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Playing Three Minutes of Tetris Can Curb Your Worst Cravings

The '80s puzzle game can block your urge to smoke, drink, eat, and even have sex by a fifth.

Tetris, the beloved '80s puzzle game, is good for more than hours of mindless entertainment, and avoiding chatty strangers and colleagues. Playing Tetris for as little as three minutes at a time can weaken your craving for alcohol, cigarettes, sleep, and even sex by a fifth, according to research from the University of Plymouth. 

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Researchers asked 31 men and women aged 18-27 to report any and all of their cravings up to seven times a day via text message for one week. Half of the study group was required to play Tetris on an iPod for three minutes before reporting their craving levels, and the other half, not. 

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Thirty percent of study subjects' cravings were for food and non-alcoholic beverages; 21 percent of cravings were for "drugs" such as coffee, cigarettes, wine, and beer; and 16 percent of cravings were for activities like sleeping, playing video games, socializing with friends, and sex. 

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"Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70% to 56%,” said study author Jackie Andrade, Ph.D., in a release. “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.”

Whip out your smart phone and hit up the app store. The positive “Tetris effect” held strong over the study’s duration. (You’d see diminishing benefits if this were just a novel intervention, or one that participants simply got used to.) With all the apps designed to help you quit smoking and watch your food intake, the best one may just be the least scientific—and the most fun. 

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