Life got you down? Try nature journaling

Sunday , November 26, 2017 - 12:00 AM

By SIERRA CLARK
TX. Correspondent

It can be hard to get away from the scary things in this world. Whether it’s wars abroad or the daily mundanity and drama, it can be hard to escape.

But there are ways to retreat from these problems, and one of the tools that can be a powerful force for balance in our lives is nature journaling.

So, what is a nature journal?

Generally speaking, a nature journal has many similarities to a traditional journal. Both are used to express what you observe, but a nature journal does so through the medium of nature. Anything that appeals to you can be drawn and written about for a nature journal, and used to reflect on your experiences.

To learn more about nature journals and their purposes, we turned to Susan Snyder, a professional artist and teacher at The Local Artisan Collective in Ogden. Although she has kept illustrated journals since her youth, Snyder began seriously and consistently journaling in about 2008 as a part of her master’s degree.

Throughout this journey, she came to work at the Ogden Nature Center, and while there, created a curriculum based on nature journaling in order to help kids explore nature and science through art.

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Snyder explains that with nature journals, science and math topics are accessible for children who are more oriented to the visual arts. “Art and math and science are closely related in a variety of ways,” she said. “Keeping a nature journal helps make that connection.”

In essence, nature journaling provides many ways to engage kids and help them own their learning, making it more meaningful through their own art. A  Scientific American article suggests that the arts and science are intrinsically linked, which makes sense because the same mindset used for art provides the creativity to properly study the world and make new hypotheses.

So nature journaling has many educational purposes.

As much as nature journaling provides many opportunities for learning about the natural world, writing a nature journal for your own reflection can also be massively powerful. It’s well documented that journaling in general, to review or express your thoughts and feeling on various things in life, can have many positive impacts, both physical and mental. As teenagers, we are exposed to many stressors, and it’s important that they are taken care of in a healthy way.

The Mayo Clinic sites issues ranging from headaches and stomach problems and fatigue to feelings of anxiety, lack of focus and social withdrawal as symptoms of stress.

Journals are effective ways to let off stress, and nature journals are especially helpful due to your environment while nature journaling. This is because being outside can have a major influence on your well being. In a study by Stanford, researchers found that walking in nature could lead to a smaller risk of depression.

Nature journaling has many educational and personal benefits, and, as Snyder explains, “It’s good for your brain, and it’s wicked good fun!”

If you’re interested in starting a nature journal, there are a few things to keep in mind to make it the most beneficial.

1. You CAN draw!

If you are like me, your first thought may be worry about your current art skills. Many people don’t really think they are very talented in this area.

But Snyder says: “Drawing isn’t about talent. Not one iota. It is about taking the time to sit with something and really see it — how the lines and shapes fit together, and how the lines and shapes are proportioned to each other.”

If you really put your mind to bringing that tree, shrub or flower onto paper, you only need follow what you can see, and that will make the real difference.

2. Don’t obsess over perfection

It’s easy to compare your drawings to someone who has drawn for years and is very invested in being an artist, but for the pictures to have meaning for you, don’t worry about the small details. Definitely do your best to make it as good as you can, but if you mess up a line, remember it isn’t the end of the world.

And often, when your picture looks odd when you’ve begun to look very closely at one point in the picture, you may find that it simply takes looking at the drawing as a whole to see how those smaller lines aren’t necessarily a mistake.

3. Just start

The only materials you need are a pencil, a notebook and your eyes. When you decide to look closer at the world, it makes the things around you all the more meaningful, and there’s no time like now to start.

If you are interested in getting more instruction about the art, Snyder teaches classes at The Local Artisan Collective, but she explains that the most important aspect of nature journaling is to take a break from distractions like phones, and just be present and reflect in nature.

4. Writing

One thing that makes a traditional journal daunting is the question of what to say, and what to do when you feel there is nothing to say. But there are basic ways to begin a thought process to get out your feelings about what you’ve drawn, and how it connects to your life.

Any writing that feels right can work. If you don’t feel like forming sentences, maybe just fill in words that describe how you felt when you saw the thing you decided to draw. Maybe you feel lyrical and want to write a poem. If all else fails, remember: What do you notice about it? What do you wonder?

Ultimately, if there are more ways to escape this world and recuperate, for the most part, they are worth investigating. And nature journals are a powerful way to release stress and a great tool to learn more about the world that surrounds us.

If we can become more aware of ourselves and the world through journals, that can make all the difference for ourselves and those we try to help. So go make your difference in the world through your art.

Sierra Clark is a junior at Venture High School. She plays piano and flute and is an avid reader, but most of all she enjoys learning about new things. Email her at s.siclark@venturelearning.org.

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