URBANA, Ill. – Nature journaling enhances the outdoor or garden experience, while building a more positive and personal connection with nature.
“I use nature journaling as a creative form of self-expression, but I find that it also promotes relaxation and calmness,” says Rhonda Ferree, horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension.
Many people journal. In its most basic form, journaling is a daily record of news and events that happen in a person’s life. Writing down our day-to-day happenings saves that information in an organized manner and helps us remember it later. “I’ve been journaling since I was a teenager, and my family often enjoys reading my old entries, reminding us of fun family times,” Ferree says.
Nature journaling provides all this and much more. “We all intuitively know that being in nature makes us happy,” Ferree notes. In fact, research shows that spending just 20 minutes in nature can promote health and well-being. Journaling while surrounded by nature allows us to slow down and see the natural world from a different perspective.
Relaxing in nature provides mental and emotional clarity to express our private experiences, thoughts, and feelings. While doing this, we begin to relax, thus enhancing the outdoor experience even more. After all, have you ever stayed in a bad mood while surrounded by nature? Journaling takes that positive experience to a deeper level, and makes it last longer.
Journaling is not difficult to do. “You don’t have to write a magazine-quality short story, just write what you see and feel,” Ferree recommends. “Over time we all develop our own style that works for us.”
Although most people journal with pen and paper, there are no rules. Some people prefer to blog, scrapbook, tweet, or use a smart-device writing app. You could also express those same thoughts through music, art, pictures, videos, and more. Ferree says to be creative. “Adding sketches and pictures makes the nature journal even more meaningful,” she says.
There are many writing techniques to help inspire our nature journaling activity. Start with the facts by writing down the date, weather conditions, and journaling location. Then sketch or write down your observations of that place. What do you see? What does it remind you of? Does it make you wonder or ask questions?
Naturalist John Muir said, “I draw and work in my nature journal for three reasons: to see, to remember, and to stimulate curiosity. The benefit of journaling is not limited to what you produce on the page; it is, rather, found in your experience and how you think along the way.”
For more writing ideas and prompts, visit Rhonda Ferree’s ILRiverHort blog at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/. There, you will also find a few examples of Rhonda’s nature journal writings.