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Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Don’t believe the old adage, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!’

Yes, it is a common phrase that means it is challenging to teach an older person something new, usually because that person has been doing things a certain way for so long that its now so difficult to learn how to do it differently. But, really, it actually is quite an unfair way to characterize ’old dogs’, like me, this way because, while we may well be used to doing something in a certain way, older dogs can definitely learn new ways of accomplishing that same thing.

So, after quite a difficult 2021, let’s start now in January in this New Year with creating a positive mind set. Research shows that our thoughts play an important role in overall health and even how we bounce back from illness and stress. Positive thinking doesn’t mean wearing rose-coloured glasses, ignoring real difficulties or pushing away important feelings. It is about finding balance; noticing what is good in ourselves and focussing on what we can change when problems arise.

Positive thinking is also one key to longevity; people who live longest often have a positive outlook on long life. They are also more likely to engage in healthy activities. Research shows that our brains are built to keep learning our whole lives and are not pre-wired to fail. (Fountain of Health, Dalhousie U.) Dementia and depression, for example, are not necessarily usual parts of aging.

With a positive mind set, New Year’s resolutions for 2022 take on more meaning. These goals give clarity on what we ‘old dogs’ want to do and offer a sense of purpose and achievement as we navigate this new phase of life. 

Here are some possibilities: 

  • Maintain an active lifestyle.
  • Sort through and organize your medical records.
  • Bring back old friendships; make new friends.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Keep you brain working; stimulate your mind.
  • Consider volunteer opportunities.
  • Exercise more for a set period of time each day.
  • Pursue an aspiration, such as a new hobby or travel.

On the other hand, more humorously:

  • My New Year’s resolution is to start buying lottery tickets at a luckier store.
  • My New Year’s resolution is to be more optimistic by keeping my cup half-full with either rum, vodka, or whiskey.
  • I will avoid taking a bath whenever possible to conserve more water.
  • I promise to buy a brand-new scale, because my mind keeps reading the same old numbers.
  • I promise not to tell the same story at every get-together.
  • I intend to use my treadmill for something else than hanging my jacket.
  • I will do less laundry and use more deodorant.