Have food cravings you just can’t get rid of? Here’s a new way to stop them: Play Tetris.
Research led by scientists at the University of Plymouth in Australia reveal that people who played Tetris for just three minutes lowered their cravings for drugs, certain activities, or food by as much as 14 percent. Now researchers say this could be an effective tool for beating a multitude of cravings.
The research appears in the journal Addictive Behaviors.
“Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70% to 56%,” says Jackie Andrade, a professor from the School of Psychology and the Cognition Institute at Plymouth University, who researched the study. ” This is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating.”
Recruiting 31 undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 27, researchers gave all of them an iPod with a pre-installed Tetris game, designed to be used as a coping mechanism. Every time they felt a certain craving, such as the desire to eat sweets, researchers instructed them to play the game, reporting how well it helped them avoid these cravings afterward.
Participants continued this strategy for a week, playing at least 3 minutes of Tetris every time they experienced a craving.
At the end of the week, researchers complied the data to see how well it kept their cravings under control. The result? Definitely good–any sort of craving, especially food cravings, decreased by 14 percent after just playing a few minutes of Tetris.
Better yet, its effect didn’t wear off either throughout the week, say researchers.
“The impact of Tetris on craving was consistent across the week and on all craving types,” says Jon May, a researcher from Plymouth University. “People played the game 40 times on average but the effect did not seem to wear off. This finding is potentially important because an intervention that worked solely because it was novel and unusual would have diminishing benefits over time as participants became familiar with it.”
But why does it work so well? Unfortunately, researchers can’t say for sure–but they theorize it could preoccupy their brain with other visual stimuli that makes them forget their cravings.
“We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity,” says Andrade. “Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time.”
So if you’re struggling with food cravings, don’t stress over it too much–instead, try playing a Tetris game.
Readers: What do you personally do when you get food cravings?