Want to live forever? Easy, keep a journal

"Please come in, make yourself at home"

“Please come in, make yourself at home”

Before leaving the UK and heading to Taiwan I had to have a massive clear out of the tit and tat I had accrued in a  lifetime of casual hoarding. There were half-broken ornaments from various travels to and fro, loyalty cards to cafés that were eaten by the recession, sticky notes of to do lists I had consigned to the wasteland at the back of the drawer; it was jumble and detritus.

I had justified keeping these things as mementos, tokens and idols of other times, as I had convinced myself that these things had intrinsic value that somehow stored and protected memories that would otherwise vanish. Staring at each item with vague despondency, I scratched my head and mumbled ‘where did this come from?’ and ‘who would keep this?’

But, I also found my old journals. I discovered secrets I had buried. Did you know that grandma Joy did confiscate my favourite jumper on Christmas ’95 and that was the last time I saw it? I had forgotten that the sink in the upstairs toilet was obliterated by a drunken older sister, not by a decorating accident, as claimed by her.

Though the objects littering my room were trying hard, the journal had them beat. If it’s memory retention you want, look no further than the trusty journal.

Many great people have kept diaries; Winston Churchill, Anne Frank, Theodore Roosevelt, Silvia Plath, … the list goes on. Of course, where would we be without Bridget Jones and the Princess Diaries? Perhaps the last point is not so clear, or perhaps it’s the clincher.

However you choose to spin it, the power of journals cannot be ignored. And whether you’re a writer looking to track ideas or a nanny trying to monitor behaviour patterns, journalling could change your life.

So, here’s the Itchy Quill run down of why you should start a journal in 2015.

1. It can keep you in touch with yourself

Sometimes in a world of chaos and distraction it can be easy to forget who we really are. Sometimes we act in certain ways that seem illogical and out of character. Keeping a journal gives you the opportunity to dissect those moments. It can also give you a peek at what thoughts are recurring for you, and which situations or people are good and bad for you to be around.

2. It helps to relieve stress

There are a multitude of studies that have shown a connection between keeping a journal and reduced stress levels, and it seems obvious when you think about it. Keeping a journal gives you a constant, routine opportunity to vent and process. Without the worry of offending someone with your frustration, you can be completely honest and (if you journal before bed) it can help you hit reset, ready for the next day.

3. You’ll be joining a neat club

As said before, some very famous people from different fields and occupations have kept journals. Idols such as Kurt Cobain, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Thomas Eddison and Andy Warhol; these people all kept diaries, and it worked out pretty well for them, right?

4. It makes you immortal

The world population is touching around 7 billion at the moment, and studies suggest it is going to keep climbing until at least 2050. Think of all the people that will come and go from our planet in that time, and then think about how many will be forgotten. Think about how many have already been forgotten. Keeping a journal grants you immortality, giving you the chance to leave your mark on the world forever.

5. It’s a time capsule, too

Leaving a journal behind gives the next generations of your family a chance to connect with you, long after you are gone. It affords them the privilege of seeing what life was like for their ancestors, and gives them an idea of the kinds of ideologies and personalities they came from.

6. It could save your life

“Studies suggest that emotional or expressive writing can reduce high blood pressure, enhance immune function, decrease the severity of asthma and arthritis symptoms, promote wound healing, increase AIDS patients’ white blood cell counts and even help young people quit smoking.” Cynthia Brouse, Best Health Mag.

That’s right. There are studies showing that keeping a diary can not only improve your mental health, but your physical health, too.

So what’s stopping you? Get yourself a notebook, use an app like Evernote, or even have a go at blogging. Whatever method you choose, go forth and diary. You won’t regret it, and it might change your life!

"Give me a D, give me an I..."  "Sorry Claire I can only do X!"

“Give me a D, give me an I…”
“Sorry Claire I can only do X!”

Special thanks to Bill Longshaw and phanlop88 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

Who I am, and why I’m here

Toby Balls

Hello, and welcome to Itchy Quill. My name’s Tobias, and I love writing. I mean, who doesn’t, right? We all jot little notes, text digitised words from finger to eye, or send emails to our long and lost; but I mean I LOVE it. I have been using any excuse to write since I was five, leaving words trailing behind me like breadcrumbs. That inner-child follows me around to this day, pulling at my sleeve and pointing at stuff it thinks is cool for my outer-adult to giggle at.

I’m here to blog about things of interest, in a way that will hopefully captivate and inspire. I would love to list them all, but that’s the beauty of Itchy Quill; it has no limits. Topics will range from travel to reading, from history to invention, from survival to intelligence. When I find something that excites or engrosses me, I want to share it.

My hope is that I can help to inspire some of you, or at least amuse you. There is such a wealth of information out there, just at our fingertips. If we can utilise it effectively, we can craft an educated, exciting and entertaining life for ourselves.

The truth is we all want to have fun and feel inspired, right? Well, let’s start that journey together. Come with me internet, let’s storm the gates of boredom!

If this sounds like something that tickles your fancy, you won’t be disappointed. You will receive a weekly article post for those who prefer a longer read, with pepperings of smaller posts to keep you going in between.

Say hello if you want, or  send any feedback or requests on topics or themes. 2015 is going to be a great year, and I look forward to getting to know you all!

