“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” the saying goes. Often times, this is used to justify the belief that some people can be too old to change, that once a person has made a particular action or thought process a habit, they are doomed to repeat this for life.
And while it is human nature to stick to our habits, we don’t necessarily have to be the victim of unhealthy ones we build.
When it comes to our habits and the brain, our biology can tell us a lot about why we tend to autonomously perform an action. Every time we think in a certain way, perform a task, or feel a particular emotion, we continue to strengthen the neural pathways in our brain in carving these processes as habits. This is called Neuroplasticity.
When we think about something differently, learn a new task, or choose a different emotion, our brain creates a new pathway. Using this pathway enough eventually replaces the old one. It just takes time to carve that new mental pathway in order to do so.
Of course, this is an ultra-condensed and simplified version of what actually goes on in the mind when we move through our habits. In real-time, we move through our habitual actions in the blink of an eye, often times not realizing what we’ve done until far after it’s finished. When it comes to ending old habits and creating new ones:
-Awareness is key: Become aware of events leading to a particular negative thought or emotion. Understand its root.
-Avoid Avoiding: Allow the experience to penetrate itself. Fully.
-Experience, Without Acting: It is possible to experience pain/pleasure without being driven to act upon it
-Recognize that the moment is temporary and that this too, shall pass
When it comes to teaching an old dog new tricks, it turns out you can! You are never too old to change, but it does get harder to change the older you get. Anyone who is willing to do the work is able to change if they want to.
Hot Feet Fitness Barre, Meditation, and Yoga Instructor