Camping

Nature Journaling and Why It is Useful

Whenever I need a break from everyday life, nature never fails me. The deeper I go into the forest, the more peaceful I feel. My worries fall from me like a thick coat and I can focus my attention on the present moment.

I notice the smell of fresh pine and cedar, the crunch of raw earth under my feet and the fresh air on my skin.

It’s a feeling I don’t want to forget and that’s why I always bring my diary with me. My journal entry isn’t always a masterpiece, but I can count on me to feel calm, grounded, and grateful.

Journaling in nature brings introspection that makes me and my surroundings more aware. It helps me connect with nature and my true self. It is a valuable practice that can help us all heal and grow. –Mandi Carozza, 52 Hike Challenge Content Creator

While the practice of journaling is certainly not new, it is definitely a somewhat forgotten art. In today’s digital age, we use our smartphones for everything.

But the physical process of putting pen to paper, especially if you spend time outdoors, can be very comforting, relaxing, and rewarding.

Journaling not only helps you remember all of your amazing moments in nature, it also allows you to deepen your connection with nature and with yourself.

Read on to learn how journaling can take advantage of all of your outdoor adventures and tips to get you started.

Journaling on the Beardance Trail in Montana (Photo credit: Mandi Carozza)

Benefits of journaling outdoors

Journaling is often a meditative and therapeutic practice, so you may even experience a profound change in your mental well-being after you start writing.

The combination of journaling with time outdoors offers a unique opportunity to connect with your surroundings while processing your thoughts and emotions.

Journaling can help you:

According to research, writing can provide physical benefits to people suffering from illness and healing injuries. One theory is that by writing you can structure and organize anxious emotions to get around them.

Taking the time to sit in nature, appreciate the great outdoors and write everything down can be hugely rewarding.

In August 2019 I embarked on one of the greatest and most challenging adventures of my life: hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT) [Nüümü Poyo]. Named the “Most Beautiful Mountain Landscape in the United States” by the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the JMT is a 211-mile hike that stretches primarily on the Pacific Crest Trail from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney. I wanted to finish the trip in less than 27 days.

With my diary in tow, I looked forward to every evening in my tent, where I wrote down thoughts, feelings, ideas and memories of each day. I knew that one day I would like to look back at these moments and think about them.

“7:51 pm Bear has just come into the camp. I heard a loud crack; Bear was right behind my tent! ”

“Since we had to line up in the rain, Connie broke her tent pole during all the excitement. Fortunately, after a quick thought, we fixed it with the replacement tent tube. I never knew how to use it; Luckily she did! “

I am very grateful that I was able to record my experiences.

Who knows, maybe these diary entries will inspire my future grandchildren to walk the path one day. Oh, and we did it in about 21 days to complete! –Karla Amador, co-founder of the 52 Hike Challenge

Tips for journaling outdoors

Whether you’re on an epic backpacking adventure or enjoying the natural beauty of your backyard, here’s how to prepare for a successful journaling session:

What you should bring with you:

How to Find a Good Journaling Spot:

  • Your journaling spot should be in a place that makes you feel safe and relaxed
  • If you immediately feel inspired by a particular area, this is most likely a great place to stop and get your journal out
  • Your lunch break is also a good time and place to reflect

How to get to the correct headspace:

  • Make yourself comfortable in your room by taking a few deep, cleansing breaths
  • Close your eyes and put your intent on journal
  • Invite distractions to take a back seat
  • Be prepared for the sensations of nature around you
  • Start writing!

It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to journal. Let the words flow and let go of any attachments about how you want your journal entry to look. This practice is for you and only you.

Journaling in Machu Picchu

Journaling in Machu Picchu (Photo by Karla Amador)

Getting started: journal announcements

If you’re new to journaling or aren’t sure what to write about, we’ve put together a list of prompts and exercises to get your creativity flowing.

Pre-adventure journaling prompts:

  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What do I want to benefit from today’s outdoor adventure?

Journaling prompts during your adventure:

  • How has my mood changed since I’ve been outside?
  • How do I feel or influence outdoor life?
  • Observe your surroundings and connect with your senses. Be present with what you see, feel, hear, smell, etc. For example, what is the texture of the surface you are sitting on? What colors do you see? How does the air feel today? What noises do you hear How does it feel to be in the moment?

Post adventure journaling prompts:

  • What mental and physical challenges did I have on my adventure?
  • Have I experienced negative self-talk on my trip? How can I instead practice self-love and kindness to myself?
  • List three insights you had out there.

Journaling prompts anytime (at home or outdoors)

  • What are three things you are grateful for today?
  • List three things that you value about yourself.

Now that you have some great prompts to work with, it’s time to start journaling. Take your pen and notebook and immerse yourself in nature. You won’t regret taking the time to sit down and enjoy all of the sights, sounds, and sensations of the great outdoors.

Journaling in Canyonlands National Park

Journaling in Canyonlands National Park (Photo credit: Karla Amador)

Do you need a new diary?

Check out the 52 Hike Challenge Journey Journal, the ultimate companion for journaling on the trails.

editors Note: REI has partnered with 52 Hike Challenge since 2015. Through this partnership, the organization receives, among other things, financial sponsorship, benefits in kind, and support for events that the organization hosts.

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