Train Your Brain for the New Year

Jan 5, 2023 | Patients

by Brent Hearn • 

Happy 2023, everybody! For some, January 1st is just another day, but for others, turning the page on a new year can symbolize a fresh start. (Plus, there’s that new calendar smell, right?)

For many, a new year means new resolutions. Last year, we shared our ready-made resolution list for you in case you didn’t have any of your own—or you just wanted to supplement your list. This year we’re doing the same thing, but we’re putting all our focus squarely on the ol’ noodle. 

Want to be more focused? Creative? Have a stronger mind and memory? Add our tips to your list of resolutions, and we bet it’ll help lead the way to a better, brighter you!

Sharpen Your Focus

In a time when social media has influenced—or perhaps infiltrated, depending on how you look at it—our lives and when screens are ubiquitous, it’s our attention span that pays the price. Distractions abound, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. It’s more important than ever to be mindful of where our focus lies and to work on training that focus. 

One way to do that is by using the Pomodoro technique. Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the idea is pretty simple: do focused work on a single task for an increment of time (typically 25 minutes) and then take a short (two to five minutes) break. Each 25-minute chunk is a Pomodoro, and after you’ve knocked out about four of them, take a longer (15 to 20 minutes) break. The key is that it should be focused work. You’re not stopping to play games on your phone, check email, etc. You’re focusing your oh-so-precious attention on one thing: the task at hand.

Hit the Books

Besides being inspiring, informative, and just plain fun, reading can yield numerous benefits for your brain. One study found that reading, writing, and playing games slowed the rate of cognitive decline in dementia patients. Another study found that reading fiction can help to increase one’s tolerance for uncertainty as well as the ability to think creatively.

Get Social (In Person)

Training your brain doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. On the contrary, social activities can stimulate multiple cognitive functions at once, according to Denise Park, Ph.D., director of research at the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas. 

Whether it’s memorizing names and details of fellow partygoers or articulating your thoughts on the news topic du jour to your dining companions, socializing can enlist multiple cognitive skills to help you engage with your surroundings. So, the next time you need an excuse to attend some fancy shindig—or even just a card game with your friends—remind yourself that in addition to having fun, you’ll also be giving your brain a workout!


Francesco Cirillo: The Pomodoro Technique

The Muse: Take It From Someone Who Hates Productivity Hacks—the Pomodoro Technique Actually Works

The Atlantic: More Scientific Evidence That Reading Is Good for You

Real Simple: 8 Science-Backed Benefits of Reading a (Real) Book

Neurology: Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging

The Atlantic: More Scientific Evidence That Reading Is Good for You

Taylor & Francis Online: Opening the Closed Mind: The Effect of Exposure to Literature on the Need for Closure

Forbes Health: Brain Exercises That Work