Can Old Dogs Learn New Tricks? Learning New Habits

Can Old Dogs Learn New Tricks? Learning New HabitsPin
Can Old Dogs Learn New Tricks? Learning New Habits
Post updated 12/21/20

Bad Habits and Poor Health

At 58, I struggle to form new habits.  I struggle to not eat for comfort; to deal with stress in healthy ways. I struggle to talk to others about difficult emotions; to lose weight.  My health issues make this even more challenging.  Add in a world gone mad and there are days when I wonder “What’s the use?” Days when my gremlins whisper in my ear that “You’ll never be able to change for the better!”

I can trace my poor health back to decades of putting my children’s, husband’s, and in-laws’ needs first before my own.  As a Christian, I thought that I needed to say “Yes” to every request.  This led to feelings of resentment and anger.  What I missed were the times Jesus said “No” to requests; the times when He went off to a deserted place to be with His Father and recharge.

My priorities were my children and family and I got the left-over time to take care of me. I tried to eat right and exercise, but I was terrible at managing stress and emotions.  This meant that exercise was hit or miss. Snacks were quick and not planned ahead. Sleep was a luxury. I stuffed things away hoping that they would disappear, only to learn in my late 40’s that emotions don’t heal unless they are spoken about and brought out into the open.

Is it possible to form new habits?

Hence, the question “Can old dogs learn new tricks?”  Is it possible to learn and change our behavior after years of living in unhealthy ways?  I want to believe the answer to this is YES!  Will I mess up and fall back into old patterns?  Definitely!  Can I get up and try again? I have before. Will it be easy? NO!  Is it worth trying?  I believe it is, because I really want to be around and active for as long as I can.  I want to see my high school student graduate.  I want to go on future vacations with my daughters. I want to be an encouragement to others for as long as I can.

I am sure that you want these things as well.  None of us want to be sick and unable to participate in life, but if you are like me doing those small things that will eventually add up to improvement in our health is so challenging even when we know we have to change!

How Personality Affects Habit Formation

In order to change, I need help. As I was researching this topic, I read an article by Sam Brinson called “Why Your Personality Type is Crucial to Forming New Habits.” He states that we respond to changing our habits according to how we react to rules.  The responses are categorized as

  • “The Upholder”
  • “The Rebel”
  • “The Questioner”
  • and “The Obliger”

The “Upholder” has an easy time forming habits, because they willingly follow external rules and self-imposed ones.  The “Rebel” resists all rules, because they impinge upon his/her freedom.  The “Questioner” questions all internal and external rules, and will only comply with sensible ones.  Then there is the “Obliger,” who follows external rules, but has a hard time starting and sticking with internal rules like “I will not eat the whole carton of ice cream today.”

According to Mr. Brinson, “The Upholder” has the least difficulty incorporating healthy habits into their lives, but they need to avoid pushing themselves too hard. They tend to overdo it. “The Rebel” needs to dare themselves to prove to others that they can exercise, get stronger, or lose weight.  “The Questioner” has no trouble changing his/her behavior once they are convinced that the activity is logical. “The Obliger” needs to have social support via friends, family, or groups to stick with healthy habits.

What kind of a rule follower are you? If you’re not sure which you relate closest to, there is a personality test at the end of Mr. Brinson’s article.  Since I relate to “The Obliger,” I’m using this information to help me find social contacts to inspire me to stay on track.

Online Resources

Some helpful resources that I have found online are Healthy Moving Podcasts by Jennifer Hoffman.    Jennifer has exercises for beginners to advanced and shows us how to incorporate healthy “movement vitamins” into our days. She is “a Certified Personal Trainer-Restorative Exercise Specialist™ (CPT-RES™) and Registered Yoga Teacher.” Her exercises are very easy to do throughout the day during your regular activities. I highly recommend her.

and Faithful Workouts with Michelle Spadafora. Michelle covers nutrition, exercise(beginners to advanced plus chair workouts), and spiritual health on her website. I followed her online for ten weeks. Her workouts last about an hour. She shows various ways to do each exercise based on your abilities. This customizes the work-out to you. She also has weekly videos and suggested resources for nutrition and spiritual information and inspiration.

Any Other Obligers Out There?

If you need social support to stay on track with your health goals, I challenge you to sign up here so we can encourage and motivate each other on to success. I know that I need YOU to help me meet my health goals since I’m an Obliger!  Please join me!

Want to learn about how making small changes can help you form new habits? Check out this post:

    Till next time, Kathy

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    By Kathryn

    I'm a writer, disabled registered nurse, and former home school parent of 6 children ages 19 to 32. I'm also a domestic abuse survivor.

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