoned journalers with the tools, techniques, and inspiration needed to embark on a journey of discovery and reflection through the art of nature journaling.

Importance of connecting with nature

As our lives become increasingly digital and urbanized, our connection with nature often falls by the wayside. Yet, numerous studies have demonstrated the countless physical, mental, and emotional benefits of spending time in nature. By engaging in activities such as nature journaling, we can foster a deeper appreciation for the natural world, while also reaping the rewards of improved mental health, reduced stress, and enhanced cognitive function.

Benefits of nature journaling

Nature journaling offers many benefits that extend far beyond the simple act of documenting one’s observations. Through the practice of nature journaling, individuals can develop:

Mindfulness and stress relief

By focusing on the present moment and engaging all of our senses, we can cultivate a sense of mindfulness and foster a feeling of tranquility, allowing us to escape the pressures of our daily lives and find solace in the natural world.

Improving observation skills

Regularly recording observations in a nature journal encourages us to pay closer attention to our surroundings, honing our ability to notice even the smallest details and deepening our understanding of the intricate web of life that surrounds us.

Enhancing creativity and critical thinking

Nature journaling provides a platform for self-expression and exploration, as we experiment with different styles of writing, sketching, and photography. This creative outlet not only nourishes the soul but also sharpens our critical thinking skills, as we attempt to capture the essence of the natural world in our journals.

Getting Started with Nature Journaling

Choosing a journal and writing materials

Start your nature journaling journey by selecting the right tools. The materials you choose will greatly influence your journaling experience, so it’s essential to select items that resonate with you and align with your personal preferences.

Types of journals

There are many excellent journals available, ranging from simple, unlined notebooks to more elaborate, leather-bound options with specialized features such as watercolor paper and built-in pockets. When selecting a journal, consider factors such as size, portability, and durability, as well as your own artistic inclinations.

Preferred writing tools

The choice of writing tool is equally important, as it can significantly impact the way you interact with your journal. Experiment withdifferent pens, pencils, and even watercolor brushes to find the tools that best suit your style and needs. Keep in mind that weather conditions and the potential for smudging might influence your choices.

Selecting a location

Finding the perfect location for your nature journaling practice is an essential step, as it sets the stage for your observations and experiences.

Urban and rural settings

Nature journaling can be practiced in virtually any setting, from sprawling national parks to bustling city parks. Embrace the opportunities within your own environment, and be open to exploring both urban and rural locales.

Tips for finding the perfect spot

Look for locations that offer a variety of naturalelements, such as diverse plant and animal life, interesting geological features, orstriking landscapes. Consider accessibility, safety, and potential distractions whenselecting a spot, and remember that you can always change your location to keep your journaling experience fresh and engaging.

Establishing a routine

Developing a consistent nature journaling routine can be highly beneficial, as it encourages you to carve out time for reflection and observation in your daily life.

Frequency and duration

Determine the frequency and duration of your journaling sessions based on your personal preferences and schedule. Some individuals may prefer shorter, daily sessions, while others might opt for longer, weekly excursions. The key is to find a routine that is both enjoyable and sustainable.

Incorporating nature journaling into daily life

Look for opportunities to integrate nature journaling into your existing routine, such as during your morning walk, lunch break, or evening stroll. This practice can help transform mundane moments into opportunities for mindfulness, creativity, and connection with the natural world.

Nature Journaling Techniques

Mindful observation

To truly capture the essence of the natural world in your journal, it is important to practice mindful observation, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the present moment.

Focusing on the present moment

Try to let go of any distractions, thoughts, or preoccupations, and focus your attention solely on your surroundings. Observe the colors, textures, sounds, and scents that envelop you, and allow yourself to become fully absorbed in the experience.

Engaging all senses

Engage all of your senses as you explore your environment, taking note of not only what you see but also what you hear, smell, feel, and even taste. This multisensory approach can lead to richer, more vivid descriptions and a deeper connection with the natural world.

