Why Playing the Internet's New Favorite Game Can Help Keep Your Mind Sharp

This daily dose of fun could give your cognition a boost.

Shot of a young woman using a cellphone while relaxing on a sofa at home
Photo: Getty Images / Moyo Studio

If you've seen stacks of green, yellow and black or white emojis filling your Twitter and Facebook feeds recently, you're not alone. The stacks of multicolored squares might be tough to translate at first, but it's all related to Wordle, the free word game that has attracted attention from everyone from The New York Times to country singers and cookbook authors.

The rules of Wordle are simple: you get six chances to guess the daily five letter word. To help you figure it out, the letters you guess will turn different colors depending on whether the letter appears in the Wordle and whether your guess has that letter in the right place. For an extra challenge, you can turn on "hard mode," which forces you to use any revealed letters in all of your subsequent guesses.

Playing Wordle won't just give you something to chat with your friends and coworkers about—it can actually be good for your brain health. In 2019, researchers found that adults older than 50 who regularly enjoy word games, like crosswords, or number puzzles, like sudoku, perform better at tasks testing their memory, reasoning and attention skills. From their results, researchers estimated that people who play word games have brain function equivalent to those nearly a decade younger than them.

"The improvements are particularly clear in the speed and accuracy of their performance. In some areas the improvement was quite dramatic—on measures of problem-solving, people who regularly do these puzzles performed equivalent to an average of eight years younger compared to those who don't," researcher Anne Corbett, Ph.D., said in a news release. "We can't say that playing these puzzles necessarily reduces the risk of dementia in later life but this research supports previous findings that indicate regular use of word and number puzzles helps keep our brains working better for longer."

Even more recently, a study from the journal Neurology found that living a "cognitively active" lifestyle, which includes game-playing, could delay Alzheimer's disease by five years. (You could even put on some music while you play for an extra boost—singing along is also good for your cognitive health.)

There are other ways to keep your mind sharp—like exercising for a few minutes each day, following the brain-healthy MIND diet or having a cozy cup of coffee or cocoa. But those options might not be as effortlessly simple as tapping over to the Wordle website and giving your brain a mini workout.

If the daily Wordle doesn't satisfy your craving for gameplay, you could always move on to the free New York Times mini crossword or the PEOPLE Magazine crossword—we're crossing our fingers that "INA" is the answer to at least one question.

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