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You can't teach an old dog new tricks

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

All my life I have heard people using this phrase, usually in defence of someone’s bad behaviour or as an excuse for not doing something that they don’t want to do.

For a long time even science seemed to back up this theory. It really seemed that if someone was a certain way, or had certain habits once they were fully grown, it was impossible for them to change. 

Deep down though we knew that this was hogwash, because people did change, every day. Is it easy? Not usually. But nothing worth doing every is. 

We now know that you can change the way you think and even how you think, thanks to a magical thing called neuroplasticity.

What is neuroplasticity?

I know, neuroplasticity sounds like mumbo jumbo but it is just the process of re-routing the neural pathways in your brain so that you respond in a different way to a situation.

Wikipedia defines it as: 

“Neuroplasticity, also known as neural plasticity, or brain plasticity, is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. It is when the brain is rewired to function in some way that differs from how it previously functioned.”

By its very definition, neuroplasticity means you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.

Why am I talking about this though? 

Well, there are two times when I am quoted this most often, one is when I talk about a daily writing habit, and the other is when I talk about mental health.

Why should you write every day?

There is considerable evidence that writing, even for ten minutes, every day, has so many physical and mental health benefits. It boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure, eases anxiety and depression and even helps with asthma and cancer. With a list of benefits like that, why wouldn’t you make the effort to write? It’s only ten minutes. Everyone has ten minutes. Yet people tell me all the time that they can’t find the time, they can’t journal. Ultimately though we make time for the things we think are important. 


If you are someone who believes they don’t have time to write every day, be honest with yourself. Is it that you can’t find the time? Perhaps you don’t want to write, and that’s fine. But if you do want to add writing to your daily routine, sit down and make it happen. Within a few weeks of making the effort you will be doing it without having to even think about it. 


A new habit is one thing but changing the way you think isn’t quite so easy!

Well, actually it is. It’s the same principle. You just have to train your brain to respond in a different way to the way it always has. It sounds difficult but if you want to make the change, you can. Whether it is training yourself to take a deep breath before you respond to a situation or trying to be more positive, you can do it. 


A great way to teach yourself to be more positive is by starting a gratitude journal. Every day write out 5-10 things you are grateful for and eventually your brain will start to notice the positive aspects of life more than the negative. The research around gratitude can be found here. If you want to learn more about gratitude, why not take a look at my blog: “Can gratitude really change your life?”.

It is said that it takes 21 days to create a new habit, that isn’t long in the scheme of your life. Surely it is worth taking the time to learn something new and change your life for the better?

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