The surprising benefits of journaling

If there’s one thing we should learn from teens (aside from their prodigious ability to pick up TikTok dances) it’s how to keep a journal
The surprising benefits of journaling

Once the domain of high-school sweethearts and awkward introverts in every Netflix coming-of-age film ever, journaling has quickly become a hallmark of the self-care movement - right up there with doing yoga and listening to Beyoncé on repeat (yes, really). And for good reason: science prizes the practice as a modern-day panacea. For those who remain unconvinced, here are four benefits of journaling you need to know.

Increases emotional intelligence

Creating a habit of exploring your emotions through writing will not only deepen your awareness of them, but also enhance your ability to quickly dissect them - because practice makes perfect, right? As you write about your experiences, namely interactions with the people around you, you begin to better understand how your emotions and feelings impact others. 

With journals being safe, self-directed spaces to express and unravel your feelings in, they allow you to healthily detemine when and how to express yourself in the world beyond. The result? Happier and healthier relationships with not just those around you, but also yourself. So yes, we'd chalk all our succcesful relationships up to those winding diary monologues we all wrote about being in love with Brad Pitt (don't pretend you didn't).

Boosts your immune system

Forget sipping questionable wellness drinks your found on Instagram - research suggests that just writing can boost immune functioning in patients with a number of illnesses such as asthma and arthritis. Much like the effects of exercising, writing about negative experiences reduces the chemicals that stress incites our bodies to release and frees our brains from the enormously taxing job of processing them. This leads to improved sleep, better body functioning, and a strengthened immune system. Who knew waxing lyrical about a bad day was the secret all along?

Improves mental health

You can't deny the therapeutic quality of those explosive adolescent meltdowns we'd all document in our diaries. Now that we're (a little) grown up, we can actually embrace that quality a little more deliberately.

Keeping a journal that details your mental wellbeing from day to day can help you not only recognise the interactions and experiences that aren't doing you good, but also determine ways to mitigate their effects. In moments you need a little pick-me-up, journals provide an excellent opportunity for positive self-talk and you can also crack lame (read: elite) dad jokes to your heart's desire without any judgemental stares. 

Keeps your memory sharp

Journaling can boost your memory in several ways. The very act of writing something down solidifies that experience in your mind and improves your ability to remember it later on. Those journal entries can then also act as prompts that trigger memories you'd long forgotten - kind of like time capsules, except with less visual reminders of bad haircuts and questionable fashion choices.

Alongside boosting memory and comprehension, expressive journaling also squashes intrusive and avoidant thoughts, thereby increasing working memory capacity, which may reflect improved cognitive processing.

Now what?

So, you probably get it now: Journaling is seriously good for you. But if you still find yourself frozen, glaring fruitlessly at a blank page, fret not. You can start by casting aside any unrealistic expectations of yourself as well as any internalised guilt of not instantly being an ultra-zen journaling guru.

Start where you are. It can help to jot down a simple sentence - possibly about your breakfast, or how hot the weather is, or how many times your cat has pleaded for another meal that day (you know, just your standard elevator small talk). Continue onto whatever your mind takes you to. Once you find your flow, the whole process will become much less daunting. Pro-tip: you don't have to express yourself in prose comparable to Shakespeare. Dr Suess is great too.

Photos: Instagram and Unsplash