Sketching and drawing

Incorporate visual elements into your nature journal to enhance your experience and develop new ways of observing and interpreting your surroundings.

Basic techniques

Begin by experimenting with simple sketches, focusing on shapes, lines, and textures. With practice, you can gradually refine your skills and develop your own unique style of illustration.

Overcoming artistic inhibitions

Remember that your nature journal is a personal space for exploration and self-expression, not a showcase for perfection. Embrace the imperfections and focus on the process of creating, rather than the final product.

Writing prompts and ideas

Keep your nature journaling practice fresh and engaging. Consider incorporating a variety of writing styles and prompts.

Descriptive writing

Practice using vivid and evocative language to describe the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations you experience in nature. This can help you hone your observational skills and create a more immersive journaling experience.

Poetry and prose

Experiment with different forms of writing, such as poetry, prose, and even stream-of-consciousness reflections. This can not only enhance your creative skills but also allow you to express your emotions and experiences in new and unexpected ways.

Personal reflections and emotions

Use your nature journal as a space to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they relate to your experiences in nature. This can provide valuable insights into your relationship with the natural world and promote personal growth and self-awareness.

Photography and multimedia

Incorporating multimedia elements into your nature journal can add depth and dimension to your documentation of the natural world.

Integrating photos into your journal

Consider including photographs in your nature journal, either by printing and attaching them directly to the pages or by incorporating digital images in an electronic journal. This can provide a visual record of your experiences and complement your written observations and sketches.

Using technology to enhance journaling

One of the most popular tools for nature journaling is the smartphone. With its built-in camera, GPS, and multitude of apps, the smartphone has become an invaluable tool for nature enthusiasts. One app, iNaturalist, allows users to photograph and identify plant and animal species, while also contributing valuable data to global biodiversity research. By incorporating iNaturalist into your nature journaling routine, you can deepen your understanding of the natural world and engage in citizen science efforts.

On a daily basis, I encounter fascinating people online who use Twitter as an online journal. The downside is the character limit, but the upside is the instant gratification and possibility of social interaction. Blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger were among the original online online nature journal and are still widely popular.

For those interested in capturing the sights and sounds of their surroundings, audio recording apps, such as WildRecorder or Voice Record Pro, can be incredibly useful. These apps enable you to record and catalog the various sounds of nature, from bird songs to rustling leaves, creating a rich auditory component to accompany your written observations and sketches. By integrating audio recordings into your journal, you can create a more immersive and multisensory experience.

When it comes to desktop applications, digital art software like Adobe Photoshop, Procreate, or Sketchbook can be a game-changer for nature journalers who prefer digital illustration. These programs offer a wide range of brushes, textures, and effects, allowing you to create detailed and realistic renderings of the natural world. By using digital art software, you can experiment with different techniques, easily edit your work, and seamlessly integrate your illustrations into an electronic journal or share them with a broader audience online.

If you prefer a more traditional journaling experience with the added convenience of digital organization, apps like Evernote, OneNote, and Notion can be excellent choices. These note-taking and organization apps provide a flexible and customizable platform for creating digital nature journals, with the ability to incorporate text, images, audio, and even video. Furthermore, these apps offer robust search and organization features, making it easy to catalog and revisit your observations and experiences in the future.

By utilizing these versatile applications, you can effortlessly blend the worlds of traditional and digital nature journaling, creating a unique and personalized documentation of your journey in the natural world.

Exploring Different Types of Nature Journals

Nature journaling is a highly personal and adaptable practice. By exploring different types of nature journals, you can find the format and focus that resonates most with you, creating a journaling experience that is both fulfilling and enlightening.

Species-specific journals

For those who have a particular affinity for a certain group of organisms, creating a species-specific journal can be a rewarding endeavor.


Birdwatching journals focus on the observation and documentation of birds, including their appearance, behavior, and habitat. In this type of journal, you can record information about the species you encounter, sketch or photograph birds in their natural environment, and even document their songs and calls.

