Sammy Nickalls
August 17, 2015 7:54 am

Tetris may have made its original debut in 1984, but the addicting fast-paced puzzle game has stuck with us through the generations. No matter who you are, landing a Tetris — eliminating four rows in one move — is the best feeling ever. Well, turns out that feeling may actually translate to real health benefits. No, we’re not kidding: Recent research suggests that playing Tetris for just three minutes a day can help decrease cravings for caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, sex, food, sleeping, and more.

In a study conducted by psychologists from Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology, 31 college students aged 18 to 27 were asked seven times throughout the day to report any cravings they were feeling, and were encouraged to record any cravings outside of the prompts as well. About half of the group was asked to play Tetris on an iPod for three minutes before reporting their cravings again. This was maintained for a week.

About 30% of the time, cravings were reported — about 63% of them related to food and non-alcoholic drink, 21% for coffee, cigarettes, wine, and beer, and 16% for miscellaneous activities like video games, socializing, sleeping, and sex. For the Tetris group, craving strength was reduced from 70% to 56%.

“This is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating,” Plymouth University professor Jackie Andrade explained in a statement to press. “We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity. 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.”

The findings were consistent with each three-minute interval of Tetris, according to researchers. “The impact of Tetris on craving was consistent across the week and on all craving types,” said Plymouth University’s Professor Jon May. “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.”

Researchers believe these findings could help those who have trouble controlling their cravings — perhaps people with addictive personalities. “As a support tool, Tetris could help people manage their cravings in their daily lives and over extended time periods,” Andrade said.

Not only could this have major implications in therapy and rehabilitation centers, but this knowledge could potentially help people quit smoking or reduce their alcohol intake. So Tetris could literally change lives in just minutes a day. ’80s games rock, right?

Of course, the study sample is pretty small, and the study was short-lived, so more testing will need to be done, but TBH, we would LOVE an excuse to play Tetris daily. Get on that, science.

(Image via iStock)


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