Why Nature Journal?

 
"Every day you can fill your mind with wonder and fill your journal with a record of the beauty you have experienced. The process will build strength, resilience, equanimity, and gratitude."
John Muir Laws, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, page 2

 

If you have not started, why would you begin?

Well, it is ridiculously fun, relaxing and refreshing. Plus, it’s good for you! It combines the positive effects of spending time in nature with those of journaling and drawing.

​There are appealing benefits from combining being in nature with hand-recording your observations and feelings. Recording by hand helps you to slow down.  By slowing down, you relax and notice more. You experience more. You notice connections and mysteries. ​In doing so, you create a space of peace, calm and awe in your life.

Research findings report that the benefits include:

 

Improves Wellbeing

  • Good for mental and physical health

  • Lowers stress-levels

  • Decreases anxiety and rumination [1]

  • Promotes relaxation and calmness

  • Increases vitality; energises, refreshes, refocuses; and helps to ground us


Inspires and develops creativity

  • Develops creativity skills such as seeing patterns and connections

  • Helps develop a personal process, style, approach and purpose

  • Develops recording, writing and drawing skills

  • Develops skills in design, graphics, layout and presentation of ideas

  • Source of inspiration for other creative efforts

Develops thinking skills

  • Helps to organise thoughts, feelings and experiences

  • Observation skills through intentional attention, this leads to increased focus and awareness

  • Curiosity skills for inquiry, investigation, synthesis and problem-solving. John M Laws describes a “Curiosity Vortex” in which initial curiosity ‘ … stimulate(s) a cascade of delight and inquiry.” [3], [4]

  • Develops perception, analysis and insights [5]

  • Helps to learn how to spot logical fallacies [6] and recognise biases and blindspots

 

“Scientific habits of mind give you a framework for problem-solving and protect you from many of the natural pitfalls of the mind. Strive for humility and clarity.” [7]

Improves memory and learning

  • Writing by hand improves memory over other recording methods, except drawing [8], [9]

  • Drawing improves memory more than writing [10], [11]

  • Effect of improved memory with drawing over writing is more pronounced with older people [12]

  • Improves recognition and identification of animal, plant, and fungi species

  • Improves understanding of how habitats develop, where and how wildlife lives

Deepens connection with nature [13]

  • Learn about nature from nature

  • Connects you with nature and with local places from which so many people have been alienated and from which so many have been displaced

  • See wildlife behaviours and experience nature in a different way, as wildlife accepts your presence, and you observe over longer periods of time [14]

  • Document work done to restore and nurture the environment. Also bring attention to the effects of climate change and environmental collapse [15]

  • A way to contribute to citizen science projects in South Africa (Animal Diversity Unit at UCT) and globally (iNaturalist). "A nature journal can also be used to compile species sightings and other more scientific observations that are of great value to citizen science projects."

Versatile and within your reach

  • Nature journaling is easy to do. It is not a talent; it is a set of skills that you can learn. 

  • Adaptable to almost any budget

  • Possible to do in just about every place,

  • Can be done at any time

  • Can be done in any and all written languages

 

And nature journaling with others

  • Connects community - as individuals with nature journal buddies, with friends and family, with groups like the Nature Journaling South Africa.

  • Contributes to and opens opportunities to increase diversity in existing nature groups.

  • Encourages formation of new groups.

  • Encourages use of community resources such as libraries, nature groups and nature spaces.

  • Encourages active participation in stewardship, conservancy and environmental justice efforts. 

Nature journaling is an ideal hobby. ​​It is also a powerful professional, scientific and creative tool. The skills identified above develop through practise. Whatever you do for work or play, nature journaling can deepen your experience. This holds true whether you are new to nature and to journaling, or if you are already a naturalist, visual artist, writer, language and cultural activist, environmental educator, homeschooling parent or public school teacher.

 

​This simple starting point is a journey shaped by you. It can be a relaxing activity, as well as a profound connection with nature. It can be an inspiring way to develop how you think about and relate to the world.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
References and Reading

[1] "The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition" by Gregory N.Bratman

      (a), Gretchen C.Daily (b), Benjamin J.Levy (c), James J.Gross (d) 

      https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005

[2] "The Laws Guide to  Nature Drawing and Journaling" by John Muir Laws, pages 8-9

[3] Cell Press. "How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily,

     2 October 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141002123631.htm.

 

[4] "The Laws Guide to  Nature Drawing and Journaling" by John Muir Laws, page 16

 

[5] "Keeping a Nature Journal" by Clare Walker Leslie, page 13 

[6 ] "The Laws Guide to  Nature Drawing and Journaling" by John Muir Laws, page 16

 

[7] "Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter, In surprising studies, researchers find benefits

      to setting keyboards aside." Posted Mar 14, 2013  

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/memory-medic/201303/why-writing-hand-could-make-

      you-smarter

[8] "Why Using Pen And Paper, Not Laptops, Boosts Memory: Writing Notes Helps Recall Concepts,

      Ability To Understand", Feb 6, 2014 12:18 pm

      by Lizette Borreli [at] lizcelineb or l.borreli [at] medicaldaily.com

[9] The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall

     (2016). The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall. The

     Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Vol. 69, No. 9, pages 1752-1776.

 

[10] The Surprisingly Powerful Influence of Drawing on Memory" Myra A. Fernandes, Jeffrey D.

     Wammes, Melissa E. Meade, First Published August 30, 2018 Research

     Article,  https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721418755385

 

[11] "Drawing as an Encoding Tool: Memorial Benefits in Younger and Older Adults" by  

      Melissa E. Meade, Jeffrey D. Wammes & Myra A. Fernandes

      pages 369-396 | Received 05 Apr 2017, Accepted 20 Jan 2018, Published online: 09 Oct 2018

[12] "Beyond knowing nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are pathways to

      nature connection." Lumber R, Richardson M, Sheffield D (2017) PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177186.

      https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0177186

[13] "Make a Date with Nature: An introduction to nature journaling" by Paula Peeters, page 6

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