How to Start a Nature Journal – A Beginners Guide
So you want to start a Nature Journal? I’m happy for you! Keeping a nature journal is one of the best things you can do for yourself and those you love. We all know that there are significant benefits in keeping any type of journal. Benefits like better mental clarity, boosts in both confidence and emotional intelligence, self-discipline, more creativity, and increased problem-solving skills.
Just a quick note
I’d like to invite you to join one of our community’s family favorites: Nature’s Art Club! We have expanded our offerings inside this membership that is designed to get you and your family discovering more about nature through art. We have watercolor projects, sketching tutorials, colored-pencil drawing tutorials, nature crafts and activities, educational packets, poetry, nature journaling 101 for parents, birding 101 video tutorials, and more! This membership was made to serve family’s of all ages so you can make it work for your needs. Check it out here. Or just click on the photo below. It makes a great gift too!
I have also created some helpful resources for you if you are just getting started. You can find them HERE.
There are so many great ways to keep a journal: art journals, bullet journals, scripture journals, and gratitude journals, just to name a few. These are all great options, but I think you will find that a Nature Journal is the best of them all.
We kind of fell into nature journaling in my house and I can honestly say that nature journaling has been nothing short of a treasured gift for both me and my kids. Let me tell you why:
Nature + Journal = Happy
There are so many studies proving a real connection between nature and happiness. This one, in particular, caught my eye: The mental health organization, MIND, published a study that found depression was reduced in 71% of participants after taking a walk in nature. When compared to walking around a shopping center where 22% of participants were more depressed than before the walk. And 94% of the participants said that nature walks benefited their mental health.
Personally, I have found over and over again that in our family, when annoyance levels are high and patience is low, a quick walk outside or impromptu nature study changes everything – for both me and my kids.
Nature journaling gives you the benefits of both journaling and nature making it a powerful tool full of excellent benefits!
How To Get Started with a Nature Journal
You don’t need much to get started. Just a small journal and a pen or pencil will do. However, if you’d like to get some special supplies, I have put together a huge list of our favorite nature journaling supplies. But remember it doesn’t have to be complicated! You can always add to your supplies later.
What to Record in Your Nature Journal
You get to decide what you are going to record in your nature journal and how you will record it. If you enjoy drawing and painting, go that route. Maybe you’d rather write down what you are seeing and feeling, and that is perfectly fine too. I find that drawing and painting (even when I feel like I’m not doing a good job of it) forces me to focus on my subject longer and helps me to see more than I otherwise would have. With either option, be as descriptive as possible and try to open yourself up to seeing the natural world as a child would – with excitement and awe. Pay attention to your five senses. What are you seeing? What’s the weather like? What do you smell?
You may even want to collect a leaf or petal and tape it into your journal. Photos are a great option too. I usually draw what I’m seeing and then I record my thoughts and feelings, the weather, and then I try to ask myself some questions about what I’m observing. It takes me anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour…or however long I can get away with.
Ideas for Your Nature Journal
If you are feeling stuck, here are a few other ideas to help get your juices flowing:
- Leaf or tree rubbings
- Measurements/charts – look for patterns
- Nature stamps (collect objects and paint them and press into your journal)
- Smear some juice from a berry or fruit you are drawing.
- Lists of birds, insects, leaves, or flowers you have observed
- Record sit spot seasons – sit in the same spot at least once during each season. Record how it is different
- Seeds (either from a plant you are observing or taken from a packet you plan to plant – record how it is growing)
- Record animal tracks – ask questions like: where are they going? Who do they belong to?
- Ask yourself: What does this remind me of? Why? Let yourself wonder and come up with answers on your own without the help of a field guide or your phone. Write them down and check later to see if you were close!
- If you want more ideas, sign up below to get access to my Resource Library where I have a printable list of 30 nature journal ideas you can take with you
Stumped on where to start?
Subscribe (free!) to get access to my Resource Library full of ebooks, lists, and printables to help you on your creative journey. You'll also get my weekly newsletter full of resources and encouragement for your creative journey!
Nature is Everywhere
We sometimes think that it is necessary to travel “to nature” and while I am all for trips to the woods or the beach, you really only need to go to your backyard. In fact, you could be living in a high rise in the middle of the city and still experience nature. Look and listen. Stop and observe and make it a habit. Just get yourself outside even if it’s for 10 minutes and record something you see or hear. Do it daily or weekly…just regularly, and I promise it will change you.
Nature Journaling Is Not Complicated
Nature journaling does not have to be complicated, and like most of the best things in life, it’s practically free. If you are looking for some extra peace in your day and a creative outlet that doesn’t require a lot of time or money, give nature journaling a try and watch it transform your life.
Ready to Make Nature Journaling a Habit?
Join the challenge today and get day-by-day, step-by-step support for the next 15 days. Everything you need to make nature journaling a habit! When you join, you will also get access to my Resource Library full of ebooks, videos, and printables along with the Lily and Thistle Weekly Letter to help you on your creative journey.
P.S. If you’d like to include more art and nature into your family’s life, I’d like to invite you to join us at Nature’s Art Club! It’s a club designed to get you and your family into art and nature through monthly watercolor projects, coloring pages, original poetry, and more. Check it out here. Or just click on the photo below. It makes a great gift too!
Is there a particular journal you would recommend that can handle watercolor well? I just found your blog and love it! I am inspired to start trying new things.
So glad you are inspired! I have listed all of my favorite supplies here: https://www.lilyandthistle.com/nature-journaling-for-beginners-supply-list/ Look at the first book on the list and the link should take you right to it. Let me know if you have any questions!
I don’t know how to draw or paint. So that’s. Little bit of a discouragement. What do you suggest?
I would encourage you to try! Just remember to look at your journal as a workbook instead of a book of art. Write down all you notice and then attempt to draw what you see. Label the details. When you do your best to draw what you see, you notice so much more. Blind contour drawing is a great way to start if you feel intimidated. There is a place here to sign up for a 15-day challenge…this would be really helpful as well!
I’m in the same boat. When I nature journal I usually just think of it as a mindfulness/writing exercise. I jot down the cool things I notice. That act of focusing on nature gives me a real calm after the session.
I’ve noticed a lot of your pages have art in them. If a person is not so good/doesn’t want to do art, what ideas can you give them?
Thanks for stopping by! A Nature Journal is also great for making “collections” of items you find in nature, leaf rubbings, or even just describing what you see around you. But I really encourage you to try to draw what you see, even if it’s a rough sketch. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Is there like a websight that I can see all the pages to this? Also its so cute I love it and keep up the good work!
This nature club sounds like a perfect fit for myself and granddaughters! However, I left Facebook last year. Is there another way to participate?
Hi! Team Lily & Thistle here 🙂 Our Nature’s Art Club curriculum is available on the Teachable platform. We have an extra bonus of a private Facebook community, but it’s not needed to actually do anything in the program – it’s just meant as a place to connect with others who are also using the program. All of the material is included in the online platform on Teachable. You can find out more info here about the Nature’s Art Club: https://www.lilyandthistle.com/natures-art-club-lto/