Diet failures far outweigh diet successes due to a number of factors such as food cravings that bomb the diet or boring meals. A new study has come across a pleasant way to keep that excess poundage off—playing Tetris on your mobile device. The study was published online in the journal Addictive Behaviors by researchers at the School of Psychology, Cognition Institute, Plymouth University, UK; and the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.
The researchers found that playing Tetris dampened cravings in natural settings, was effective for drug cravings as well as food and activity cravings, the effect was consistent over a week, and it was even effective on higher cravings experienced under influence of alcohol. The study authors explained that the majority of research on cognitive processes involved in craving has been conducted in the laboratory and focuses on food craving. Therefore, they designed a study in real-world settings and cravings for drugs or use as well as food consumption. They noted that previous laboratory studies have reported that playing Tetris reduces craving strength.
The study group comprised 31 undergraduate students who carried iPods for a week and were prompted seven times each day by SMS message to use their iPod to report craving. The subjects reported craving target and strength (0–100), whether they indulged their previous craving (yes/no), and whether they were under the influence of alcohol (yes/no). Fifteen of the students were assigned to the intervention condition, and then played Tetris for three minutes. They then were asked to report on their cravings again. The 16 subjects assigned to thee monitoring-only control condition provided baseline craving data to determine whether Tetris reduced the incidence and strength of spontaneous cravings during the week.
The researchers found that playing Tetris decreased cravings for drugs (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine), food and drink, and activities (sex, exercise, gaming), with an average reduction of 13.9%. This effect was consistent during the entire week. The authors noted that this was the first demonstration that visual cognitive interference can be used in the field to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating.
Take home message:
Other games similar to Tetris that serve as a pleasant distraction probably would work as well.