Plant identification

A plant identification journal allows you to delve into the world of botany, documenting the various plants you encounter on your nature excursions. In this type of journal, you can record detailed descriptions, sketches, or photographs of plant species, note their locations and habitats, and even document seasonal changes and growth patterns.

Insect observation

Insect observation journals focus on the fascinating world of insects, offering an opportunity to explore and document their diverse forms, behaviors, and ecological roles. In this type of journal, you can record observations on insect species, their life cycles, and their interactions with other organisms and their environment.

Themed journals

Themed journals provide an opportunity to explore a specific aspect of the natural world in depth, offering a focused and cohesive journaling experience.

Seasonal changes

A seasonal journal documents the changes that occur in nature throughout the year, offering a unique perspective on the cycles and rhythms of the natural world. In this type of journal, you can record observations on plant and animal life, weather patterns, and even your own personal reflections and experiences as the seasons shift.

Weather patterns

Weather-focused journals allow you to explore the complex and ever-changing world of meteorology, documenting the various weather phenomena you encounter during your nature excursions. In this type of journal, you can record information about temperature, precipitation, wind patterns, and cloud formations, offering insights into the dynamic interplay between weather and the natural world.Ecosystems and habitats: Ecosystem and habitat journals focus on the intricate relationships and interactions that define a particular environment, offering a holistic view of the natural world. In this type of journal, you can document the various plant and animal species that inhabit a specific ecosystem, as well as their interactions with one another and their environment.

Ecosystems and habitats

Ecosystem and habitat journals focus on the intricate relationships and interactions that define a particular environment, offering a holistic view of the natural world. In this type of journal, you can document the various plant and animal species that inhabit a specific ecosystem, as well as their interactions with one another and their environment.

Travel and adventure journals

For those who enjoy exploring new and diverse environments, a travel and adventure journal provides an opportunity to document your encounters with nature in various locations.

Documenting nature excursions

Whether you are hiking through a national park, exploring a wildlife reserve, or simply visiting a local nature spot, a travel and adventure journal allows you to capture your experiences and observations in a meaningful and engaging way.

National parks and nature reserves

Visiting national parks and nature reserves provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in protected and diverse natural environments. In this type of journal, you can record your experiences, observations, and reflections as you explore these remarkable places, creating a lasting record of your adventures in the great outdoors.

Wilderness expeditions

For those who crave a more remote and immersive experience, wilderness expeditions offer an opportunity to connect with nature on a deeper level. In this type of journal, you can document your experiences and observations as you traverse wild and untamed landscapes, capturing the challenges, triumphs, and discoveries that define your journey.

Tips for Effective Nature Journaling

To help you make the most of your journaling practice, consider the following tips and suggestions to enhance your observations, creativity, and overall enjoyment.

Overcoming writer’s block

Even the most seasoned nature journal writer can occasionally encounter writer’s block. When faced with this challenge, consider the following strategies to help reignite your creativity and inspiration.

Change your surroundings

Sometimes, a change of scenery can provide a fresh perspective and spark new ideas. Try visiting a different location or revisiting a favorite spot during a different time of day or season.

Use prompts and exercises

Employ writing prompts, sketching exercises, or sensory activities to stimulate your creativity and get your thoughts flowing. These can help you approach your journaling practice from a new angle and uncover unexpected insights.

Balancing observation and documentation

Striking the right balance between observation and documentation is crucial for a fulfilling nature journaling experience. To achieve this equilibrium, consider the following tips.

Prioritize mindfulness

Dedicate time to simply observing and experiencing the natural world before diving into documentation. By cultivating mindfulness, you can foster a deeper connection with your surroundings and ensure your journal entries are more authentic and insightful.

Develop a flexible routine

Create a journaling routine that allows for both structured documentation and spontaneous observation. This can help you maintain a sense of engagement and curiosity while ensuring you capture the essence of your experiences.

Organizing and archiving your journals

Keeping your nature journals organized and accessible is essential for long-term enjoyment and reference. To help you manage and preserve your journals, consider the following strategies.

