Are food cravings growing your waistline? Don't fret: Just play "Tetris."
In what might just be the best news you read all day, a new study published in Addictive Behaviors finds playing "Tetris" for just three minutes reduces cravings by an average 20 percent. And that doesn't just apply to cravings for chocolate. Researchers say it works on hankerings for sex, sleep, cigarettes, and more.
Over one week, psychologists prompted 31 participants, ages 18 to 27, to report cravings for food and drink, drugs (think coffee, alcohol and cigarettes), and activities, including how strong those cravings were, seven times a day via text message. Of those, 15 participants were told to play three minutes of "Tetris" in between and report back. The result: "Playing 'Tetris' decreased craving strength … from 70 percent to 56 percent," researcher Jackie Andrade says in a press release.
What sort of power might "Tetris" hold? A relatively simple one, it turns out. "Craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity," says Andrade. It's "hard to imagine something vividly and play 'Tetris' at the same time."
And the effect didn't wear off: Those who played averaged 40 sessions during the week, but the impact remained consistent.
Researchers were so impressed that they hope to test the theory on people with drug addictions. Just as significantly, "this is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating," the researchers wrote.
As far as undergrads' cravings, they reported wanting something about 30 percent of the time: about two-thirds of cravings were for food and non-alcoholic drinks; 21 percent were for cigarettes, beer, etc.; and 16 percent were for activities, including sleep, video games, socializing, and sex.
(In related news, a recent study explains why we crave comfort food to begin with.)