Researchers from the Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology, Australia, found that playing Tetris interfered with desires not only for food, but also for drugs, including cigarettes, alcohol and coffee, and other activities. GETTY IMAGES

Boasting millions of users, Tetris may be one of the most popular antidotes for boredom available. But a new study revealed that the virtual matching-puzzle game can also help combat addictive tendencies. Playing Tetris for as little as three minutes at a time can reduce cravings for drugs, food and sex, or any other activity, the study found.

Researchers in a study conducted at Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology in Australia discovered that playing the game distracts from gluttonous desires, curbing cravings by one-fifth. The weeklong study monitored participants for the intensity of their cravings and asked them to play Tetris at random intervals throughout the day.

In a report published in the Addictive Behaviors journal, 31 participants were prompted by text message seven times each day to report any cravings they were feeling. But half of the group were asked to then play Tetris on an iPod for three minutes before reporting their craving strength again. They all were also encouraged to report any desires for vices they experienced independent of these prompts.

Those who played the game were found to have decreased cravings for drugs, food and other addictive activities at a rate of 56 to 70 percent. Authors of the study claim this was the first test of its kind to reveal that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to prevent urges for substances and activities other than eating.

"We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity," said Jackie Andrade, a researcher from the School of Psychology and the Cognition Institute at Plymouth University in the report. "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."

But the health benefits are not just limited to Tetris, researchers said.

"It doesn't have to be Tetris," Andrade told the National Journal. "It could be Candy Crush; it could be anything that is visually interesting and changing."