Develop a system

Establish a system for organizing your journals, whether by date, location, or theme. This can make it easier to locate specific entries and track your progress over time.

Safeguard your memories

Take steps to protect your journals from damage, such as storing them in a safe location or digitizing your entries. This can help ensure your memories and observations are preserved for years to come.

Sharing your nature journal with others

Sharing your nature journal with others can be a rewarding experience, providing opportunities for connection, learning, and inspiration.

Engage with a community

Join local nature journaling groups or participate in online forums to share your experiences, insights, and artwork with fellow enthusiasts. This can foster a sense of camaraderie and provide valuable feedback to help you grow as a journaler.

Inspire and educate

Share your journal with friends, family, or even a wider audience through social media or a personal blog. By showcasing your observations and experiences, you can inspire others to appreciate and connect with the natural world, while also raising awareness about the importance of conservation and stewardship.

Nature Journaling as a Tool for Environmental Awareness and Conservation

Nature journaling not only offers personal fulfillment and growth, but it can also serve as a powerful tool for promoting environmental awareness and conservation. By deepening your connection with the natural world and fostering a greater understanding of ecological relationships, you can become a more informed and passionate advocate for environmental causes.

Building a deeper connection to nature

Through regular journaling practice, you can cultivate a more profound appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

Personal investment

As you document your observations and experiences in your nature journal, you create a tangible record of your connection to the environment. This personal investment can inspire you to be more mindful of your impact on the planet and more committed to its protection.

Empathy for other species

By closely observing and documenting the lives of plants and animals, you develop a deeper understanding of their needs, challenges, and perspectives. This empathy can inspire you to support efforts to protect and conserve biodiversity.

Understanding ecological relationships

Nature journaling can reveal the intricate web of relationships that define ecosystems, helping you appreciate the delicate balance of the natural world.

Observing interdependence

By documenting the interactions between species and their environment, you gain insights into the complex and interdependent nature of ecosystems. This understanding can motivate you to take action to preserve these fragile relationships.

Recognizing environmental threats: As you engage in regular nature journaling, you may begin to notice changes in the environment, such as the decline of a particular species or the encroachment of human development. These observations can raise awareness of pressing environmental issues and galvanize you to advocate for conservation efforts.

Advocating for environmental causes

Armed with your newfound knowledge and passion, you can use your nature journal as a platform for advocating for environmental causes.

Sharing your experiences

By sharing your journal with others, you can raise awareness about the beauty and fragility of the natural world, inspiring others to join in conservation efforts. This may involve presenting your work at local events, sharing your journal on social media, or participating in nature journaling communities.

Supporting conservation initiatives

Use your nature journal as a springboard for getting involved in local, national, or global conservation initiatives. This could include joining a wildlife monitoring program, participating in habitat restoration projects, or advocating for the protection of endangered species. Your firsthand experiences and observations can lend credibility and impact to your advocacy efforts, helping to make a positive difference for the environment.

Share your nature journaling experiences, insights, and tips

I invite you to share your experiences and insights with our growing community of passionate nature lovers. By opening up about your personal encounters with the natural world, you have the power to inspire and connect with others who share your love for the environment. Through this exchange of ideas and observations, we can all grow and learn from one another’s perspectives.

As you venture into the world of nature journaling, I encourage you to share your stories, sketches, photographs, and reflections with fellow journalers. Whether you choose to join a local nature journaling group, participate in online forums, or simply share your work with friends and family, your unique contributions can enrich the collective experience and spark meaningful conversations about the beauty, complexity, and vulnerability of the natural world.

By inviting others to explore the wonders of nature through your journal entries, you have the potential to ignite a passion for conservation and stewardship in those around you. Together, we can cultivate a deeper appreciation for the environment, inspiring positive action and fostering a global community of informed and dedicated nature advocates. So, please, don’t hesitate to share your nature journaling experiences and insights, as your voice is a valuable and essential part of this ongoing journey of discovery and connection.