Leave a comment or Email me!


walking away2

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

Staying Sticky – How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

So, the fun, joy and positivity of New Year festivities is over, and now the hard work of sticking to a resolution really begins.

We see the new year as a clean slate, a chance to start again and hit reboot. This is a wonderfully positive mindset, and one that should be applauded. Congratulations on using a stimulus to try and make your life better, and for setting a date to make it happen. Now the tricky part. If history teaches us anything, you’re going to need all the help you can get. Nearly 50% of adults in the West admit to frequently making New Year’s Resolutions. Approximately 80% of those Resolutions will be broken before the year is over.

Resolutions can take many forms, from saving 10k to spending more time with family, or just trying to get in shape. Whatever it is, you’ve already started, and well done for that. Worried it might not go the distance? Never fear people, Itchy Quill can make this a great year for you, and help you go ahead and make 2015 your own.

1. Be Realistic

OK, so you really, really want that beach body/smoke free life/ability to lift a car, but know that between the current, flabby/chain-smoking/weakling self of the present and the god or godess of your dream self stands a mental block of insurmountable turmoil, struggle and failure. Come on guys, be a little kinder on yourself. If you have spent the last 15 years of your life smoking a 20 pack a day, you probably won’t be able to just stop smoking like that. You need to set a goal that is realistic. How about cutting it down to ten a day, and then taking it from there? The easiest way to guarantee failure is to make the goal unattainable. Don’t be that guy.

"Daddy, I want to be like you this year" "Errrr"

“Daddy, I want to be a successful man like you this year”
“Sure sweetie. Wait, what?!”

2. Plan Ahead

It is very rare that you can motivate yourself to do something as life changing as most resolutions are, simply by will-power alone. It will more than likely require a high level of planning, and the essence of planning is it’s done in advance. Make sure you know what pitfalls await, and mentally prepare yourself with the necessary energy and derring-do that will aid your fulfilment.

Erm, you sure this MRI is mine?

“You sure this MRI is mine?”

3. Set Goals (With Rewards)

Make sure you have some regular checkpoints so as to track your progress and make sure you are on target. With smoking, this could be the measurable health benefits at set moments like 12 hours, 24 hours, 72 hours, three weeks, and so on. When you hit these targets, be sure to reward yourself, perhaps spending the money you save from the pack of cigarettes you haven’t smoked on a treat, or sneaking a chocolate bar after you’ve managed to complete a week of your diet. Whatever works, stick with it. You are far more likely to stay on track with something if you positively reinforce the choice you made to start doing it in the first place.

"This little piggie went to market..."

“This little piggie went to market…”

4. Keep Changes Small, Then Build On Your Success

You won’t go from a 10 stone weenie to a 16 stone monster overnight, and the effort required to get from your initial state to your final dream will fluctuate. Each triumph is a new benchmark, and you must build on each victory to ensure you perpetuate this success. Eventually, this will become natural, but it takes time to programme your mind. You can’t just force it.

"Ok, Ok, I'll stop singing show tunes in the shower"


5. Keep Focused and Remember Why

Don’t let yourself forget the reason you started doing this in the first place. Are you on your crash diet to fit into your summer wedding dress? Perhaps you have quit smoking for the Tokyo marathon? Are you trying to save money so as to take your grandparents to visit Iceland? Whatever the reason, don’t let yourself forget it. That impetus is crucial, especially in the darker days when temptation strikes. Keep your eyes on the prize, and grasp it thee shall.

"Nobody believed I could do it, but I caught them all"

“I’m so drunk right now, a liquid lunch resolution is awesome”

6. Go Easy on Yourself

We can all be so horrible to ourselves, and oddly enough this internal monologue can be such a detrimental bully that we fail before external obstacles even get a chance to have a go. Remember that we are all just humans, victims of impulses and urges. These primal compulsions are mostly natural, and the majority of people struggle to overcome them. Give yourself a chance, and keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off if you do slip up. If you can have your own back, you can pretty much achieve anything. Don’t stop believing, and just keep doing the best you can each day.

"I've got your back - yeah right"

“Hey fatty fat fat”

7. Keep on Truckin’

Experts say that any activity takes around 21 days to become a habit (or 21 days to undo a habit, such as smoking), and around six months to become a part of your personality. Nothing happens instantly, so just stick at it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

"Yes, we are visual representations of being slow and steady"

“Yes, we are visual representations of being slow and steady”

8. Don’t give up

Finally, if it gets really bad, and your vice finally gets a grip on you, don’t give up. A little failure can be overcome, but giving up entirely can’t be. It isn’t over until you say it is, and ultimately you don’t ever have to say it is. Keep going, stay true to yourself and let your dreams become goals that become actualised realities. You’re human, like everyone else. And you can be a success or a failure, just like anyone else.

Start queueing now for the iPhone 7, coming in 2016

Statistically, somebody here is an asshole

Whatever your resolution, this is the year to make it a reality. There is nothing stopping you except yourself, and I am sure you want the best for yourself, right?

No more excuses. You want it, it’s there, so get it. Good luck, you can do it!

Special thanks to ambro, AscensionDigital, EA, Imagerymajestic, Sira Anamwong, JamesBarker, StockImages and Samuiblue @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015