Dear Diary 

A person opening a journal on a table.

How journaling helped me regulate my emotions.

It comes as no surprise that my love for writing was solidified when I first picked up a journal 8 years ago. Yes, I’ve hoarded many notebooks and loose papers growing up but 13 was when I decided to actually commit to writing in one book for a year. What’s surprising, though, is the fact that this habit has stuck with me for so long – I’m in my 7th journal this year. 

In those years, I’ve come to realise the importance of a journal not only for my creative expression but also to regulate my emotions and better understand my feelings. I think it was right for 13-year-old Asirah to start journaling at that age because it’s true, your teen years see the most horrifying changes in yourself. Not just to your body but also to this person living inside of you. Not to mention the rollercoaster of emotions you experience!

Having a space where I could freely express my woes and embarrassing thoughts, and latest pop culture obsessions and school crushes free of any fear of judgement enabled me to truly dump my thoughts onto paper. You know when you’ve got that one thought nesting itself for too long in your mind that you just can’t seem to get rid of? Writing it all out in my journal helped me close a chapter with those thoughts. It was like a cleansing, almost.

I like to really go all in when I’m journaling too – kind of like when you’re dancing alone in your room. I did go through a period where I was filtering myself too much and trying to sound intellectual and it just didn’t feel right. I really thought my journal was going to get published like I was Virginia Woolf or something. It was liberating instead to write without a care, especially when I’m feeling unsatisfied over something or just simply sad. No worries of unsolicited advice, disapproving looks or someone shrugging off my genuine concerns with a mere “you’ll be fine”. 

Being able to hit pause and reflect on my thoughts also helped me make sense of what I was feeling. It’s easy to get caught up in your emotions when you’re in the thick of it. There are times where I feel like I’m overreacting and true enough after reading myself whine about the most miniscule of things, I realise that it wasn’t such a big deal after all and vice versa. It’s like getting a 3rd person perspective on my emotions. 

But I don’t just journal when I’m experiencing emotional turbulence, I always write about the good things too like when I went surfing for the first time or when a random old lady sat with me on the tram and we chatted about her trip to Adelaide for the whole ride. It serves as a good reminder to me that the less positive aspects of life actually make up such a small part of my existence – that it’s not all doom and gloom all the time. 

So, kudos to 13-year-old Asirah for picking up that journal. 21-year-old you would like to say that it has helped her a lot in navigating this confusing and overwhelming period of her life. 

Tagged in What messes with your head, Journal