Additional Resources

Looking for more input on nature journaling, as well as personal stories and examples? I’ve put together a list of recommended books for you.

“The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms” by Clare Walker Leslie

This engaging and interactive workbook offers a wide range of activities, exercises, and prompts to help children and adults alike discover the wonders of the natural world. With an emphasis on observation, exploration, and creativity, this resource provides a comprehensive introduction to nature journaling for beginners of all ages.

“Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You” by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth

In this classic guide to nature journaling, the authors provide practical advice, techniques, and inspiration for documenting the natural world. The book includes tips for sketching and writing, ideas for journaling in various settings, and examples of nature journal entries to inspire your own practice.

“Drawing Nature: A Journal” by Jill Bliss

This beautifully illustrated journal offers a unique approach to nature journaling, combining stunning watercolor illustrations with thought-provoking prompts and space for personal reflection. Encouraging mindfulness and creativity, this journal is a perfect companion for those looking to deepen their connection with the natural world through art and observation.

“Nature Observer: A Guided Journal” by Maggie A. Sichter

This guided journal is designed to help you focus your observations and develop your journaling skills, with prompts and exercises that encourage you to explore the natural world in greater depth. From observing the changing seasons to documenting wildlife encounters, this journal offers a structured and engaging approach to nature journaling.

“The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling” by John Muir Laws

Renowned naturalist and educator John Muir Laws shares his expert insights and techniques for capturing the beauty of the natural world in this comprehensive guide to nature drawing and journaling. The book covers foundational drawing skills, field sketching techniques, and strategies for developing a consistent and rewarding journaling practice, making it an invaluable resource for both beginners and experienced journal writers alike.

Online Nature Journalinge Communities

The Nature Journal Club – This active Facebook group, with over 20,000 members, is a supportive community of nature journaling enthusiasts from around the world. Members share their journal entries, sketches, and experiences, as well as offer tips, encouragement, and feedback to one another.

Nature Journaling Reddit (r/NatureJournaling) – The Nature Journaling subreddit is a forum for nature journalers to discuss their practice, share their work, and seek advice. The community is welcoming to beginners and seasoned journalers alike, offering a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.

iNaturalist (Website/App) – iNaturalist is a popular website and mobile app that combines citizen science with nature journaling. Users can document and share their observations of plants and animals, helping to contribute to a global database of biodiversity while engaging with a vibrant community of fellow nature enthusiasts.

Wild Wonder Nature Journaling (Facebook Group) – This Facebook group is dedicated to the practice of nature journaling and is inspired by the teachings of John Muir Laws. The community is open to nature journalers of all skill levels and provides a space for sharing artwork, tips, and experiences, as well as discussing Laws’ books, workshops, and resources.

The Nature Journal Educators Forum (Facebook Group) – Specifically designed for educators who incorporate nature journaling into their teaching, this Facebook group offers a space for sharing lesson plans, strategies, and experiences related to nature journaling in educational settings. The group aims to support and inspire educators in their efforts to engage students with the natural world.

The Sketchbook Skool Nature Journaling Kourse (Website) – The Sketchbook Skool offers a dedicated nature journaling course that provides instruction and inspiration through video lessons and an accompanying online community. The course encourages students to engage with nature through drawing, writing, and observation, while the online community offers a platform for sharing work and connecting with fellow nature journalers.

The Artist’s Journal Workshop (Facebook Group) – Though not exclusively focused on nature journaling, The Artist’s Journal Workshop Facebook group is a supportive community of artists and journalers who share their work, techniques, and experiences. Many members are nature journalers, providing a wealth of inspiration and resources for those interested in exploring the natural world through art and writing.

Project Noah (Website/App) – Project Noah is a citizen science platform and mobile app that encourages users to document and share their observations of wildlife. While its primary focus is on contributing to scientific research, the community aspect of the platform offers a space for nature journalers to connect with others who share their passion for observing and documenting the natural world.

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