Cognitive Goals for 2021

Every year, people make New Year’s resolutions such as: going to the gym, eating better, hanging out with family more, spending more time exploring new ideas, or learning a new skill. While 2021 will be a new year for sure, but it doesn’t mean that people cannot set goals to improve their lives. While many people focus on their bodies, they forget about their brains. Here are some cognitive goals you can help your client work on in 2021 either in person or through telehealth. 

1. Processing Speed 

What is it: Processing speed refers to the time it takes for someone to intake and use information coming through different sensory modalities. People with slow processing speed may feel frustrated that they cannot react and respond to things as quickly as others can. 

How does it help: When conversing with other people, processing speed allows us to hear information from a speaker, think about a response, and respond to the speaker in the conversation. People with processing speed difficulties may feel discouraged from conversing with others because they take longer to process information and respond to it. 

Why you should work on it: Working on processing speed can help your client participate in social activities as well as better function in school or work by helping them intake information and ask questions or respond in a timely fashion when asked a question during a meeting or lecture. 

2. Executive Functioning

What is it: Executive functions are the set of cognitive functions involved in inhibition, self-control, and decision making. These cognitive functions are located within the frontal lobes, with extensive connections between the parietal and temporal lobes. 

How does it help: Executive functions are important for helping people manage money, eat well, and make good choices. 

Why you should work on it: If your client is impulsive or has trouble prioritizing tasks, you may want to work on executive functioning. This kind of training may help your client not spend money on things that they do not need, rush to eat junk food instead of healthier options, and help them organize their task list so that they do not feel overwhelmed.

3. Working Memory

What is it: Working memory allows someone to store information for brief periods of time while completing a task. Studies have found that the storage capacity for working memory is 7 plus or minus 2 items. 

How does it help:  Working memory is important for social interaction when following a conversation, counting money, and keeping track of steps while cooking. 

Why you should work on it: Oftentimes, people with poor cognitive functioning have difficulty with working memory causing them to forget things, become disorganized, and distracted. Working on improving working memory may help your client stay on task, stay organized, and be a better participant in a conversation with another person or group of people. 

4. Visual-Spatial Skills

What is it: Visual-spatial skills are the skills needed for mental rotation of objects and are highly involved in math and logical reasoning. 

How does it help: Visual-spatial skills are highly involved in logical reasoning and mathematics. If your client has trouble with calculations and learning math, working on visual-spatial skills may help them improve their math skills. 

Why you should work on it: Situations such as calculating a tip on a bill, budgeting, and measuring space within a home to do home projects involve math. In addition, visual-spatial reasoning skills are involved when someone organizes their home. Working on these skills may not only help your client improve their math skills, but help them better arrange their home to ensure that their space works for them. 

New Year’s resolutions can focus on the mind as well as the body. Cognitive training is so helpful for every aspect of your life. There are clinicians that offer formal cognitive training.  Formal cognitive training has proven beneficial. One study conducted in the United States that examined formal cognitive training in older adults found that the benefits of a cognitive training program can last 10 years! In this new year, take time to think about ways you can improve your cognitive health.

Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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