Want to Quit Smoking or Lose Weight? Play Candy Crush Saga

Julia Millay Walsh

As it turns, you don’t need willpower to curb your unhealthy cravings… You can just play Candy Crush Saga. Dr. Jane McGonigal, a senior researcher at The Institute of the Future and author of SuperBetter and Reality Is Broken who’s renowned for research on her games, recently joined entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Showand revealed the surprising health benefits of the best-selling app.

Referencing a study by the Plymouth University School of Psychology, she said, “A game like Candy Crush can reduce cravings for things like food or cigarettes by 25%, which sounds like not a lot, but it’s actually been shown to be enough of a reduction of the craving that you make a better choice and [it] gives your willpower a fighting chance.” So how does it work? Popular games like Candy Crush Saga, Tetris, or Bejewelled are “so visually intensive,” she says, that “they occupy visual processing center of your brain so that you cannot imagine the thing that you’re craving, and it turns out that cravings are very visual.”

And how long does it work? The effects of just 10 minutes of gameplay, she says, can last up to three to four hours. When Ferriss postured that someone who habitually craves cigarettes when she’s drinking could play before she heads out on the town, McGonigal confirmed just that: You don’t have to wait for your craving to strike for the mind hack to work on you—you can preemptively curb anticipated cravings. So begone, 4 p.m. hangry! Time to pull up our favorite sweet gaming app.

Shop McGonigal’s books about the other health benefits of gaming below.

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